Z fails to draw part 14. Z loses her temper and blames Betty

I came to the negative space drawing of a chair again. If I’m to follow the book, I have to follow the whole book, even if I don’t like some of the exercises, I decided. But a book that says it’s taking you through a whole process has to play fair and Betty is not playing fair.

So, you put your chair 6-8 feet away and hold up your viewfinder and move it around to find an aspect you like. Right. Now, you focus on a blank space between the various parts of a chair and wait until it pops into focus and becomes what you’re looking at. Right. Now you draw that shape on your viewfinder. Wrong. You are holding up a sheet of perspex or glass and trying to hold it steady with one hand while you’re drawing it with the other. That isn’t on. It moves. I managed to balance it on my crossed-leg knee, held up awkwardly, and get something that wasn’t accurate but wasn’t wildly out. So rightish.

Next, you are supposed to draw that in proportion but scaled up on your paper, using the crosshairs for reference. So it’s a wobbly shape drawn freehand on the paper and you’re not even doing it the same size because, for a reason she doesn’t explain, she wants a bigger picture than the one you’re using on the viewfinder. And the crosshairs are useless because there’s only one cross and it’s probably nowhere near the shape you’ve drawn and only a bit of the upright line is.

I have no idea how to achieve the starting point of this, let alone how to carry on. The rest of the drawing is supposed to be done freehand, this starting shape magically giving the structure to the whole thing. No it doesn’t. I can’t work out how to draw it scaled up, nor even the same size. I don’t know where to put it. I added a few more marks to the viewfinder to try to give me a clue where other parts are, proportionately, but it’s too difficult. I still can’t draw and that’s the point. If I could draw, this might not be impossible but I really can’t. It’s like me giving my clarinet to Tim, singing him a tune and asking him to play it. It would be hard enough for me, if he sang the tune for me as I can’t play the clarinet by ear, but at least I know how to play each note. He doesn’t, so he has no starting point. I don’t here. This is a specific exercise, there isn’t an easy way in to give me the idea. So (the next chapter being on perspective and vanishing points which I understand but find a massive turnoff), I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to make any more progress at all.

My friend Adèle dropped off the sourdough starter and I’ve fed it, ready to give it a go in a few days. I’ve dealt with all the food in the fridge, by freezing, cooking or eating it. Positives, darlings. To try to put myself into a better mood.

Still grumpy, I had another go. I abandoned the viewfinder/picture plane bit because it was impossible to hold steady and draw accurately, just going straight to drawing on paper. I put the chair in front of me rather than against the wall because I needed to sit comfortably rather than perch awkwardly on a chair in the wrong place. I used the vertical and horizontal edges of the radiator to give myself something to judge by.

It’s only too easy to see everything that’s wrong with both attempts. From the angle of the seat in the first one to the shortness of the legs in the second, and everything in between. Although you could see that I was trying quite hard with the second picture and, if I hadn’t run out of paper and got very bored, so couldn’t face trying again with the legs, it might have had potential to be slightly more accurate. I was able to concentrate but not to ignore that I hated the whole process. And I should have picked up that pile of papers, innit.

3 comments on “Z fails to draw part 14. Z loses her temper and blames Betty

  1. Scarlet

    Well yes, exactly what I did when I did these exercises. There was no way I was going to hold onto a view finder, etc. What the sizing thing is about, I don’t know. We both understood the negative space concept and adapted it to suit ourselves, which is creative in itself – job well done!
    Yep, same here regarding perspective!

  2. Allotmentqueen

    I think you’re over-complicating your chair. Start by drawing the seat shape, just as a block, ignore the fancy bits. Look at it really hard and get the angles right. And then draw the legs straight through the seat as if it wasn’t there. You’ll find that the front leg is almost in line with the very back leg. And then draw the other two legs comparing them to their partners. You’ll find that the back very stubby leg is the same shape as the other back leg (sorry if this is confusing!) but just very much shorter (only about a third of the visible length). Only once you’ve got the relative proportions right(ish) should you think about the fancy shapes. You’ve also made it more difficult by having a bookcase, wastepaper basket, etc behind the chair which is not helping you to see a clear outline.

    The other thing I would suggest (mega-cheat here!) is taking a photo of your chair, put it on your computer screen, and then tape some greaseproof paper over it, and with a pencil draw the outline of what you see. (Actually you might have a light box, given your production of auction catalogues). Take it away and compare it to your drawing. You should be able to see where your two drawings diverge (and converge!)

    But ten out of ten for sticking at it. I think I might have to actually have a go at reading the book.


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