Learn to Draw > Silhouette

K, H. Waggerl, Thistle (scissor cut-out).

Besides the contour, which functions strictly as an articulation or outline, there is another method which is effective in stressing the plane of the picture: the black, cut-out silhouette.

Black-and-white sgraffito has the same effect, although, unlike the silhouette, it can convey perspective. The effect of perspective is, however, reduced by the texture of the plaster.

In fact, every method of drawing and painting can emphasize the picture plane simply by abandoning any kind of perspective, such as vanishing lines, cast shadows, or color dynamic. This results in the furthest remove from naturalistic representation.

This approach is almost always seen in children's drawings, which are genuine, if naive, abstracts. Even an entirely naturalistic linear perspective can leave the picture all in one plane if the strokes used are very severe and uniform.

This acceptance and emphasis of the picture plane is the artist's most important foundation, and out of it arises one of the most expressive factors in his work, the dynamic of the various separate surfaces or areas within the picture plane. A white or monochrome ground does not possess this dynamic, but it is created thereon with a single gray, black, or colored mark. This tension, relation, or discord, whatever you may like to call the dynamic between the mark and the picture surface, increases as more marks are added to build up areas of definite shape. It ceases if the entire surface of the picture is covered with identically shaped areas which make the whole into a texture plane.

Modern epistemology very aptly speaks of the "Gestik" which emanates from every surface as soon as it can be brought into relationship with a second surface. The same thing occurs between volume and space, between two colors, or in life between two people. If more than two such entities or people are brought together, the dynamic of relationships becomes greater in number and more complex. The simplest demonstration of this is the fact that a white surface on a black ground always appears larger than the reverse, when they are placed side by side.

Van Gogh, Cypress Trees Beneath the Moon (Pen) This can be put in another way: light surfaces, or those with colors approximating to light and warmth (yellow and red I, radiate and seem to grow, while surfaces related to the blue of shadow and distance seem to shrink). All darks and black belong with these latter. This rule does not hold when strong colors are brought together with dull ones, a radiant blue against a dull red, for instance. But color dynamic is a chapter to itself.

At present we are discussing the formation of areas. The most important element is the relation in size of two or more areas, both to each other and to the area of the picture. Naturally, a large area develops more power than a small one, yet a small, light dot can have a very penetrating psychological effect on a dark picture surface. This shows that surface "Gestik" is more a material circumstance or indication of what is being expressed by what the small dot represents.

Shapes and space relations

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