Figure Drawing and Box Logic

Have you ever wondered what the secret to shading is? Figure Drawing for Artists shows you how to use box logic to create the most realistic shadows.

Jump Roper, Figure Drawing for ArtistsThe Jump Roper, 1998, by Steve Huston. Charcoal and chalk on Strathmore Bristol paper.

I’ve been very clear that I devise self-serving definitions. Obviously, the body doesn’t have tubes hidden inside it nor are there long axis wires flowing through it. We creative types perform all sorts of mental gymnastics to get a handle on this thing called “art.”

But the laws of light are something we can take into the laboratory and prove. It’s science. Nature works by physical laws. People discover them. Soon, we come to depend on them—the scientists and the artists. These laws are so constant they take us into the outer realms of space or inner realms of quantum physics. But, think about this: another word for laws is rules. Another word for rules is formulas.

Box logic, Figure Drawing for Artists

Look at the image above. Just so we’re clear, the red lines show the corners. You can see, in term of rendered detail, the ball and tube are still very boxy. Only their contours say “round.” That’s often as far as we’ll take a sketchbook drawing. And, oddly enough, the viewer adds the roundness for us. One of the nice things about art is if we get the beginning right, the audience will fin- ish the rest.

Our rule, different value = different plane, turns the form, any form. Notice I drew a ball and a tube with the same process I used for the box. I call this box logic. In other words, by finding the edge between light and shadow on any form, we’ve found the principle “corner” for that form—another arbitrary definition, but a useful one.

By thinking of the beginning of any shadow as a corner, we have come back to our definition of structure. Corners are corners whether you create them with line or tone and whether you intend to round off those corners later. Notice, too, the drawing doesn’t have to be done masterfully to get the idea across. It can be a sketch. I bet you can do it just as well, probably better.

Finding the shape of the form, finding the shape of the shadow on the form, and then grouping the shadows darker is the only responsibility we have for achieving realism. Finding the shape of the form and the shadow establishes a corner, and shadow gives an instant and deep sense that whatever you’re drawing is a fully three-dimensional form.

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Figure Drawing For ArtistsHow often does an aspiring artist read a book or take a class on drawing the human body, only to end up with page after page of stiff lifeless marks rather than the well-conceived figure the course promised?

Though there are many books on drawing the human figure, none teach how to draw a figure from the first few marks of the quick sketch to the last virtuosic stroke of the finished masterpiece, let alone through a convincing, easy-to-understand method.

That changes now.

In Figure Drawing for Artists: Making Every Mark Count, award-winning fine artist Steve Huston shows beginners and pros alike the two foundational concepts behind the greatest masterpieces in art and how to use them as the basis for their own success.

Embark on a drawing journey and discover how these twin pillars of support are behind everything from the Venus De Milo to Michelangelo’s Sibyl to George Bellow’s Stag at Sharkey’s, how they’re the fundamental tools for animation studios around the world, and how the best comic book artists from the beginnings of the art form until now use them whether they know it or not.

Figure Drawing for Artists: Making Every Mark Count sketches out the same two-step method taught to the artists of DreamWorks, Warner Brothers, and Disney Animation, so pick up a pencil and get drawing.