Thursday, December 17, 2009

Foreshortening: always a challenge...

One of the biggest challenges in drawing plants (or any subject for that matter) is that of foreshortening. Drawing a leaf seems like a easy task...but not if you draw it from different angles.

After drawing this seagrape leaf from three angles, I have a more intimate acquaintance with its shape, edges, parts, and personality. Tracing the textures of the stem or petiole and attempting to follow the stiffness of the leaf blade builds a memory that stays with me long after the drawing is done.

The top leaf is easy, seagrape leaves are essentially a circular shape. The second from the top is the same leaf drawn from the side, and so the challenge begins!

Foreshortening is what happens when something in the picture plane is moving toward you, and shapes become distorted. See how the leaf changes when the edges thrust forward?

Drawing these three-dimensional shapes onto a two-dimensional piece of paper takes some practice. First, I squint my eyes as an aid to flatten out what I'm seeing. Next, I look for the shapes I readily recognize.

For example, in the drawing with color overlays, you can see the circle shape used for the top leaf. I lightly sketch this shape, then redraw and modify the little dips and curves of the edges. When I drew the side view (second from top), I first found and drew the green triangle shape. After that I could locate the oval shape, then it was just a matter of finding the next lines and more small shapes.

For the bottom view, the closest shapes I could recognize were more ovals. I started with the green front lip shape, modifying it as I drew, and then added the side ovals complete the leaf shape. Although this drawing still looks a bit awkward to me, I think it gives an accurate illustration of just how this leaf looks from this angle.

I find that I don't always use the same procedure when I draw. This time I felt most comfortable drawing the closest shape first, but that's not always the case. Sometimes I like to draw the main veins or stems first. I think it depends on the subject and how my brain is working that day!

Foreshortening doesn't have to be a mystery, try using these tips and see if they take the challenge out of distorted shapes. Turn that left-brain chatter off and get back to basics. A good, solid structural base drawing can free you to explore line, texture and color.