Pre-Workshop Exercise: To include or Not to include – Reality as a Reference
To use color effectively I want a variety of shapes to play with to create movement, depth, mood and/or drama. I either work intuitively to create a combination of shapes from my imagination or I use objects, natural or manmade, in the world around me to inspire a combination of shapes to play with using different hues and different values of the hues. The following exercise is designed to awaken your awareness to the choices you make when drawing and painting from reality whether you are painting landscapes, still lives, figures or anything else. EVERYTHING you see is a combination of shapes. Our brain puts them all together and lets you know what it is you are looking at. Our job as artists is to be selective about the information we see when we put it on paper or canvas. There are no rights or wrongs about our selections. Our personal style develops from strengthening our ability to recognize our personal choices and to express them with pen and brush.
I find this exercise more effective as a pre-workshop exercise when working from a photograph. However, if you wish to try this working directly from reality please do!
When I work from a photograph, I often turn it into black and white to make the value shapes more obvious.
Chose one photograph or one scene/subject. Break the view into simple shapes of black or white, no grays. A line is also considered as a shape and is useful for connecting either white shapes to one another or black shapes to one another (see the telephone wires below). Remember that a line is not always black (see the white lines in the road below). For my example, I chose a photograph with very clear shapes. Even using such a simplified landscape photo, there are infinite variations I can create by choosing which shapes to include and which to eliminate.
I didn’t even begin to use my artistic license to ADD shapes such as an extra white line in the road or a white animal crossing the road … or birds in the sky … or a person walking … or a road sign …
I used carbon pencil to define my shapes and soft, vine charcoal to darken in my black shapes. Markers are also easy to use for this exercise. You may use ink, crayon, paint or any other medium you wish.
Come up with at least six variations of shape combinations to make up your compositions. Please feel free to make three dozen or more if you wish. Bring these to the workshop with you as well as your reference photograph if you used one. Feel free to add some shapes if you wish.