Sketching on Location: Texture as Planes in Space

Renowned drawing instructor Glenn Vilppu continues with his fifth installment discussing how to use texture to create depth and perspective while sketching on location.

This is the fifth in a new series of bi-monthly articles about sketching on location. The articles are based on my Sketching on Location Manual. The manual was developed as a series of lessons that I use on my guided sketching tours of Europe, and that I use as material in my regular drawing classes. As such the lessons can be part of a regular course or can be used by individual students as a practical learning guide. In the last chapter we worked on "Light and Dark Patterns." If you have not seen the previous lessons starting in the June 2000 issue of Animation World Magazine, it is recommended that you do. The lessons are progressive and expand on basic ideas. It is suggested that you start from the beginning for a better understanding of my approach. If you really want to start at the beginning open with the lessons based on the Vilppu Drawing Manual.

All drawings in this article are by and © Glenn Vilppu.

All drawings in this article are by and © Glenn Vilppu.

Bringing in Texture

Another widely used way of separating elements and organizing your picture is through the use of textures. The basic principle we have been using is that contrast applied to planes organizes the elements of the picture. The use of textures serves the same function. Pierre Bonnard is a good example of an artist who consistently used them as a way of organizing his paintings and drawings. A texture can be the fluffiness of a cloud, the gravel of a walkway, the variety of shapes of leaves, or the peeling of paint on a wall. We don't have to make up textures for they are all around us. Every good gardener employs this concept in organizing how the flowers in his or her garden will look, one against another, and as a whole. Photographic books are full of artists' depictions of one texture against another.

In drawing we make deliberate contrasting marks to show clear differences. While the subject itself gives us the direction to take, at other times, it may be necessary to create arbitrary marks with our pencil or pen to clarify an object's place in space.

In looking at the examples, notice the variety of textures used. The use of contrasts or differences is a fundamental element of artistic expression. Reducing your picture to a series of stripes, each different in size, texture, quality of color and value is an incredibly useful tool in picture making. Consistently looking for these contrasts will also give you much more enjoyment and appreciation for what you see.

While doing these drawings, I applied many of the ideas we have discussed in the previous chapters, particularly the alternation of darks and lights in the planes stepping back into the picture. It is not necessary to see this dark and light pattern as just a product of shadows. Pushing the differences between one plane and another is the important thing.

View more examples in the following pages.

Glenn Vilppu first wrote for Animation World Magazine in the June 1997 issue, "Never Underestimate the Power of Life Drawing." His drawing manuals and video tapes may be purchased in the Animation World Store.

Glenn Vilppu teaches figure drawing at the American Animation Institute, the Masters program of the UCLA Animation Dept., Walt Disney Feature Animation and Warner Bros. Feature Animation, and has been sent to teach artists at Disney TV studios in Japan, Canada and the Philippines. Vilppu has also worked in the animation industry for 18 years as a layout, storyboard and presentation artist. His drawing manual and video tapes are being used worldwide as course materials for animation students.

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