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The Illusion of Depth

This week Studio b. instructor Heather Clements gave us the exercise of creating illusion of depth.  She asked us to exaggerate it,  to make the foreground appear much closer than the parts of the model that were further away.  Perspective of course is the most obvious method of creating the illusion of depth on a two-dimensional plane.  The parts of the subject that are closer are much larger in proportion to the parts that are farther away.  In figure drawing, perspective already is exaggerated, because the model is in close proximity to the artist.
The highest contrast of values, and if working in color, the brightest colors, also tend to advance toward the viewer, while midtones and duller colors tend to recede.  Purposefully muting the lights and darks will cause that part of the subject to appear farther away, and purposefully heightening the black-white value contrast and brightening the colors of the near portions will advance the closer part of the subject.
The degree of development also creates the illusion of depth.  Highly developed areas advance, whereas silhouetted shapes with perhaps hazy edges, recede.

This is the second week Heather mentioned Mach bands, an optical illusion causing forward edges to appear lighter against darker values behind.  This optical illusion occurs even though the local value does not change — our eyes do it for us.  If the artist will exaggerate Mach bands, that too will help give the illusion of depth.

The examples in this post exaggerate depth.

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Figure Sculpture Workshop at Studio b.

Fellow students Renee McCalmont, Nancy Nichols Williams, Didon Comer, and Instructor Karen Cope

Karen Cope continued her Sculpt Across America presentation at Studio b. in Alys Beach, Florida, May 15 and 16, with two 5-hour days of a figure sculpting workshop.  Since my preferred mode of expression is drawing, I had to look at the subject in completely new ways.  I gained a much greater understanding of form.

As with every class at Studio b., the energy was intense.  The instructor’s extraordinary skills were evident both in her teaching and the samples she had brought with her.  Everyone experienced a fair degree of success.

I was fairly pleased with many aspects of my end result, despite my only previous figure sculpting experience being the 3-hour session two days prior.

My attempt, full figure at left My attempt, from behind My attempt, from behind

For me, though, the true pleasure was in the process.  Karen taught us to add small “notes” of clay to build out the form.

I am right-handed, but I caught myself using my left hand a lot of the time.   I wonder what that was about.

At left is the creation of a fellow student, Nancy Nichols Williams, who also regularly attends the weekly figure drawing sessions at Studio b.

Nancy Nichols Williams Nancy Nichols Williams
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Guest Artist at Studio b.: Karen Cope, Sculpt Across America

I know very little about sculpture.  When I was studying art in college, I took only the one required sculpture class.  My area of emphasis was drawing and I also studied painting, but the three-dimensional arts intimidated me.  So when I learned that Colleen Duffley had invited a sculptor to give workshops at Studio b. the 2nd week of May, I was thrilled for the exposure to the community, but not so excited about participating.  That is, until I found out she would be doing figure and portrait sculpture workshops.  I knew there would be an immediate application to my figure drawing efforts, so as soon as I found out the workshop dates and times, I signed up for all available.
The instructor is Karen Cope.  Karen is doing a Sculpt Across America tour, offering workshops as she goes.  She is an extraordinarily gifted sculptor and a great teacher.
The night before last we had an introduction to her language and approach, “The Speed At Which Form Turns,” and last night we had our first clay-in-our-hands  session with 3 hours of figure sculpting.  10 people participated.

My effort was passable, given that my only other effort at sculpting, in college, was carving a rock out of plaster of paris, which found its home in the recycle bin as soon as it was graded.

The bearded model was infinitely patient with us, sitting for 3 hours in 20 minute stretches.  I made his legs about 3/4 as long as they really are — proportions were obviously a challenge for me.  But I think I captured the general lean and weight of the various masses.

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Figure Drawing from Warm-Up to Extended Pose

I arrived at the Figure Drawing session fairly exhausted this week, being in the middle of teaching a 2½ day crash course for one of my businesses (a certification course for operators of public swimming pools).  Counting me, only 3 artists were there at Studio b., plus the instructor, Heather Clements, and the owner, Colleen Duffley.  The model was unable to make it, so Heather modeled for us without disrobing.

It takes me a while to “learn” a new figure’s shape and proportions.  I focused on contours the whole night.  In this post I have decided to show examples of my work throughout the whole session, from initial 1-minute and 2-minute gestures to the final 20-minute line drawings.  Clicking on the picture will give an enlarged view.

As usual, though I arrived exhausted, I left energized by the thrill of expression.

Collection of Briana Sanderson

Collection of Briana Sanderson

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