Artists in Space…the relationship between 2 and 3 dimensions

Well, it is if you're following Graham Collier's Form, Space & Vision, published by Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, NJ, in 1963.


By means of lines moving out from joints in the lateral (that is, two dimensional) directions we revealed the structural characteristics of an object; and once a frame was placed around this structure drawing, a flat grid pattern emerged.  On looking at these finished drawings, the eye is first aware of the areas of space between the lines of the structure and sees them in terms of length and breadth only, or simply as a flat pattern of divisions.  Then, gradually, certain other factors become apparent, and we realize that our eyes are apprehending–not only up, down, and across–but also in.  We find ourselves visually probing the possibilities of the third dimension, depth.


This ability to comprehend depth is a mental-optical faculty we use constantly.  Every time you put out your hand to grasp a door handle you make an automatic appraisal of the distance your hand should travel in order to make contact with the handle.  Sometimes when this combined optical, mental and kinesthetic apprehension of space is upset, you will find yourself misjudging the distance and either hitting the door hard with your hand or stopping short in midair before reaching the handle.

Faced with many objects in close juxtaposition, we make a subconscious pinpointing of their positions in space.

Look at the structure drawings from FORM 1.  Do any of the spaces between the lines of the structure seem to recede more into the distance than other spaces in the same drawing?  Or do some spaces appear nearer than others?  Does your eye return to one space that suggests a dominant frontal area?  Or does it search out a hole, a receding area?  Such a dominant place would be a focal point in the drawing, and it is interesting to note that a focal point can be either a hole or a forward-projecting area, then without having recourse to perspective you have produced depth on a flat piece of paper.


Since its inception during the early Renaissance, the method of creating the illusion of depth over a flat surface has been performed by establishing vanishing points and disappearing lines….  But this mechanical illusion, by becoming merely a formula, can blind the artist to an intensive personal experience of space, to the natural experience of depth perception.

…One of the fundamental purposes of art: to heighten mans instinctive awareness of the cosmos and to enable him to identify himself with the vast range of things within the universe.  When this new world is revealed by a design, as in the case of Perugino, our instinctive links with the great systems of space, matter, and energy are more consciously realized, and we are “taken away from ourselves.”

…To see how natural depth perception operates…by observation…15minutes outside with a sketchpad and a soft, black drawing crayon.  Look at a clump of tree trunks and not how they are grouped together in bunches of three, four or five trunks…. Notice the different grouping arrangements of other clumps of trees.  On your sketchpad, draw about a dozen small squares, freehand, about 2” x 2”.  In each square, make a simple and direct line sketch of vertical trunks, a different formation in each square for the different clumps you see.  These are not meant to be pictorial views of trees; the lines, heavy or light as appropriate, indicating the position of each tree, will serve as notes or diagrams.  As you make these drawings, you will notice the distance between trees… the space sideways between each tree and also the fact that some of these vertical trunks are farther back than others—that there is space between them in depth as well as horizontally.

The eye penetrates the drawing to the thinner lines that appear to be behind, as well as crossing the lateral distances between the trunks.  Increase the apparent depth between the tree lines:  you may have started some of the lines higher in the square than others, from the base line up to perhaps a third or half the distance up the square.

    1.  When an area is not completely contained by lines—when space penetrates it from neighboring areas—the area recedes.
    2.  The heavier the weight of the line, the more frontal dominance it and the surrounding space will have.
    3.  The quality of a line may also relate to depth.  Examine the sheet of lines previously made in DRAWING MARKS 1.  Sharp, incisive lines come forward; broken, blurred or gray lines recede.  Even a heavy line that is grayish and ‘spongy’ will appear to be farther back than a much slighter line possessing sharpness and a biting edge quality.

An awareness of the space immediately surrounding the object is very necessary to apprehend completely the object itself.  The space in-and-out of a piece of furniture (between the legs, through the chair arms) contributes very substantially to our perception of the form of the object, a fact that every designer must take into account.

Take one of the simple tree trunk studies, an in the studio make a larger and more finished drawing in pen and ink, along the flowing lines.  (About 8”sq or 20cm2 is a good size for this new square, which should be enclosed with a good firm pen line.)  Redraw any one of the small sketches in the larger square, with thin delicate pen lines all of equal weight.  This now gives you a design of vertical lines, the special arrangement of which has been taken from an observed source in nature, and in which you have some totally enclosed areas (frontal areas) and some space-penetrated areas (receding areas).  But since the lines are all of equal weight, the drawing will not appear very three-dimensional.  Now, with a pen or brush, thicken up two lines that almost, or totally, enclose an area, in order to achieve a stronger frontal dominance for that area and for those particular lines. 

Look over the design again (remember you are no longer thinking about tree trunks) and decide which verticals should be thickened only slightly in order to produce some frontal dominance but not as much as in the first area.  In other words, this area will appear behind the first.  After these two operations, the design is now composed of three differing weights of line—the forward-thrusting heavy lines, the medium lines in the middle distance and the thin lines of the original drawing that now appear well recessed.

Now, from the page of line experiments made in Ch 2, choose one type of line of some definite quality, either very sharp or very diffuse, and insert a similar line anywhere in this design.  Does this line of definite quality appear near or far away in relation to the other black lines?  Regions of varying depth have been created, and the vertical lines have a relationship to each other based on their depth positioning rather than on rhythmic, proportional, or tensional considerations.


Eastern art uses the size-proportion-color method of achieving emphasis and dominance for the important parts of the design.  These are the parts that are ideologically significant, rather than the parts that are visually significant.



[More of my art blogs here.]



Write a comment

Comments: 0