Old Masters Academy

Pencil Drawing Fundamentals –

Any scene can initially be seen as a composition of a series of forms that are all related to four basic geometric solids: the brick, the sphere, the cylinder, and the cone. In this article we will discuss the interaction of these four forms and how they can be used to create an initial good likeness of just about any scene you wish to draw.

Once you have practiced and internalized the four basic geometric forms it is possible to create a very good representation of any scene you wish to draw. It becomes a matter of putting the forms together in an acceptable manner no matter how complex the scene is.

In effect, we have reduced the enormous complexity of any natural composition to combining the four fundamental geometric forms in the correct manner.

Combining the four geometric forms in the correct manner means first of all that each separate form needs to be drawn with the correct proportions and needs to be put in the correct place.

Essentially, all you need to do is to develop your observation skills to the point that you naturally are able to correctly judge lengths, angles, distances, perspective, values, colors, etc. Of course, to help you with this task, you can also use the knowledge you have accumulated about each of those separate subjects.

In particular, you need to arrange the large basic forms so that they relate to each other in both size and position. The same sort of questions you ask when drawing a single shape should also be asked when drawing an object or scene that consists of multiple shapes: How long, wide, and deep is this form? How far away relative to this or that form? Is the relative perspective of these two or three forms consistent? In other words, you need to ask the necessary questions that uniquely lock in a specific form.

Use the trial and error method to find the correct proportions of the basic forms by using corrective lines. Do not erase those extra lines because you can use them as aides to relate one form to the next. Make sure you draw lightly so you can always erase your lines without leaving indentations. In the beginning, once you feel that you have your proportions right, you may even want to redo your drawing on a new sheet and only reproduce the correct lines. Once you have experience you will notice that you will draw fewer and fewer of these corrective lines.

Another important issue concerning the putting together of the four basic forms has to do with the intersection of these forms. Many times, two or more basic forms will overlap. The important thing here is that you should carefully observe where the overlap begins and where it ends.

An often useful technique is to draw the complete form even though part of it is obscured by another form. This way it is easier to tell where one shape should end and the other should begin. Also, it will help you to avoid drawing physically impossible arrangements. With that I mean that you should avoid breaking a very basic law of nature: Two objects cannot occupy (not even partially) the same place in space.

This is a mistake beginning draftspersons make often. This is obviously a consequence of faulty observation or faulty rendering. For example, a cup and its saucer are often drawn as if the saucer cuts through the cup somewhere in the region that is not drawn. Or, say two vases that overlap are sometimes drawn in such a way that if you logically follow the curves that the two vases must necessarily intersect which, of course, is physically not possible.

It does not hurt to repeat one more time that correct observation is the name of the game. As we have demonstrated, there are many crutches we can use to great benefit, but in the end, the goal is to get rid of all these aids and draw directly from correct observation. And this is not only true for the geometric aspects of a drawing but also for all other aspects such as lighting (values), color, etc.

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