Adventures in Education: Chapter 13 ~ Upside down drawing with a Side of Volume


In my previous post, we went over how everything can be created with shapes and what positive and negative space is all about. This next lesson also refreshed me on some more basic concepts in art, upside down drawing and volume. 

So now what?

Upside Down Drawing:

This is a little trick that once again takes us back to elementary or middle school. This will aid us in our search for positive and negative shapes. What’s great about this technique is that it allows our mind to see the subject with fresh eyes, forcing us to toss out our preconceived notions of what the subject is “suppose” to look like. If your at home, work, whereever, find a photo, picture, etc. Study it for a moment. Then flip it over. Now you’re not thinking about the “subject” its self, but it’s shape, size, values, and the positive and negative spaces.

Now on to the activity! The next page is purposely printed upside down. Unless you can read upside down, you’ll most likely flip your workbook around to read the directions. The gist of it is the you’ll study the upside down photo, start seeing shapes and positive/negative spaces, and just draw without focusing on the subject.

Upside-Down drawing example.
Upside-Down drawing example and it’s reference. © Art Instruction Schools
Final barn drawing.
Final barn drawing by yours truely.

Shapes and Volume:

As we’ve already learned, the objects we try to draw are made up of shapes and line. Now we add this 3rd ingredient, volume. The volume of the shape is the amount of three demential space that an object takes up. This point is prevalent whenever you attempt to model or create subjects in any 3D modeling package. As a 2D guy, when I draw, I have fake depth and volume in my work. I fake that within the bounds of width and height. (X and Y axises) But in a 3D program (lightwave, Zbrush, Blender, etc) you’re force to directly deal with space and volume. (The Z-axis) If you refuse, your model looks like crap. It took a long time for me to wrap my mind around the Z-axis, and to force myself to find ways to deal with depth and volume within a 3D space. Yes, you will still be faking volume and depth when drawing in two-dimensions, but it is your duty to learn how to “see” that space and be able to transfer what you “see” to that flat surface. That means to understand how objects rest in space.

Two examples of depth using a pencil.
Two examples of depth using a pencil and a shoelace. © Art Instruction Schools

To drive the point home, we’ll take a glance at two very different versions of a shoelace wrapped around a pencil in  Figure 1, to our left, looks like something most people will draw. Its flat and without depth. The shoelace looks to be embedded into the pencil. Yeah, the artist does suggest some depth thanks to shading and value, but it still looks as if both objects occupy the same space. To our right, we can not only tell that there is a shoestring and a pencil, but we are also left without any doubt that the shoes lace is wrapped around the pencil, not embedded in the pencil. Unlike Figure 1, the shoestring doesn’t share the same space in Figure 2, let alone the same lines as the pencil. You can see the slight shadows underneath the shoelace. You can also tell that it actually wraps around up, over, and back around again.

The next step is building volume. Just like when building with shapes, you’ll break down your subject into three-dimensional objects: balls, cones, rectangles, cones. Start with the biggest shape, and build up your drawing from there.

Basic three-dimitional objects.
Basic three-dimitional objects. © Art Instruction Schools

(For a more indepth look, read Yes, You Too Can Draw! – Ch 2)

Smooshing it All Together:
This section is as advertised. We take what we’ve learn and apply it to our work. We even receive a step by step demonstration from an artist the recreates a moose in pencil. Afterwards we study the student gallery on the next two pages, where the book discuses how each student applied volume, space, and positives/negative spaces in their work. Then comes the Instructor’s Demonstration. In the demonstration, our book breaks down the techniques used by the instructor to draw Koko the gorilla. You remember him.


Next time: Shape Madness! or Pimp My Seagull