Exploring Edges 1: Changes in Plane vs Changes in Colour

May 4, 2016 | 4 Comments

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For the next four Wednesdays I plan to re-visit the lessons in my SketchingNow Edges course. I am mainly doing this as an extension of the course – bonus material – for those of my readers who are doing Edges now or did it last year. But of course, if you are wanting to find out more about what is in the course, this series should help with that too!

Edges is a more ‘immediate’ level course that brings together a number of standard art concepts under a common theme. I had a LOT of fun putting the course together and spent ages thinking through the structure of how the various ideas related to each other. I hear a lot of artists talk about edges but it is rarely a topic that is dealt with on its own. In all the books I own (and I have a lot) there were only a handful (maybe only three?) that I could find which had a section specifically on edges.

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Because I am a ‘drawer’ first and a painter second, I am thinking about edges constantly when I sketch. Even when I sketch with shapes, which I am increasingly doing, I am always thinking about the edges of the shapes and how they relate to each other. Because sketching for me is all about being spontaneous (not planning my sketch before I start) I have to make decisions ‘on the fly’ while I work. Hence the need to have a few strategies in place to enable me to get the most out of my edges in order to achieve convincing focus and depth in the overall image. It always involves a degree of risk taking, but thats the way I like it!

So what I have done is to document these strategies in a practical way in the Edges course.  You don’t have to sketch in a fast  and loose way as I do to use the concepts that we explore in the course… but well, fast sketching is the arena where I tested and explored the ideas.

I am not going be re-visiting all the exercises from the course, but as I am doing in my Foundations Friday series, will be picking up one or two ideas to explore further.


Edges: Lesson 1 is all about exploring the differences in edges that describe a change in plane vs those that describe a change in colour. Most edges are both, but there is a lot of exciting stuff that happens when a sketcher manipulates this distinction. We look at ways of seeing this difference as a basis for some of the further concepts in the course. This week I am just re-visiting one of four exercises in the lesson.

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Last week when I was doing this quick sketch in a cafe I was thinking about the exercise where I demonstrate sketching a scene by consciously drawing each change in plane in the order that they appear in space – for those doing the course it’s Outdoor Exercise 2. This is certainly not the only way to sketch – in fact I would rarely sketch in this sequential way, but it is a really illuminating ‘stretch’ exercise to do. While doing this sketch I re-discovered some new ideas that I intend to continue to use on a regular basis.

There are so many different ideas we have in our heads whenever we draw, that we can’t use every concept every time. We start forgetting techniques, and often when we re-discover them they feel fresh and exciting – even though when we try to explain our discovery it seems very basic. “Oh, I know that!” might be the response… but do we put into practice all that we know? This was my experience last week – yet another example of the spiral diagram explaining the creative journey (learn more about that here).

Ok, enough introduction… lets get into the explanation of the sketch!

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I started this sketch with the turquoise coffee machine. No! actually before that, I looked for the eyeline, and then I started drawing the coffee machine. Next I drew the back wall and then the clock. At this point I remembered that I was supposed to be drawing the planes in order. Ah ha! this exercise is quite hard to do when you are used to working in an exploratory way (contour drawing).

Note: You can see these initial lines in the top sketch as they were done with my Cobalt Green watercolour pencil.

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I then went back to the elements in the front – the cash register and the cake display and the person – and drew them in the order in which they were located in space and in relation to each other. What I discovered by drawing these planes in order is that I had a much better feel for the size of the distant objects. This is because I had more objects to use as reference points. Rather than the clock location and size floating in space as it was in the first attempt, I could now relate it to the register and the person.

One of the common mistakes that we all make, is drawing distant objects much bigger than they appear in our current view. Working in a sequential way, similar to this exercise, will help this! It will also give us a better feeling for the depth of our scene, which will make us more conscious of other issues relating to line and tone.

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Here is another quick sketch from last week where I was drawing in a hybrid way, drawing some edges that were changes in planes and skipping ones where the colour shapes merged. But oh! I think I am jumping ahead to Lesson 4 on Lost and Found Edges – oops!

Anyway, there are a lot of other things from Lesson 1 Edges that I could have explored this week, but I was really pleased that doing the exercise in my cafe sketch has reminded me of the advantages of working sequentially. I will definitely be thinking about this technique for the next little while.

Click here for more about Edges.

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