It’s taking me a long time to get through Don Graham’s book, Composing Pictures, however there’s so much stuff in it that I don’t want to speed through it and end up missing something. And boy did I find a gem last night.
It happened to be talking about the age-old thing of avoiding copying exactly what’s in front of you when you’re drawing, a lesson I have come across over and over again. But this time an extra element was thrown into the mix.
I’m sure most people are familiar with the fact that the further into the distance an object is, the more it appears to flatten out due to the limitations of our binocular vision. When, for example, an artist draws from a life model, he is looking at a person that may be some distance from his easel. If that artist was to draw exactly what he sees, then he would end up with a somewhat uninteresting picture as it would be flattened out to some extent (as seen in figure 355-A from Don’s book below).
The solution to this, as illustrated by figure 355-B, is to imagine yourself as being much closer to the model, drawing what you might see from that vantage point. The dimensions of the model are much more apparent close-up, and the volumes that the different parts occupy are a lot clearer. In photographic terms, you’d effectively be using a smaller focal length (wider lens).
This hit me like a sledgehammer. Though I try not to, I do end up copying what I draw sometimes. My efforts to avoid doing so have been more to do with gesture than anything else. I have often been disappointed with the apparent flatness of my drawings though, and now I know the reason why. It’s so obvious! How didn’t I work this out before?
Don also talks about combining this with using multiple station-points, something I won’t attempt to go into here. I really can’t recommend this book enough. It’s not an easy read, but it has taught me so much about pictures that I just had no clue whatsoever about before.