Caricature and Drawing Newsletter for April 1st, 2005
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1 April 2005
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Your 1 April 2005, YouCanDraw.com Communiqué
Revisiting shadows and highlight shapes
Today I want to quickly
review an old but important topic. And it's
one that comes up time and again. And it has to do with shadow and
highlight shapes. A member recently asked me if there's any special
formula a caricaturist uses or can use to zero in on shadow shapes in particular.
And basically my answer to that was "sure - and the formula is this:
there is no formula".
I know, not a real answer.
But it's the truth nonetheless. Seeing shapes is matter of practice and repetition
and most of all letting go. And in particular letting go of the
need to abstract and categorize shadows. Yes there are common areas
within faces that have shadows in them, and yes there are similar
patterns they follow, but you can say that about the eyes, teeth, hair,
ears and snowflakes too. But the real trick here is to let go of that
knowledge for the moment and concentrate on the uniqueness of all those
shapes, flakes, and common areas of highlight and shadow. The real
trick is to get the old noggin', the thinking part of the gray
matter out of the way.
One more time, let's take a
brief look at how to do this. And let's use old Bessie the cow to help
Lets look at cows! Yep, gone
bats here, out to pasture...
Bessie the First
In this first step I want
you to just recognize each and every black shape in Bessie's coat as a unique and special
dark area. Bessie has black fur in some spots, white in other. For now
your attention on the black spaces only. Pick just one at a time.
Start on the spots over her rear end. See that kind of overall
"H"-shaped spot there? Very good. Now move your gaze to the
next set of spots: one or two small ones, then on to the one that looks like a
really skinny Saudi Arabia or India. See that? Then you get into that
big area of black that stretches from her spine all the way down to nearly
her belly. See those? Great! If not, keep staring at each shape until it
pops into your perception as a separate, unique shape. Done with that?
On to the next Bessie...
Here's the more bleached out
version of Bessie. Do the same thing. With your pencil right up to your
monitor, outline all the shadow -- er, I mean dark patches in her
hide. Run your eye over each spot. See each one again as a unique shape.
Working for you? Great!
Bessie the Second
Now let's work larger. We're
ampin' up the magnifying glasses. Here's a much more "in your
face" set of spots:
More Bessie Spots
Do the same thing -- run
your eyes, then your pencil around each unique puddle of black shape.
Squint your eyes if the fuzzy edges on the big spot in the middle seems
to loosey-goosey edged. Then direct your attention to each corner of the
"format". Format? You know, the
frame around the shapes; the rectangle that contains
the the picture. Getting clearer to you?
See, you're; starting to get
good at this! Good work. OK. Time for a little switcheroo. When you're
zeroing in on shadow shapes, you apply the same kind of mental
ju-jitsu on highlight shapes. Before you do this, go back to the pictures
- gaze at
each picture until you see each black shape as distinct and unique;
you've done that, flip your attention to the white shapes. Yep, throw
the big switch;
starting to see these white shapes as separate and unique shapes?
- Now flip your attention
back and forth between black and white shapes. This is very
similar to the "Vace-Face" exercises way back in Lesson
One and in the section on recognizing
negative space. Same basic cognitive somersaulting. King of fun isn't
it? See the black and white parts all beginning to fit together like
OK. Done with
that? Excellent. Now get out a piece of paper. Yep, just do it. Now
check out this next shape - and keep your attention on just the white
On your first sheet of paper
draw a rectangular outline ( a format ) roughly the shape of the square
around the following picture (see the kangaroo-bat thing on the right
side of the image?):
Yep, More Bessie
Did you draw your format? Great. Now in your format, draw the shapes
of just the white areas. Can you do it without looking at the black
shapes? Pretty hard isn't it? But you can easily separate each
white shape as unique and each black shape as unique, right? Very cool
:-) Remember to squint.
Here's another. Same deal.
Draw just the black shapes. Squint. Concentrate on the shape
between the bottom horizontal line and the edge of the black area. Now
draw it! :-) Go for it! Draw another square and try to draw just the
And Yet Even More
Keep squinting! Look at this
next one and see if you can't see the little snake mouth of turtle head
coming down from the top? Or the the fish like shape on the middle right
border? Do what you did above: draw these within a format. Draw one
with your attention on just the black shapes. Draw another with your
attention on just the white. Try and not name them. Try to remain in
that mental space where you're concentrating on one unique shape at a
time - either black or white. By now you should feel these little
muscles in your brain starting to stretch a little. If you're feeling
confused, get your pencil or pen or finger right back up here on the
screen and trace along the edge of each shape's outline until you it
pops back in your perception as unique.
Now, before you finish, scroll
slowly to the very last picture. You probably saw this coming a
long time ago. If so, fine. But if not, when you see the final picture,
you're in for a leap of a surprise. Or maybe you'll re-experience that
moment when the picture first made sense to you...
Recall that all shadows and
highlight shapes are as unique as any other feature on the face. Learn
to see them as distinct, unique and of infinite variety (even if they
belong to a recognized group of critters...like dogs or cats or
Hollywood celebs or Capital Hill noisemakers). Once you learn to see
each shape as it is, and to keep seeing it as unique, and capture
it's uniqueness on the paper, you'll have crossed a significant
negative space and light and shadow a very similar skills. See these
other sections to see them worked in much greater detail.
The Real Bessie
Anything look familiar in
this simple hi-contrast picture? Look back up the page until you can
find the segment of this face in each of the other pictures...heck, they
might even be in Bessie above :-)
Take care and keep on
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