June 1st 2001
YouCanDraw.com's Insider Communiqué
In today's issue:
1) Shadows, highlights and primitive forms, Part II
Hi all, Can you believe it''s the first of June? A few weeks back (May 5th to be
exact), we talked about primitive shapes - that every plane, every curve, every
feature, every major shape of the face could be reduced to one form or another
of the primitive forms and shapes.
And what are the primitive forms and shapes?
The most primitive: the circle, the square, and the triangle. The circle can be
bent and squished and squashed into elliptical shapes, the square into all sorts
of rectangular shapes, or “trapezoid” shapes, and the triangle into all sorts of,
well triangular shapes. (Think of cutting a lopsided rectangle in half diagonally -
you’re left with those odd triangular shapes. )
The triangle is also nature’s strongest shape. In fact, those pesky microscopic
viruses that give us the holiday flu are constructed entirely of triangular shapes,
even our DNA is made and folded on itself in triangular connections. And every
carpenter or architect or construction engineer knows the only way to make a
square house strong is to build a lot of triangles into it’s walls. But I'm off on a
Stepping up to three dimensions
All primitive shapes can pumped up to three dimensions. When viewed in
three dimensions the circle becomes a sphere, the square a cube, the triangle a
cone or pyramid (depending on of whether you give it a circular or a cuboid base).
You can see this in the four main primitive forms in the attached illustration.
What really makes for depth and dimension in the illustration is the amount
of - and the change in - the shadowing pattern. Generally the shadows match the
shape of overall form: sphere’s contain spherical forms, cubes have square shapes
- most of the time. Reflected light is the exception. Look at the chrome on a car
bumper or around a Christmas ornament: look into the reflection. Do you see or
can you imagine the mirror like quality of glass or chrome or any bright metal?
You see the actual surrounding objects in any smooth surface. Now what’s the
difference in reflected light when you look at the shadowing on say, a baseball?
A chrome baseball?
...Except this: the relatively rough surface of the baseball (rough compared to
glass or chrome) can't reflect the light of it’s surroundings back the same way. But
it’s trying! The light thrown at the baseball by everything around it is the same
light thrown at the chrome or glass surface from the earlier example. Hang a
baseball on a Christmas tree in place of an ornament and it’s color, it’s reflected
shadow - in fact all the light on it - is the baseball’s best attempt at mirroring
back it’s surroundings from a less than mirror smooth surface. Does that kind of make
sense? And that’s how every object you can lay your eyes on reacts. (Without light
you'd see nothing.)
True shadow is in those parts of an object where light is blocked - which is
why the cast shadow is darker than the shadows on any one part of the object:
less light can be reflected - most of it just passes right over it.
Everything's just a hodgepodge of primitives
So understanding how light reacts on all the primitive surfaces / primitive shapes
isn't as complicated as it seems. Just remember all surfaces have planes (even
if they’re curved). And if you can't see them, you can imagine even a curved
surface is made of just tiny, infinitesimally small planes: think of a cylinder or a
cone as made of lots of little flat strips that run from each end of the barrel.
Look at the cylinder in the illustration and look at how the crosshatching has
been done: the hatches suggest planes. Take a step back and squint and your
brain will interpret a smooth round surface.
1) look for curved chrome (on bumpers, at breweries, in parking lots, at furniture
stores, etc.) and observe how they mirror back their surroundings.
2) In the same instance you find a chrome or glass surface to check out, find
an object of a similar shape close by and look at how it seems to “want” to mirror
back it’s surroundings the exact same way - except it’s reflection is limited by it’s
rougher surface. Observe how the shadowing and reflected light are similar
and how they're different.
3) Now look at your mate’s or at a good friend’s face closely and see if you can't see:
i) the hidden primitive forms,
ii) reflected light, and
iii) shadows that match what you've seen in primitive forms,
iv) notice which direction the main light source is coming form.
4) Copy the attached drawing. Color it in roughly the same pattern you see it,
being aware of the difference in tone in each part of the shadow and reflected
light. You may even want to do this part first - it'll cue you into what you're
supposed to look for in the "real world".
Yes, I know, a fairly complex assignment - but great for building your observational
powers. In the next few weeks (and maybe over the next couple months), we’re going
to go lightly through each main section of the face and pinpoint the primitive forms. How
will this help your drawing? We shall see :-) ...guess you could read that as a dumb
pun...or as just having "shadow meaning"...sorry :-)
Until then, keep on drawing!
Jeffrey O. Kasbohm
"Once and for all getting you drawing faces and caricatures"