An art lesson on life...or a life lesson on art

One of the great joys of life in an English-speaking country is the availability of great reading.  I always stock up at the second-hand bookshops when I'm back for a visit, so for $10, I'm taking a course from Graham Collier's Form, Space & Vision, published by Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, NJ, in 1963.


The purpose of art is “not to reproduce what is already given (which would be superfluous), nor to create something in the pure play of subjective fancy (which can only be transitory and must necessarily be a matter of complete indifference to other people), but to press forward into the whole of the external world and the soul, to see and communicate those objective realities within it which rule and convention have hitherto concealed.”  Max Scheler, the Nature of Sympathy, trans. P Heath

Nor would the purpose of art study be to reproduce an art instructor.  I’m passing on my notes from this book, and sharing my creations that came from it.  I hope you’ll take a few minutes to share the love by creating something from what you learn here.


FORM 1:  Structural Families:  the skeletal object 
(photo:  Rite of Passage, Theodore Roszak)
    1.  Train your powers of observation to better analyze the structure of form.
    2.  Develop your ability to make a drawing based on your observation & analysis.
    3.  Expand your knowledge of form through drawing.
    4.  Enhance your ability to see the creative potential in a drawing based on your analysis of structure.
    5.  Form is entirely dependent on structure.

From a structural analysis of form, we discover that the spatial element of an object—the space in and around the object—is very important in our total comprehension of it.  There are three important aspects of our perception of form.  We search out form-structure in order to understand how the shape we see is constructed; we give some meaning to the object when we can ally the structure and shape to form-function; and when we are aware of the shape of the surrounding space, we have a heightened perception of the significant shape of the object.  And following close on our perception of form comes our inevitable aesthetic response to it.

Collect for or five specimens of objects with a skeletal structure:  grasses, twigs, seed-head formations, leaves, the backbones of fishes, and the bony skeletons of small animals are some possibilities…. Skeletal structure is defined as a structure which can be represented by a number of lines moving in different directions, but all must be connected to a main stem by a series of joints in what is known as an ‘articulated system’.  It is a form possessing a discernible skeleton.

Make a strong black-line diagram that reveals how the object ‘holds together’ through its skeletal limbs.  In the case of a leaf, we are concerned with only the central skeleton, ignoring the flesh of leaf area.

Use a black grease pencil or a broad-nibbed drawing pen and black ink.  Make some tentative line diagrams on a rough newsprint pad, in order to get to know the object before producing the finished black drawing on a good quality offset paper.  Ignore secondary detail and the outlines or edges of the form:  an X-ray approach is required.  When the skeleton limb makes a change of direction, indicate a joint by means of a dot before moving the drawing line off in the new direction.  Watch for proportionate lengths of the lines in relation to other lines of the structure and also for the subtleties of the varying angles in changes of linear direction.

When the drawing is complete, enclose it in a black line rectangle and put three or four drawings on one sheet of paper (pad size about 22” x 18”).

Look at the drawings as they now appear side-by-side.  You will notice the divisions of space between the limbs of each structure drawing and the relationship in both area size and suggested direction of movement each space-division bears to the other.

Which of the structures appears to provide the most interesting visual arrangement of jointed lines and areas of space?  Sameness or regularity tends to produce and inanimate and mechanical structure.  On the other hand, a linear structure composed of diverse ad opposing elements is vital and visually stimulating if held together by a structural unity.

The second vital point is that the fundamental form of a skeletal object is not realized by merely following the apparent edges of the object, either when regarding it or when drawing it.  The important elements are the proportion of its parts, the joints and directional arrangement of the limbs that are its structural parts, and the nature of the space in and around the object.


[the next lesson here.]

[More of my art blogs here.]



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