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Understanding The Formal Elements of Drawing

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"Drawing is an illustration of the soul. The better you draw, the stronger your soul gets." - P.S. Tavishi

When you embrace your pencil or your ink with a paper, you begin to create visual elements starting with a line. You can use that basic element to create various shapes then, like an apple. Then, you add color, texture, and tone to do justice to the image of an apple. You are digging deep into the crucial elements of fine arts and have drawn something out of your imagination. Each element, no matter how basic it is, contributes to an expression. Whether you are want to draw landscapes, characters, or large buildings, everything from what we call the formal elements of drawing.

Isn’t that great, how simple things can transform into something magnificent? Well, that’s how you become an artist.

In this article, we are going to discuss these formal and most crucial elements of drawing. Also, there are some exercises for you, as a beginner, to master drawing these basic elements. Let’s start with the line first.

Draw lines to create an object out of your imagination

Draw lines to create an object out of your imagination

1. Line

Move your pencil across a page and here, you get a line. Bent it a bit like S and you have a curved line. All lines are different and are enriched with qualities. They can be straight, curved, or zigzag. They help guide your viewers in a particular direction. Each line has its own specialty that you can improve with these exercises:

Exercise 1

  1. Draw a solid line that goes across the page
  2. Draw a broken line that appears connected to your viewers
  3. Draw slant lines that cross each other path like a triangle, or a parallelogram
  4. Draw a line that hints viewers to look in a specific direction whether it’s top to bottom or left to right

Exercise 2

Find a cable like your charging cable or your earphone. Mold it into different layers to draw an interesting shape with the help of lines. To make it better, draw something out of your imagination and as the folded cable overlaps each other, also include shading and perspective effects.

Exercise 3

Draw out of your imagination. Let’s say you imagine a skyscraper or an elephant. Use only lines to draw the structure of the entity. Draw as big as you can considering the page size.

Use shapes to give a three-dimensional look to your object

Use shapes to give a three-dimensional look to your object

2. Shape

Subconsciously, you are always making choices on the basis of the object’s shape, even if it’s finding a partner for yourself. A shape is a closed form of different figures. You only need lines and circles to draw all shapes like a cylinder, sphere, pyramid, and so on.

Exercise

For the sake of initiation, start by drawing the objects shown in the above image.

An additional note about positive and negative shapes

Let’s say your friend is standing against a wall with his legs crossed. Here, your friend is a figure also called a positive shape and the wall is the background. His legs divide the wall in a unique shape, which is called a negative shape. Similarly, other objects also have positive and negative shapes. While many beginners avoid the negative shapes taking them as leftovers, you shouldn't do that. They are part of the whole composition and must be availed to add depth to your final piece.

Adding value to an object

Adding value to an object

3. Value

You are always making decisions based on value, whether it’s about painting the walls with dark or light shades of blue or wearing dark or light clothes. It’s all about value. It’s a level of the luminosity of color such as dark green or light green.

Value contrast plays a significant role in differentiating objects from each other. One example is these words written on a white background. The black font color helps you easily distinguish the figure from the background. Different values come in with different visual effects and create distinctive impressions. A slight variation in values creates low contrast that can be used for depicting relationships among characters and other objects. On the other hand, drastic variations of colors result in high contrast.

Note

Black and white are colors and not considered as hues (colors and shades of green, red, blue, and so on). Both are not found on the visible spectrum and thus, are called neutrals. Black is the darkest while white is the lightest. Together, they form a gray color, which is an intermediate neutral color between black and white.

Exercise 1

Draw distinctive shapes and assign them various personalities. You can draw geometric, curvilinear, biomorphic, rectilinear, nonrepresentational, and many other shapes using your imagination.

Exercise 2

Draw a rectangle and add an apple inside it. Apple is the positive shape while the remaining space in the rectangle signifies the negative shape. Next, you can draw starts within the rectangle such that their ends form a triangle in the background. Now add values to these stars such that the triangles appear more active.

Exercise 3

Draw the letter “A” touching the lowers corners of the rectangle. You will have three triangles and one parallelogram within the rectangular shape. You have formed four negative shapes left, right, top, and bottom to highlight the letter “A”. You can try the same exercise with a square using the letter “X” where four triangles will be formed as negative shapes.

Exercise 4

Draw the negative space between your body parts such as arm and body, ear and shoulder, and between your thighs.

Exercise 5

Draw the leaves fallen on the ground emphasizing the negative shape between them.

All these exercises are nothing extraordinary. These are taken from your surroundings. You can try many other shapes involving and positive and negative factors. Just look around yourself and examine how each object is identifiable because of the negative shape behind it.

Hue is a pure color. Saturation is the brightness and dullness of a color. Value is the intensity of the illusion.

Hue is a pure color. Saturation is the brightness and dullness of a color. Value is the intensity of the illusion.

4. Color

The colors of dawn and dusk have variations of yellow and orange. Which one do you prefer? Despite the same color, but with different shades, they are used by visual artists to create a certain mood. Alike these two colors, the rest of the colors also has variations and is discussed using a few specific terms named below.

  1. Hue: Hue is a pure color like red, green, or blue.
  2. Value: Value is different shades of colors like dark green/ red/ blue, and light green/ red/ blue.
  3. Saturation: Saturation is the dullness and brightness of a hue. You must have heard of the terms: saturated colors, which are too bright, and dull colors, which have low intensity and dull appearance.
For a start, begin drawing these textural cubes. You can transform them into spheres and cuboids as well.

For a start, begin drawing these textural cubes. You can transform them into spheres and cuboids as well.

5. Texture

Cuddling up a furry cat or dog is pretty delightful, but you can’t say the same for a hedgehog. Our decisions are based on their bodily texture. A texture is a tangible quality of a surface, which you can sense physically. The visual textures are a digital replica of such textures. They are drawn by hands and also photographed.

Now, how to draw them? Textures are simply a combination of basic elements like lines and circles. They can be pretty complex depending on what you want to draw. But for a start, you can begin drawing the ones mentioned in the above image.

Patterns can be drawn through repetition, rotation, and reflection.

Patterns can be drawn through repetition, rotation, and reflection.

6. Pattern

The pattern is a decorative design. It often works in repetition but can be drawn chaotically for specific purposes like imitating nature. It can be used for meditation, iconography, graphics, and various other purposes that you can imagine. Here, the term “motif” is used to describe a shape and form such as a dot, line, letterform, image, and even a combination of shapes and/or forms. The motif can be used in repetition, rotation, as well as in reflection. You can also use half-drop repeats in which every other line is staggered.

Exercise 1

Draw a grid in a square/ rectangle. Inscribe a particular shape in each of the grid such as a circle, heart, cloud, or star. Assign them different emotions through colors.

Exercise 2

Use yellow color for a shape or form and turn it into the deepest and darkest color.

Exercise 3

Draw four squares or rectangles. In each of them:

  1. Draw vertical and horizontal lines to imitate the texture of a window
  2. Draw short wavy lines to imitate the texture of hair
  3. Draw groups off tiny circles to imitate the water bubbles
  4. Draw crossed lines in a manner to imitate the pattern of woven fabric

Exercise 4

Use the combination of a crayon, chalk, charcoal, and pastel stick to create a textural mosaic.

Conclusion

Alike these exercises, you can try many more to build a strong drawing base. You can try doodling, drawing your palm lines, or using a fruit skin such as that of a banana to create a unique texture. You are surrounded by inspiration and creativity. You just need to observe and look beyond what’s visible to you.

© 2020 PS Tavishi

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