Monday, April 12, 2010

Shapewelding Sketch

Shapewelding is the compositional device of linking up related tones to make larger units.

Here’s a simple pencil sketch with some attention paid to shapewelding. The back of the white shirt links up with the white shape behind, and the dark front of the apron joins the farther shadow shapes.

We’re constantly faced with this circumstance in real life and in photographs, and the viewer enjoys imagining lost contours, but I find it takes a bit of deliberate effort to put it into a drawing or painting.

Previously: Shapewelding.


T Arthur Smith said...

Melding might be a better word for it. Welding suggests a blowtorch and goggles. =)

Love the blog!

Steve said...

I'm grateful to you for introducing me to this concept. It made something conscious that I vaguely knew at a subconscious level. Just curious, Jim...what constitutes "a long bike ride" for you?

Everett Patterson said...

I'm paying more attention to this myself. I've been filling in a lot of blacks for some comic book artists. My first inclination when a black shape is touching another black shape is to leave a little white halo between the two, but the artists always tell me to go ahead and merge them into a single shape. And since they already had the composition in mind, it almost always works!

treplovski said...

Coles Phillips springs to mind.

Erik Bongers said...

When it comes to shapewelding in comics, I believe that Alberto Breccia is the absolute master.

MacMechanic said...

Nature seldom gives us lines around anything. Rare exceptions exist, like the halo around a backlighted subject. With the exceptions of power lines and tree branches against a bright sky, there are few dark lines separating things in nature.

Jim, in your drawing here there are fine examples of shapewelding, which you point out but where it fails, in my view, is in the subject's face area - here you resorted to a solid line. It's about the only important part of the composition that does so too.

I note that that is nearly ALWAYS my own inclination as well, and it's something I continually have to remind myself of; that when one object is in front of another, nearly always one is lighted or darker than the other - shapewelding results when they are very similar, but the challenge remains finding the best way to differentiate these when the composition requires some separation be shown.

Certainly, the solid outline is successful, if not always tonally accurate or realistic to the scene. In this case, the high-contrast line draws your attention and is a helpful compositional tool.

James Gurney said...

Thanks for all those interesting comments. Eric--Breccia is awesome, thanks. Trepolovski, yes, Coles is the man for merging edges.

Steve, our "long" bike rides are pretty wimpy by most people's standards--maybe 20 miles or so.

Steve said...

Seems I recall you and Jeanette ride a hybrid bike, as do I. Twenty miles on one of those isn't wimpy.

Thomas Jefferson Kitts said...

James, in my world we call it 'massing' lights and darks, although shape welding is a fun way to put it too. I find that art which exploits this quality to be visually more interesting since there is a tension created between creating inward illusionary space, and the flattening of the picture plane. And when done well, like your drawing, we keep trying to resolve what is near and what is far, and that is what provides the interest.

And, as you hint at, this is how our eyes perceive what is around us, in the most immediate way -- as opposed to how we 'assemble' a montage of what we think we see around us in our mind.


Unknown said...

It takes more effort to practise 'shapewelding' when it comes to other shapes that you can't mess around with a lot, such as the human body. Foliage for instance is much easier, since a treebranch could grow any direction. The directions and measurements of an arm are more defined, and therefore need some extra attention. Coles Philips has a graphic way of using shapewelding. It can also be applied in a painterly way, which gives a natural and realistic feel to the painting.

Andrew Finnie said...

Hi, thanks for this. I am enjoying your blog immensely.

You might make an artist out of me :)