Exercise Boxes and books

It has been an interesting journey trying to do this exercise. My first attempt on 25/05/12 was not a great success. (A3 sketch book p.3, please see figure 2) I set up the boxes and books at various angles (Please see figure 1)

Figure 1
First set up of boxes and books

and tried to draw them as carefully and accurately as I could by sight, using comparison of size and position to each other to help me. I made, however, a fundamental mistake at the beginning of the drawing. I used the tall box as my measure, which might have worked quite well if I hadn’t had a bit of a brainstorm and then drawn the box too wide. I seem to naturally widen and flatten when I draw, at least with boxes and books anyway, something which I hadn’t realised until looking at this completed drawing. I then checked some of my vanishing points to see how accurate the drawing actually was and found that they were very definitely off. A bit of a heart sinking moment and a sobering experience to find that I can’t even draw a box accurately. What I did find fascinating was the angle of the large bottom book, right hand side. Now to me it looked as if the right hand edge was sloping towards the right and this is how I drew it. When I checked on whether it met at the vanishing point it was clear that I could not have drawn the angle right, that it would actually have to go the other way. So I went back for another look and the angle still appeared to be as I had drawn it. Now I was really puzzled. I tried following the angle with a pencil held out and it showed that it was definitely sloping the opposite way to how I was seeing it but I still couldn’t see it visually for the life of me. So all in all, as a first attempt, not very successful and rather a case of back to the drawing board. No pun intended.

Figure 2
First attempt at exercise boxes and books

I really wasn’t sure what was the best way forward and I thought that it might help to read up on perspective to better understand what I was seeing. I read The Artist’s Guide to Perspective by Janet Shearer and found it very helpful. I found two exercises in the book particularly helpful, exercise 3: establishing the picture plane p.16 and exercise 4: the vanishing point p.18. Shearer suggests visualising “a piece of glass every time you draw or paint, and trace the outlines of objects as you see them onto its vertical surface.” She also suggests imaging that whatever you hold out to measure or discern an angle is actually resting on the vertical surface of the glass so that you don’t tip it and therefore distort your measurement or angle. I realised that when I hold a pencil at arms length to measure I am often actually tipping the pencil rather than keeping it straight. I then spent a happy hour doing exercise 4 and establishing my eye line in the room and then holding long rulers to see where the walls met on my eye line. Again, I found myself thinking that there was no way that angles, that didn’t look in a million years as if they would meet on the eye line, actually would and yet they did. It really bought home that I cannot judge some things very accurately at all and angle of slope is definitely one of them. No wonder I have never been able to really understand perspective. I then tried holding a piece of glass in front of the set up and traced it onto the glass with a felt tip. Visually I still could not see that the large bottom book right hand edge sloped to the left but it was clear from the tracing on the glass that it did. I can only think that the angle of the side of the table against the set up distorts the angle visually.

On 26/05/12 I decided to use what I had read about and try  to draw the books and boxes from a perspective point of view. I reset the arrangement so that more of the vanishing points would appear on the paper. (Please see figure 3).

Figure 3
Second set up for exercise boxes and books

I re-drew the set up, this time drawing it smaller so that I could also draw in my eye level and then check vanishing points against this. Some of the sideways faces of the items I was able to check by adding on large pieces of paper to the sides and then following with rulers but some appeared to only be likely to meet much further away. (A3 sketchbook p.4, please see figure 4).

Figure 4
Second attempt at exercise boxes and books

This drawing helped to show me what was happening so next I decided to draw the set up again, this time using everything that I had learnt up to this point to help me. By now I seemed to be getting a little better at measuring angles and transfering them to the paper without tipping my pencil or altering the angle as I bought it to the paper. I found that if I checked every angle multiple times it became clear if I was tipping or altering as I would get a different result each time. I also found that altering my head just a little made a big difference to what I was seeing. I was sitting on a chair that could swivel and found that small movements on this also had the same effect and that for the next drawing I would need to change chairs. When I had drawn the set up as best I could I then checked the vanishing points and found that I was a little out on some and corrected in red.  (A3 sketch book p.5, please see figure 5)

Figure 5
Third attempt at exercise boxes and books

I changed chairs and then tried drawing the set up a little larger so that my eye level would be off the page and tried to measure and relate position and measure angles. Overall I was quite pleased with the completed drawing. (A3 sketch book p.7, please see figure 6) I think that it is more accurate than my first attempt. I did find in all the attempts that trying to draw the boxes as if they were see through difficult. I do seem to find it very hard to visualise 3D forms. Hopefully that is something that will improve in time. I also find it hard to draw in a straight line.

Figure 6
Fourth attempt at exercise boxes and books

On 28/05/12, I decided to tackle this exercise again. I had struggled with feeling quite useless yesterday because I had found it so hard to draw such a basic shape. It did not seem to bode well for the rest of the course. So as I can’t see the point of ending up afraid to draw a book or a box I decided the best thing to do was give it another go. I changed the set up to a similar arrangement as for my first drawing as part of me thought that I may not be able to draw that kind of arrangement accurately, having made such a pigs ear of it the first time. (Please see figure 7).

Figure 7
Third set up for exercise boxes and books

This time I thought I would just try and have fun with it. I sketched in positions and what I thought the angles were, lightly at first, checking placement, size and relationship of each item to each other as I went. I then checked my angles by holding out a pencil at arms length. I was quite pleased as with some of them I appeared to have got them fairly spot on but most needed some adjustment. In the end I reached a point where I felt reasonably happy with the drawing and left it for a little while and then looked at it afresh. I made some final adjustments, as on return, the two top boxes appeared to be tilted downwards and I then tried to give some variation to some of the lines which is something I should have done in the first place. I do find that I can concentrate so hard on one aspect that I do not consider another aspect. (A3 sketch book p.6, please see figure 8).

Figure 8
Fifth attempt at exercise boxes and books

I enjoyed doing this drawing much more, mainly I think because I just tried to concentrate on working out what I was seeing and then trying to portray that accurately rather than stressing about maybe being unable to do it etc. I feel much more confident now about using a pencil at arms length and transferring that information more accurately to paper. I am also more aware now about how much difference a slight change in position of either head or seating position can make to what you are seeing, but I did still find it hard to not to move either as I hadn’t realised just how much I tend to shift my position. It has helped to systematically try and work through this exercise multiple times and I now have a better understanding  of simple perspective, an area which I have always found difficult to grasp. There is a lot of room for improvement with the final drawing and I think from looking at it again that I still have a bit of a downward slant but I do think it is an improvement on my previous attempts, mainly perhaps because I felt happier tackling it.

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