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According to Robert Fawcett, drawing the same thing over and over
again enhances an artist’s knowledge of form and sharpens focus on
detail. This allows the artist to forget “technique” and concentrate
on structure. The three interpretations of an identical man, below,
seen from the rear holding a shovel, examine the figure’s stance and
silhouette, and explore the eects of light and shadow on form. First,
Fawcett created a simple contour drawing and filled it with flat tones.
His second drawing employs line and stark shadows to delineate
form, and his final work relies upon line, shadow, and varied tone to
create a more complete picture.
The quick portrait studies at right, which Fawcett frequently made,
rely on light and shadow to create volume, and search out the small
details that reveal character and emotion.
Robert Fawcett
Studies,
Man with Shovel
Rear View (left) and
Five Mens Heads (above)
Pencil and ink wash
on paper
Ink and gouache
on board
THE CONSTRUCTION OF FORM
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Norman Rockwell
Portrait of an Old Man, European travel sketchbook;
c. 1932
Pencil on paper
In these studies, the artist used light, dark, and middle tones
to capture fragments of his subject. Light seems to be shin-
ing most strongly from the left-hand side and slightly above
his subject, casting the right of the man’s head, hand, and
shoes into deeper shadow. Rockwell uses the broad side
of his pencil to create tonal strokes and the point for crisp
detail, as in the man’s expressive face and his worn shoes.
Austin Briggs
Gestural studies
Ink on paper
Draftsmanship was an important
skill for the illustrators of the Famous
Artists School, an ability they developed
through the act of observational draw-
ing. John Atherton often focused on the
beauty of the common object, creating
works that ranged from the highly
realistic to the decorative. He noted
that the illustration, at right, for United
Airlines “has nothing in it that would
seem to oer diculty to the draftsman,
but the very simplification of the forms
themselves is what a good groundwork
in drawing helps to accomplish.” Sound
drawing was essential to all of them,
he said. “In each case I recorded what
I saw and wished to use but I did more
than that. I refined the forms which I did
use and eliminated what I saw because
some of the things were not essential.
The ability to “observe intelligently
and refine or exaggerate” was key to
Atherton’s success and a distinguishing
factor in his unique brand.
CONSIDERING THE COMMON OBJECT
John Atherton
Poster for United Airlines,
New Orleans
“Remember,” Austin Briggs wrote, “in order to describe an object
you must have light, and light cannot be expressed without shadow.”
Nature has at its disposal an infinite and subtle range of values, but
Briggs pointed out that the artist must make selective statements of
light, dark, value, and pattern to create an eective work of art. “Once
the basic areas of light and dark are expressed, we must decide from
the nature of our subject which of the middle values” to employ.
Briggs uses both line and tone to create form in the drawings
below and right. He varies his quality of line, from the light, breezy
strokes of the woman’s towel blowing in the wind, to the strong,
dark line that describes the form and stance of the beachgoer in the
foreground with her back to us. Spatial clarity is established sim-
ply — darker lines and tones delineate the figures closest to the viewer,
while softer shades push others back in space.
In his sketches of a figure in motion, Briggs again employs lines
of varying widths and shades to describe form. In the image on the
bottom right, he emphasizes the sweep of the woman’s gesture by
darkening the strokes of her hair, the curve of her back, and her right
leg thrusting forward.
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