Adventures in Education: Chapter 2.0 ~ Shape My World


No, this isn’t about touchy—feelly bull-shit, like saving the planet, this is all about freehand drawing techniques. In this lesson, we’ll toss a side our grids and frames. Our new goal is to capture life in a quick and accurate fashion. So how the heck do we pull that off? That my friends will be all figured out by stepping through the following topics:

  • A Brief Introduction and Some History…
  • Basic Shape
  • Positive and Negative Spaces
  • Shapes and Volume
  • Smooshing it All Together

Lesson 2 will provide the student with another tool in our arsenal. Probably something you already utilize to a certain extent, freehand drawing. In my opinion, this lesson with strengthen, refine, and/or add another layer of support to your artistic foundation. Maybe it will clarify some aspect of freehand drawing you didn’t quite understand… (by the way, there’s also a brief history lesson, but that’s not so important.)

Basic Shapes:

Activity #1
Activity #1 © Art Instruction Schools

Yes! You can use squares, circles, triangles, etc outside of elementary school! So why do we use them? In order to simplify our subject. Most everything can be simplified to basic shapes. Once we realize this face, the lesson starts to split hairs. We find out that there are two types of shapes. (This most likely will be a “No DUH!” moment…) The first type is geometric shape, forms we consider man-made (squares, rectangles, triangle, etc…) The other type of shapes we can utilize are organic shape, usually soft, round, sometimes blob-like. The only grey-area between these two types is the circle, which can be thought of as either geometric or organic. The book of course provides us with examples of subjects broken down into shapes.

To aid us in our geometric break down, the lesson brings up identifying the largest basic shape. This will be our foundation for our freehand drawings. To provide us some practice, our first activity involves identifying the largest basic shape. (See Activity #1)

Next up, we’re going to bring our shapes together. Since we more or less know (or we should know…) that all subject are made up of basic shapes, we can take the next logical step by combining those shapes, as we draw, to build up our drawing. Start with the basic shape, then you smaller shapes, and gradually build towards your detail. Another thing the lesson alerts us to when combining our shapes are their proportions. Proportions are the relationships between the width and height of our shapes or subject. Correct proportions will always make for a better drawing. Along with the examples, the portion also has another activity for more practice. (See Activity #2.)

Activity #2
Activity #2 © Art Instruction Schools
Activity #3 © Art Instruction Schools
Activity #3 © Art Instruction Schools

Positive and Negative Spaces:
This may also take you back. Another tool for freehand drawing to spotting the positive (the subject) and negative (area around or in between the subject) spaces. The lesson claims that spotting positive and negative spaces will help in your accuracy. We also go into depth on external and internal spaces around the subject. Example are provided for both topics discussed. Of course another activity for more practice. (See attachment #3) Believe it or not, you can use negative spaces to judge the accuracy of your work. Comparing both positive and negative spaces will do that for you.

The lesson also discusses the road block of situations where the positive and negative spaces aren’t so obvious. The suggested remedy for this problem is to group all active parts of the image and either make them positive or negative. The workbook presents and example photograph. For practice, (See Activity #4) the lesson presents us with a similar situation, a series of kitchen utensils hanging from a bar. The background seems to want to complicate things. (The tile, the wooden molding, etc.) But that can be over come.

Activity #4 © Art Instruction Schools
Activity #4 © Art Instruction Schools

Seeing positive and negative space can be at times a challenge. Often times, the mind will already have its own preconceived notion or image of what the subject looks like. One way of overcoming this is through viewing the subject upside down. Doing so will break through what the mind assumes and let you focus on the subject with more accuracy. It’ll be easier to draw what you see and not what you think is supposed to be there.


Next time: Shape Up Some Volume or Welcome to the Third Dimension