How To Draw with David Nestler—Lesson 12
NOW YOU SEE IT, NOW YOU DON’T
This installment marks twelve lessons of solid tips and info that you’ve been able to use to better yourselves as artists. I wanted to do something a little special for this lesson, so, like Dorothy stepping into the land of Oz, we’re switching to “Color.”
I previously mentioned how contrast can be used to optically steer a viewer’s eye towards a certain part of a drawing… or away from it. And that’s what we’re going to focus on here. At some point, your sketch or painting will evolve from a simple figure to something with more substance. Whether it’s a landscape, textured background or just additional objects, in the end, you want that main figure to stand out, and contrast is a great way to make that happen.
Let’s take a look at Fig. #1. Model Asha, in my painting “USS Big Guns.” You’ll notice that I’ve singled out certain areas with a white circle. What do these areas have in common? In each area, a dark color is up against a light color or vice versa. Her white cap is next to a dark-blue sky. The dark-blue color of her right shoulder is next to a light-colored cloud. And the dark ship tower is surrounded by light clouds. There are two things that are significant about these areas: One is that the contrast allows them to stand out, drawing your initial attention to them. Second is that they are absolutely intentional. I planned it this way, as it isolates the areas that I want you to see first. If I backed her white cap against a white cloud, you’d hardly see it. Same with her blue top against the blue sky. You get the picture.
This concept can work for you as well. Take a look at Fig. #2, model Paula, in my painting “Shaken not Stirred.” Even without the benefit of white circles, I’m sure you can guess which areas I want you to see. First, her face, which is almost entirely surrounded by white. And the white bikini, which is almost entirely surrounded by darker tones, making it pop out. Now, there is one area of this painting I don’t want you to see. There was something originally about her left hand on her thigh that bugged me. I didn’t want to just eliminate it like it was behind her back. So, I surrounded it with color of the same value and tone. With no contrast at all, it tends to just lay flat, almost disappear, calling no attention to it whatsoever. This is what I mean by “steering” a viewer towards ( or away from ) different parts of a sketch or painting.
These are the kind of little things I think of when I sit down to start a piece. What is my main focus here? How can I help draw attention to that focus? I don’t like to sound like a broken record, but planning your direction with all these little things in mind, prior to it’s execution, will benefit you in the long run.