of Theoretical Flat Shape
Choose a subject from nature which is naturally flat, such as a
leaf. Design the shape using line qualities and criteria learned
in the previous problems. It is usually necessary to demand carry-over
from previous problems. Almost every year we work with stylized
leaves. In order to reduce the time students spend arriving at a
leaf shape, they are instructed to choose from a pointed vertical
shape, pointed non-biased (somewhat triangular) shape, a pointed
horizontal shape or a trefoil. They are to concentrate on reining
the shape playing one contour against the other and designing top
and bottom of the leaf so that three lines do not converge at the
same point when the stem is attached. Students may add one or several
combinations of leaf serration, stem, ribs or decay to enhance the
communication of the shape as a leaf. Edge serration will relate
to the definition of leaf veins.
view drawing the leaf as something different from what they have
been doing and concentrate on the leaf rather than the shape and
line quality. The teacher must constantly remind students that the
previously given criteria applies and the leaf as such is incidental
to problem objectives. The leaf is a shape and the shape is a leaf!
For purposes of the problem, I make a distinction between organic
and geometric symmetry. Geometric describes con tours on either
side of the axis which are identical while organic describes a symmetry
where enclosed areas on either side of the axis are the same but
the contours differ. Students are required to always draw the spine
when working with any image from nature.
the line and shapes on one side against the other. Your shape is
intruding white lines describing ribs are too thick creating excessive
visual vibration. Thin the lines down!
is the relationship of the stem to the veins? What is the length
of the stem to the body of the leaf?
are too many white lines. The idea is to have just enough to communicate
and no more.
the stem line to the tip of the leaf and you will see that there
is more area on one side than on the other. There must be balance,
or symmetry of area, but not necessarily of shape or contour.
can create tension within the shape by indicating ribs or decay
in more than one place on the leaf. However, one area should be
dominant by size and the other(s) subordinate by size or activity.
are cutting off the stem at the bottom of the leaf where the two
lines describing the sides of the leaf come together and meet the
stem line. To ensure the integrity of the leaf and stem as a single
shape, it is necessary to off-set the two leaf lines at the point
where they meet the stem. One line might turn up where it meets
the stem; the other might turn down; the two lines might meet the
stem at different levels on the stem, or some other similar device
for off-setting them.
with stem. Vary length and weight.
the nodule at the end where the stem attaches to the branch has
form. Look at a leaf stem so you know the form of the nodule and
translate it into a drawing that accurately reflects shape and volume.
are using too much serration, use small amount(s) as an accent.
decay, either use a small amount as an accent, or show decay over
almost all of the leaf. Dont cancel out with equal areas of
decay and undecayed leaf. How much to how much!
negative shapes on both sides of the leaf are all too similar. Vary
size, shape and direction.
four 10-inch squares on tracing paper and do marker fill-ins of
the shape in different rotations, when the best positioning is determined,
the leaf may be done in one color visually centered on a 10-inch
square board. This past year I changed this exercise making it a
composition rather than a single image. In the past, the fruit or
vegetable was presented on a 10 x 10 board in black plaka. Last
year, students were required to design a simple composition incorporating
at least one fruit or vegetable (it could be more) with two other
shapes from the theoretical studies. Scale, place ment, tension,overlap,
activation of ground, interval are among principles that could be
demonstrated with this exercise. I recommend this interpretation
of the exercise but I have retained the previous assignment as a
of Theoretical Shape
with Illusion of Dimension
Choose a fruit or vegetable to make a shape that suggests dimensionality.
Initial studies should be done on tracing paper with pencil as constructed
drawings with ellipses and axis. This better aids the student in
understanding the volume or dimensionality of the subject. They
then interpret the drawing using lines based on earlier problems;
line quality and tension curves. The resulting image is highly stylized.
There is considerable distortion and artistic license taken in this
exercise. The most interesting results occur when there is exaggeration
of elements. However, the student has to explore which elements
to exaggerate proportions, stems or leaves to the body of the fruit
or vegetable, or the variation of forms within one variety of fruits
or vegetables. Those parts of the fruit or vegetable that are inverted
often have to be extruded, stems have to be raised and extended.
Students must pay particular attention that ground and horizon lines
are curved because they are elliptical; that increments decrease
in width as they move back in space; and to better define the illusion
of space, objects should set on different planes. Contours must
describe the space occupied by the fruit or vegetable. Sometimes
it is helpful to draw a trapezoid (square in perspective) or ellipse
(circle in perspective) and draw the object so as to set on as much
of the trapezoid or ellipse as possible.
particular concern is that the main shape does not close where there
is a stem or stalk, or where the contour comes into the stem or
stalk from either side, the two sides offset to maintain the integrity
of a single shape.
are not symmetrical. Students design one side to play against the
line defining the other side as they did in the line shape and leaf
compositions. This is not a geometric symmetry but an organic symmetry
where contours might differ from one side to the other, but enclosed
areas on each side of center will appear equal.
lines on contour tend to diminish vitality of fruit or vegetable
shapes. Students need to know when to use a point or a curve in
establishing the illusion of dimensionality. A point tends to show
a form going behind or in front; a curve tends to flatten into a