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Learn to Draw > the castle study continued

If we play about with this idea using the softest possible strokes, we shall soon see how to enhance the general impression; for example, the hill could be made steeper, simply by taking a more frontal view of the steps. This means moving our viewpoint a little to the left. The logical consequence of this is useful: the right sides of the buildings are more foreshortened by the move, and the righthand vanishing point comes further to the left, towards the center of gravity of the picture. We know from our study of central perspective that the center of gravity has the strongest effect when it coincides with one of the vanishing points. This is not the case here, but the points are close enough for the beholder's eye to be stimulated by the possibility of bringing them together.

If we continue a line upwards from the tops of the trees on the left, it will nearly touch the highest point of the tower. This is right for the composition only if the buildings and trees are to be seen as a whole. But our task is to stress the buildings alone; the trees are to be included only as a foil to the main theme. This should be emphasized by making the line of tree tops at the left steeper, and, thus, the last tree taller, and letting the line fall down steeply to the right over the highest tree top. This gives a stronger rising rhythm up to the pyramid of buildings. Nothing is altered in the character of the picture by doing this; it is merely clarified.

The same is true if we alter the incidence of light so that the right-hand side of the buildings is in shadow. This might well have been the case, for this alteration does not contradict the natural course of the sun. The shadows added by this change will decidedly enhance the impact of the picture by emphasizing the main subject, the buildings. The main movement rising up from the left is nicely terminated by the vertical shadows of various shapes and sizes which repeat the general rhythm of rise and fall in the picture and offer a slight counter movement to the strong upward thrust from the left. Both movements meet more or less at a point that could be joined in a rising line with the center of gravity and the vanishing point of the right-hand side of the buildings. Concentrating around the center of the picture's gravity, the movements and tensions gradually support each other and lead to a static rest, without which the composition would seem uncomfortable and unbalanced.

At this point in our work we again look at the drawing through the viewing frame to test the balance of the picture. One small detail: the fir tree to the right of the entrance in the wall hides the door into the chapel. Either the tree can be left out altogether, or it can be moved to the right to show the door, which will further emphasize the center of gravity of the picture.

Now the composition is finished, and we have to decide what we intend to do with our work. To proceed further, we trace the outlines of the composition onto a new sheet. In this way we isolate the skeleton of the picture and turn to the representation of the materials of which it is composed. We have masonry, with tiles and ashlar, curling beech leaves, soaring conifers; the hill is covered with a prickly coat of short grass, and the far-off mountain range must be given its crevices and strips of woodland. Clouds can be made with a play of fine lines, and a horizontal texture sparkles up from the stairway.

We cover our new page gradually with a mass of surface textures without worrying about the general effect, but determining with sketch and study how to convey the separate details.This may be thought rather pedantic, but it is fruitful: anything studied is a permanent gain, and it is dangerous to try to find imaginative short cuts before we understand the full story.

Until now we have used only part of our drawing sheet, so that our composition would not be constricted and we would be free to put our final frame where we thought best. Now that the composition is settled, we shall work right to the edges, using the whole area of our paper. If we are not content with calculating the rest from a few important measurements, we can use the squaringup process to transfer our drawing to a bigger scale.

We shall do our final version in ink; so we can draw in first with a sharp, soft pencil, which can later be erased. If our first drawing is small enough, it is convenient to use the lucida to enlarge it. If the format is not very large, it is a good idea to draw with water-soluble ink, so that the shadows and other dark areas can be graded with a wash. Too many textures on a small drawing make it heavy, and broad shading with charcoal or chalk would only produce an indefinable smear.

The technique of a wash needs both care and a fluid hand. It lightens the strokes which have been gone over with the wet brush without letting them run. The process can be repeated several times until we have achieved the desired depth of shading or, if we are clumsy, until we are faced with a patchwork of black blurs. Even then all is not lost: damp blotting paper can lighten the color considerably. It is best to remember the adage, "When it tastes best, stop eating."

Our picture now shows very little evidence of our toil and tears. It will also have very little of the charm of spontaneity. This is not to be expected when we have worked stolidly at our subject as an exercise from start to finish. Yet dull, worthy drawings of this kind were produced by even the greatest masters. It may well be that someone will see the drawing and find it neither particularly attractive, nor exciting, but there will surely be someone to say, "Well, I couldn't do it. I can't even draw a straight line."

Yes, the line! It lies at the beginning of all drawing and it remains its substance. We can all go on learning how to use it better and more ably. First we struggled with a complete outline. Then we learned from sketching that there is more charm in an incomplete line. Now we leave out the line altogether round the large masses and let it be suggested by the mosaic of their textures; and even that is not required right the edges of every surface.

We know that the eye prefers to finish things off for itself; it is sufficient to started off and supported here and there. The more we leave out, the better. This way we reach back gradually into the picture plane, especially if we have some excuse to do without a window like frame: drawing on a wall, for instance, or illustrating a book. A framing line would make a mural or book illustration unbearably rigid cutting it off from the room or text.

Perhaps we feel this because human development, deliberately or unconsciously, is reaching out in every way, and every sphere, to extend space. The incentive to make this drawing came partly from the graphic interest of constructing the outlines. Let us therefore see what happens to the appearance of a picture if we do without any indication of material. This experiment means a new study, not this time to learn about the object, but to see how else to make a picture from it. Many painters close to the Impressionist school to outline compositions (generally in blue) as a scaffold for their color surfaces.

Next: Sgraffito

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