Learn to Draw > Filling in spaces

Durer, with his fine, precise lines, thought out everything in advance to the last detail. Kathe Kollwitz was more spontaneous; her broad, soft touch brings the deepest human qualities to light directly from her response to her subject. To draw a line with charcoal across smooth paper - some people cannot even endure the noise it makes - certainly evokes different feelings from drawing with pencil, pen, or brush. There is nothing to be gained from resisting or ignoring these physical stimuli and preferences, even though they seem to contradict the Chinese dictum, "When you take ink you' should not be taken by the ink, and when you use the brush, the brush should not use you."

The beginner is not alone in being open to the temptation of filling in surfaces, especially shadows. Everyone has a natural desire for completeness, which is frustrated by empty spaces between wiry lines. It is as difficult to draw with pure lines alone as it is to paint a perfect watercolor. When drawing with a pen, the only way to fill in a surface is by hatching. You have to abstract once more, as you did with the line: you see contours which are in reality only boundaries between different colored areas.

If the beginner uses charcoal or chalk, he is at once inspired by the softness of the material. He can rub and wipe with his finger to fill in surface and achieve wonderful gradations and the softest, smoothest rounding. But he should beware: this is only a hair's breadth from vulgarity.

Way to hold brush for fine detailed work The beginner must discipline himself firmly against mannerisms of this sort, or he will blind himself with cheap effects, which he seeks only because they are easy. Perhaps it will open his eyes if he attempts the same motif twice in the same material, once rubbed soft and once using more or less gentle strokes.

Above all, let the stroke be gentle! There is no difficulty in pressing hard and dashing down wild lines; this is not really the measure of a creative temperament. A better ideal is strength restrained by gentleness. A thoroughbred horse cannot be tamed by muscular strength, but by gentle guidance, behind which he can feel the iron will.

We do not wish to disguise the fact that problems arise when drawing a surface which appears more or less uniform. "Surface" refers not only to a smooth, paved road or a plastered wall, but to the surface of a field, the silhouette of a mass of foliage, mountains, water, sky, or a patch of dark shadow. It is all very well, say, in a pen drawing to deal with the problem of surface with parallel hatching.

Tiled roof, repetitious design covering whole surface (brush). Plaster, design in light and shade. Crowd, broken lines. Suppose there are a rocky cliff, a field, and the sky as three different surfaces in the same picture. The three surfaces will have to be differentiated from each other and, further, should awaken in the beholder the illusion of the substances of which they consist. The answer to this problem has already been touched on: texture can replace a mechanical copying of minute particles of the surface with a more impressionistic reproduction of the general effect. This gives as much, often more, than an "exact" picture.

The reason for this can be illustrated as follows: if a collection of various tree barks was shown to a group of people of average education, most of them would be able to tell the difference between a pine, a poplar, and a beech tree. But if these people were asked to draw the barks from memory, even just after looking at them, it is unlikely that they could do so. A general impression is much more important than individual details, and a texture can give this just as effectively as a painstaking copy.

This is the principle behind oriental painting; which has a convention of textures to render different materials. Not only is it unnecessary for the draftsman to put in individual details instead of a texture, it is tedious both for him and the beholder if the texture fills the whole area.

A mass of people need not be depicted by dozens of portraits, even though a texture of heads side by side is liable to be mistaken for a field of cabbages. The common spirit which has brought the crowd together can be expressed in one or two faces which merge into a massed sea of faces, each indicated by a few rapid strokes. Pictorially it is adequate, and, moreover, more attractive, to put in the texture fully over some parts of the area and let it fade off and disappear in others.

The eye of the draftsman will see only the texture of a roof surface where his attention is concentrated. The rest of the surface he will see more as an indefinite patch of color, or in a drawing as an area of a certain tone. Thus, the whole area of the surface can simply be given a tone value, out of which the textural drawing appears at a few places or even at one place, in the direct path of the eye, on shadowed areas, or on the illuminated parts.

If, for instance, the paving of a market place in sunlight is laid in with gray tone, and the bright patches where the light is reflected are left white, the texture of paving stones could perhaps be indicated in the bright patches. Though the picture is drawn in detail only in these places, which merge into the surrounding gray tone, the impression will be that the whole place is paved. The important thing is to find an appropriate way of making this tone.

Using tone

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