Monday, October 8, 2007

High Contrast Shape Welding

Following on the previous post, and Eric’s point about how this all this applies to drawing, I thought I’d share a couple of studies from life where I was trying to pursue this idea of shape welding using high contrast form lighting.

I did this little pencil sketch in a room lit by a single lamp. The goal was to squint down and just state the biggest masses of light and shadow, shapewelding all the lights together, and the same with the darks.

On this one I experimented with painting from a model with just white and black oil (on chipboard sealed with shellac), ignoring all the middle tones and transitions. The shadows are all shapewelded together. I could have even left off that hint of an outline on the shoulder. It’s amazing how much the brain automatically seeks out unseen contours.

Tomorrow, another of Pyle's compositional devices: "Clustering."


Unknown said...

This is a great demonstration of what I wanted to know about. The lines are wonderfully expressive, they remind me of Kathe Kollewitz. Your range is astounding. I feel like I ought to be paying to read this blog as I'm getting so much out of it. I just ordered an N.C. Wyeth book to really look deeply at shape welding. Thank you for being so generous with your thoughts on art. I feel like I'm in touch with that line of great American realist painters; Sloan, Henri, Pyle, Wyeth. It's too bad your way too young to write a book on how to draw and paint....

Michael Dooney said...

this kind of reminded me of a life drawing exercise from my art school days. Herb Taus a great paperback artist was the teacher and his stuff was very much in the Pyle tradition,and all about big shapes. Very early on when we were all struggling, he had us draw the figure's shadows only and we were all shocked at how good the drawings came out once we let go of the idea of outlining everything.

Anonymous said...

I don't know of other terms for "shape welding" or "clustering", but it looks like we have these now. Thanks for making a point of these principles.

I had a drawing teacher, Jim Windram who, while teaching life drawing classes at the Delaware Art Museum some years ago, had us follow an interesting excercise.

He would have the model take a collapsed, closed-in pose and drape her completely with a white sheet, tucked under to make a more or less rounded form somewhat like a modern sculpture. We would draw that form with vine charcoal, a very plastic medium that allows much reworking.

He would then remove the sheet and we would use further drawing and erasing to push and pull the actual form of the model out of the simpler shape we had drawn of her draped figure.

Very enlightening.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to all of you. Michael, I've tried the idea of painting everything in shadow black and everything in light as white, regardless of the local color. This results in an amazingly photographic result.

And Charley, what a great idea your instructor had with the white sheet to emphasize outer shape. It reminds me of the attention to the outside shape or envelope that the academic instructors like Charles Bargue would use to block in the shape of a pose. Grist for a future post!

Anonymous said...

actually, that's brilliant. Thank you. I'm going to pass that on to a couple of people.