The #1 quick-fix to indicate “I’m in front!” is overlap. Other depth cues on a flat surface include: diminution (getting smaller-ness), convergence and upward position on field. These 2D figures at San Francisco's Transbay Temporary Terminal keep a polite distance and staying within the boundary. For their work-weary audience, they model all the depth cues but overlap, in the hope that the audience for this sign will behave, in real space, accordingly. The figures don’t overlap each other; that might imply touching! How telling for our culture! The only overlap in this pic is that of shoulders covering the farther line boundary.
A pair of dead trees above Donner Lake. Their barkless flesh, iridescent in the bright sun, speaks of what they've endured: cold frosts, sparkling snow and the crackling heat of rainless summers. I am up here volunteering with wilderness first responders, play-acting hypothermia, impalements and frostbite. Government officials came here annually to plunge a measuring stick in a snowdrift to get an idea of how much water is coming down to the parched valley. Like last year, not a snowdrift in sight.
My mom sang this song well. She died about 18 months ago, so she won't be around to meet my first grandchild, who's soon to be born. I would never have guessed life would roll out at this rate! When I was little, I was fascinated by the Life magazine photo captioned, “a thumb to suck, a veil to wear”. As it does for old ladies and brides, a veil makes our tiny back yard more mysterious. Nevertheless, the spring-expectant colors pulse through. Still waiting.
Not-so-sketchy in Philly. It’s nice to work out a storefront design on a background that looks closer to the site’s next permutation than the derelict facade that’s really here. The plain jane storefront is cleaned up and wearing colors amenable to the next occupant. (I should not have included the blade sign; it’s bound to change.) Next up: back and forthing about window heights, visibility, building codes, etc. That's where having a sketch of the bigger context and a site plan helps.
Aerial perspectives are a challenge. This detail is from full sheet size, 22" x 30", for a project that's likely to raise a lot of hackles. For conceptual illustrations where there is no architectural info available, the context-obliterating clouds of of Chinese and Japanese landscape style, sansui-ga, from the 15th c. is appealing. Only salient scenes would have to be drawn, with mist intervening where no design info is available. In the 21st c, I have to invent built forms, continuous to the property line, where none may ever be built. The result of can be beautiful and give its viewer a sense of soaring.That's great for fund-raising and approving boards of directors who may operate from a detached position. When no end-user will ever soar, is it disingenuous to sell an idea this way? Does it bridge or exacerbate the gap between end-user and promoter?
In a semi-rural setting 65 miles from San Francisco, who needs two barns? How will the new digs look from the driveway with the old barn gone? I gave the sketch app on my iPad another try. Colleague Doug Wittnebel is in love with it; for me it still feels inauthentic, and about as sensuous as scratching my ear with an oven mitt.
Beautiful skies in a hanging valley above the Napa that qualifies as wilderness, technically more than 60 minutes from definitive care. Folks at the Napa Land Trust are providing Wilderness First Aid training for their docents, to reduce outdoor misfortunes. As a Wilderness First Responder, I am more than willing to volunteer here with Foster Calm and appreciate another chunk of beautiful Cali.
Sitting too close to portray on flat paper a scene that requires moving one's head up and down or side to side. Where do we see this? In facsimiles of spaces toosmall or too large to be readily observed. Drawing on-site under this self-imposed condition, I could not keep the image within the bounds of the paper. Those darn charcoal lines kept extending beyond the paper. I schlepped bigger and bigger paper to the site but was limited to the armpit-to-fingertips size of board I could carry. No whole-body involvement on that size paper! Then there's this kind of drawing. Sheesh. Not necessarily reporting a visual field.
Fun translation experiment! In a recent batch of studies
that are up now at 95 Third, I tried to draw something that's impossible to see without moving one's head up and down, adding not only a third dimension to be translated, but the element of time. A wide-angle lens photo would yield a fish-eyed image. Drawing this ventures outside the realm of linear perspective. In the companion drawing to this, straight lines did end up curving. Trees don't have ruler-straight lines however, so where might a warp take place? I was curious. The
drawing only resembles the throne tree if you are standing an arm's length
away, when viewer's head must also move to take in the whole picture. From across the room, the drawn tree appears stunted. It might only do justice to its subject in a constrained space, such as a stairwell landing or short hallway. There is a line of inquiry about "correct" viewing distance of pictures that is informed by optics and constrained by the arm length of the picture-maker.
Once a week I lead a class at UC Berkeley Extension, offering students tools to visually explore concepts for the use of space, and to efficiently communicate their ideas with drawings. Something that makes UC Extension different: instructors have day jobs in related fields and do the instructing on the side. We bring biased, contemporary,
practical experience to students. In Fall 2014 some of the classes will move to 160 Spear, and for Spring 2015 all Extension action moves to the new digs on Spear Street. I look forward to meeting new students there every semester.
There are just five drawings in that front room at 95 3rd Street, SF. Two have blue sky, but all are charcoal, and just a bit of other color. Like Gretel leaving breadcrumbs to find her way home, a spot of rust crayon left here and there helps me find a recently-drawn branch after looking at the real tangle. I like that intense looking -- in small doses! Perspective construction -- the nerdy sister of drawing from source -- requires a similar tracking: putting families of lines in distinct colors, to locate them within the tangle of a scene. Drawing without a visual model sometimes feels like all geometry and no sensation. Charcoal makes a dusty, strokey noise, and drawing outdoors magnifies the in-the-world-ness of the process. It can't help but leave traces of where I got lost or changed my mind. Can someone who wasn't there sense the process of that quiet tracking of spatial relations by looking at the drawing? If you get a chance to see the drawings let me know.
We are so lucky to have the Bay Area Ridge Trail. Over the past 7 years I've admired a particular stand of trees on a section of the trail in Tilden Park. On a fogless afternoon last summer, I was struck by the stark beauty of one Monterey Pine that had given itself over to insects and fungus. The next day, on the way to a meeting in San Francisco, I glimpsed a scene down Stevenson Alley that was humming the same tune: similar color palette, quality of light and vertical format. In my free time, I started taking bigger and bigger paper up the hill to explore the scene in charcoal. I've always been interested in drawing scenes that are too big to take in with a single shot. On flat paper, how does one enact a truce between the geometry of perspective and 3D input from the senses? This interest has sustained my career as a visual storyteller and explorer of volumetric scenes. For the rest of this month, 5 charcoal drawings are in the gallery of UC Berkeley Extension (just a block away from Stevenson Alley). Take a look if you have a chance and say hello. I'll be there every Thursday in February from 4-6:15pm.
& Belliston's how-to on freehand perspective, Rapid Viz, gets sketchers right into the swing of non-source, freehanded rectilinear objects, macro and micro. For the built environment, it's What The People Want. One oversimpification they made --and it's hard to delete from students' learning-- is their representation of our field of view as one circle. That's only true for cyclopses! The boiled-down geometry of perspective provides a round-edged image such as a pinhole camera print, based on ONE unmoving eye--not two moving cameras with adjustable focus, which is what our two eyes are always streaming. For some reason we like our pictures with straight sides, so cropping a perspective construction is the next step, a move unconnected to linear perspective, but crucial to clear communication.