I started this exercise on 29/05/12 and was quite nervous as I know that I find ellipses difficult to draw. In preparation for the exercise I found the book Perspective Without Pain by Phil Metzger very helpful. It reminded me that an ellipse is a circle in perspective, never has sharp points any more than a circle does, that the curve never abruptly changes direction, and that an ellipse is a uniform curve. A hint that he gave was that most people find it easier to draw a curve that curves away from them and therefore rotating the paper as needed helps. There were several boxes in which you could practise drawing ellipses in perspective and I found it really helpful to do these multiple times. He also stressed the importance of establishing eye level as how you see an ellipse depends on this. He explained that a circle can always be drawn inside a square and to therefore draw a circle in perspective you draw a square in perspective and the circle will touch the square at the middle of each of its sides. Now, this actually caused a problem, as I suddenly realised that I didn’t know how to draw a square in perspective. How do I know that I have drawn a square and not a rectangle? I couldn’t find the answer in my books, they said to draw a square in perspective, not actually how to. So I thought that I would try a search on the internet and I found the answer at http://worth1000.com/discussions/66552/how-do-you-draw-a-square-as-opposed-to-a-rectangle-in-perspective in an answer given by Sopic84. I found this really helpful and I tried it out and it seemed to work well on either a square or a cube. So at least I understood how to do that.
For the first drawing I set up a collection of all clear jars. (Please see figure 1). (I did find that the photographs slightly altered the angle of the ellipses as I had to tip the camera to fit the set up in.) I thought that it would be helpful to be able to see both top and bottom ellipses. I decided to use charcoal as it is a media that I hardly ever use and found when I did the charcoal exercise that it was nice and smooth to use and encouraged free movements. Unfortunately I had completely forgotten that the exercise said to use a softish pencil. Ho hum.
I found it really difficult to take the plunge and make the first mark on the paper. So while I settled I tried to look as much as possible at the relationships between all the objects and tried to understand what I was seeing with the ellipses. I decided to start with the tallest jar and with a deep breath I finally started. I found that the charcoal was a nice forgiving media and I could sketch lightly with it while I found my feet with relationships and sizes. I tried to draw the ellipses by eye using four dots in cross pattern and this seemed to work quite well. I found that the practise at drawing ellipses before hand had really helped and I enjoyed trying to draw them with the charcoal.
I was quite pleased with the completed drawing (A3 sketch book p.8 Please see figure 2) because, though there is a lot wrong with it, they are still the best ellipses that I have managed for a long time. I think that I’ve probably drawn the jar with a lid (on the right) with too deep an ellipse. I did adjust it as I was drawing but I think that it could still do with being a bit shallower. The bottom right hand jars ellipse doesn’t look quite right either, that probably should have been shallower as well. I did find it quite hard to gauge some of the depths and on measuring with an out stretched pencil some of the depths were so small that it was hard to see. I didn’t check my placement well enough at times and the small middle jar needed quite a lot of adjustment to correct its size. I enjoyed using the charcoal and it certainly was very forgiving.
On 30/05/12 I set up again, this time using a variety of objects (Please see figure 3) and I also I changed the height of the table and my seating position. I used a mixture of 2B and 4B graphite pencils to draw with. The instructions for the exercise said to use a softish pencil and I hoped that these were soft enough.
I found that using a pencil seemed to result in me being more hesitant than I was with the charcoal. Relating all the elements to each other and doing the basic sketch of positions took about an hour but then developing it further took several hours. I have found with every exercise that I do that I am so slow and it is an aspect that I need to work on. I had been going to try and check my ellipses drawing squares and cylinders in perspective but I found 2 dificulties with this. One, because I am trying to draw bigger my eye level was off the paper and unless it is on the paper I find it very difficult at present to gauge where the vanishing points are. Hopefully this will get better with more practise. Two, because I was sitting diagonally to the set up I couldn’t work out how this would affect my eye level and the sets ups relation to that. I really got myself very muddled by this. To help me try to understand what I was seeing I placed a box on top of the jug, lining it in the same direction as the jug. I then looked through a piece of glass, held away from me, and draw my eye line, perspective lines and the vanishing point for the box. This helped to show that though the picture plane had moved with me, my eye level was still the same – which is so obvious when I think about it as I was still sitting at the same level but I had got myself thoroughly muddled. Seeing the perspective of the box helped to make things much clearer. But didn’t help with my eye level being off the paper so I decided to eyeball the ellipses and judge things as best I could.
I struggled with the shape of the wine glass, vase and the bottle to get the two sides to match and to help me understand where I was going wrong I took another hint from Phil Metzger’s book and traced one of the sides I had drawn and then flipped the tracing over to see where I was going wrong with the other side. This enabled me to see what I needed to alter.
I decided to try and do a little shading but really wished that I hadn’t started as I got quite lost with it and have done a really poor job. I struggle to show tone successfully. (A3 sketch book p.9 Please see figure 4)
I tried not to rub out mistakes as the exercise suggested but though it was helpful to see where I was going wrong, I found that the wrong marks could make it quite difficult to correct as I kept following them instead of following the new direction I wished to take, so I knocked them back with a rubber so that I could concentrate on drawing in the new line. It was interesting to see just how much the pattern on the mug curves as it follows the mug. I still find it quite difficult to visualise in 3D cylinders and I initially drew the pattern not curving enough and it flattened the mug a lot, the pattern now looks better with more of a curve to it. I was quite pleased with accuracy of the placement of the objects and reasonably pleased with the ellipses although I do not think that I have drawn the ellipse on the ramekin dish very well. I also do not like the position of the ramekin dish, it is too in line the mug and when I was setting up I should have moved it over a little. It was only when I had drawn it that I realised that I should have positioned it better at set up.
On 31/05/12 I tackled drawing the set up in pen. I changed the arrangement a little and my seating position and decided to use a Zig Millennium 01 pigment ink pen. (Please see figure 5). I like these pens. By angling the nib I can draw lighter or darker lines depending on how much of the nib catches the paper. I started with the bottle and lightly sketched in positions. Again, I found it very difficult to draw matching sides to the bottle and vase and used flipped tracing paper to see where I was going wrong. By the time I got to the wine glass I seemed to be managing to reflect the shape a little better. I found it very difficult to draw the handle of the jug and the handle of the mug as well. I tried scribbling some shadows in with the pen held at a very low angle which enabled some quite light marks to be made. It was a real challenge trying to keep the lines light enough for the reflection of the wine glass. I think in retrospect that the drawing looked better without the shadows, particularly as I drew the bottle shadow very badly. I think that I have drawn the ellipse for the vase a little wide and also got a little lost with the shape of its right hand side. Over all though I am quite pleased with it. Again, loads of room for improvement but a start. (A3 sketch book p.10 Please see figure 6).
Phil Metzger, Perspective Without Pain