Tuesday, January 26, 2010

"V"s in trees

Asher B. Durand, drawing courtesy of artrenewal.org. Here is a a post I wrote about Durand. In the incisive drawings above you can see a phenomenon I would like to draw your attention to this evening, that of inward facing "V" shapes around the limbs of trees.
Here is our trusty field tree again with some lines drawn on it,

What I am talkng about is negative shapes. You know about those. They are the parts of the universe that remain after what you are drawing has been removed. They are very important in getting the parts of a drawing correct. There is lots to be said about them too. But tonight I will confine myself to pointing out their role in drawing trees.

These "V"s are the opposite, and the result of, the forking of the branches as they leave the trunk and then subdivide continually on their way to the light. The positive shape is a fork, the negative shape is a "V". Arrange those "V"s right, and you will have half of the job of defining the limbs of a tree done. I like to move back and forth between drawing the positive and negative forms when drawing trees.


billspaintingmn said...

When out in the field painting, do you look for 'V's in the trees, or
design them to 'fit' into the painting?

Stapleton Kearns said...

The "V"s are there and a way to get a handle on the drawing of a tree.

Philip Koch said...

The Asher Durand drawing is a real beauty- thanks for posting it. The Hudson River School painters had a wonderful touch with their etherial pencil drawings of trees.

Also liked the comment about hopping back and forth between painting positive forms and negative shapes when doing trees. I'm convinced that is the only way to get the sky and the solid tree to start talking to each other. The great Jacob Ruisdael landscape you posted yesterday was a good example of just this approach, though it is so detailed it isn't as obvious at first glance as a more modern painter. Still the principle remains a good one, used for centuries by the sharpest painters.

Jeremy Elder said...

As much as I "know" to use negative shapes for accurate drawing, it helps to hear this again.

willek said...

How many times have I had to readjust my figure drawings after seeing those negative triangles. I have got to look for them a little earlier.

Stapleton Kearns said...

The Durand is so good, The contrast between boldness and delicacy is what I like best about it.

Stapleton Kearns said...

When I write a post it is hard to know sometimes if I am being too basic and obvious. I have to act under the assumption that a lot of people reading the blog are going to be best served by assuming they are coming in without much prior experience. . I am out to present everything I know, so I end up being pretty basic. Still the "V":s are a refinement on the basic negative shape idea.

Stapleton Kearns said...


I have a big concept for you at snowcamp, like that, remind me.