Foundations Friday 3: Abstracting Shapes

January 22, 2016 | Leave your thoughts

Next up in my Foundations course is Abstracting Shapes. This is a completely different way of visual thinking to what we looked at last week (refer Feeling Edges here). I am pretty obsessed with shapes at the moment – I said that when I filmed the course in Nov 2014 and it is still the case.

Learning to ‘see’ the edges of objects in terms of lengths, angles and relationships, is crucial for accuracy.  Abstracting shapes, on the other hand, is crucial for interpreting and simplifying complex scenes. Abstracting shapes is also a lot of fun – especially when you start playing with values and the lost and found edges of your shapes. Oh! lost and found edges is my really big addiction at the moment. But first you have to see shapes and learn to merge them together.

So this week I have been doing some shape abstractions as an extension of the exercises in Foundations Lesson 3. These are not necessarily complete pictures, but are primarily shape explorations. I have really been making it up as I go in these sketches!

You can’t follow my blog without knowing that I love losing edges when I do teacup sketches – but same holds true for coffee sketches! A white example….

… and a black one!

But abstracting shapes is even more important when you go out on location. This is the first step of a sketch of St Mary’s Cathedral  from Hyde Park – a very complex side view of a heap of flying buttresses! Simplifying the elements into a few shapes certainly made this sketch a lot easier.

And yesterday morning I did this exploratory exercise of my local cafe – I especially enjoyed connecting the shapes of the chairs and table edges/legs. I have to acknowledge the major inspiration of my great friend Omar Jaramillo – was thinking about him and something like this one while I was doing my sketch. Omar often does the reverse – painting the infill shapes (negative shapes) between  leaving the tables and shapes white. Whichever way – they are fun shape games!

The big takeaway is the accuracy of the perspective of those angled tables and chairs! I am just drawing the shapes as I saw them.

Another attempt, this time dropping in pigment into the connected shape and a few notes on the side – including how hot is was! The hot weather this week has affected my ability to get soft edges at times.

So this week’s cafe sketch is a little different from last week’s continuous line of the similar view, isn’t it? Hmm, I was sitting at a different table, and for the first time in 2 months of daily visits notice the fancy light fittings!

You will have to wait till Monday to see the finished St Mary’s sketch, and a second sketch from the same spot  – which in turn will be a sneak peek of next Foundations Friday on volumes.

Abstracting shapes is a hugely different way of seeing than feeling edges. Do find it easier sketching with shapes or with lines?


This is part of a series Foundations Friday where I am revisiting the lessons of my Foundations online class, and exploring the concepts in a new way. To find out more about the course click here.

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