Forms and Shapes
Most objects, people, trees, chairs, tables, houses, etc. as far as the visual aspect is concerned, can be reduced to
shapes, flat or solid. And the first thing to accustom yourself to is that whatever the object is called by name it has a shape that you can see. The difficulty here is that we tend to see only the name and not the shape. For instance, we think we know what a tree looks like because we have associated the word ‘tree’ with trees we have seen. The word ‘tree’ conjures up an image of something green, something leafy, something with branches, something very beautiful. But when we are confronted with drawing a tree the situation seems entirely changed. Is this thing before me a tree? The tree that I always conjured up in my mind when talking about a tree? And how do I begin to draw it? It looks nothing like a tree to begin with.
When you are stuck in front of a tree with a pencil in one hand and drawing board on your knee, you are aware, for perhaps the first time, that you have never really seen a tree before. And this can happen again and again with all sorts of objects and places. What can you do to solve the dilemma? It’s enough, you might think, to make one give up altogether.
Well, forget about what the thing is entirely. Chair, table, tree, house, it doesn’t matter what it might be. Forget what it is called. Clear your mind of its name image and concentrate solely on its shape and its tones exactly as they appear to you, and try not to let the name superimpose itself on the image you see at any cost.
Shape is the key word to remember. Get its shape down somehow and its likeness to its name will follow automatically.
It is helpful when trying to work out a complicated shape like a tree or a head to reduce the object to the simplest geometric symbols possible: namely the cone, the cube, the cylinder or the pyramid. Then you can build on them and, by fining down the hard geometric shape, find the true shape the eye sees (see illustration).
Shadows have shapes too, and so have clouds and, with the exception of atmosphere and mood, most physical objects in nature have some sort of shape that you can grasp and put down on paper. Remembering this simple fact you should have no difficulty at all in drawing anything, whenever it is presented to you.