The obliteration of separate things and the formation of new integrated shapes 

After the students had become familiar with using line to define shapes, I introduced an exercise of observing 2-value shapes in these architectural set-ups of boxes and barrels, further taking the students away from 'thingness,' and separate objects, in order to understand value as the integration of 'things' into new integrated, abstract shapes.  

Once again, they had to consider the whole page as a complete and tight composition...no 'vignettes'.  To emphasize this binding of shape, I dramatically lit the set-ups...

The students could no longer rely on seeing 'things' but rather had to see relationships and the binding together of form into abstract shapes.  They used a variety of materials and techniques in dealing with the assignment...charcoal, ink washes, and chalk on black paper.  The challenge was to reduce an infinite variety of values into only two.  A helpful aid in achieving this is to squint the eyes until only a pattern of light and dark shapes are perceived.  

Some fascinating and bold compositions come out of this exercise...

Through this exercise, objects lost their separate identity and the relationship of shapes, not 'things,' became paramount.   The drawings were compositions of shapes...without object identities...which is the basis of visual art.  The compositions were interesting as mysterious combinations of abstract shapes.


I then added more organic, less geometric shapes to explore...cow skulls, wooden stools and wicker chairs, wooden bushel baskets, and so on...

Again, the exercise began with a series of four compositional studies on a page and then creating larger, full-page drawings.  


To create more definition of form and make it more 3-dimensional, I assigned 4-value projects which added two middle values to the simple 2-value (dark/light) compositions.  All the infinite values of the natural world were reduced to four, and that forced simplification of shapes as well as clarity of forms.  I had the students create a 4-value scale placed above, below, or to the side of the compositions for reference.

In order to make the values and luminosity more distinct, I painted different smaller geometric containers white and placed them on a white sheet...

I began by giving demonstrations, like the one in value washes (below), with a 4-value scale above the composition built up as each wash layer of diluted ink was added...

Step 1) The composition begins with a line drawing on the lightest value.  Step 2) A second value is added which isolates the lightest areas. Step 3) A third value creates three-dimensional form as well as the cast shadows.  Step 4) Finally, a fourth value further defines form and gives the composition the 'punch' of contrast.  

In my demo drawings below, I was demonstrating the 4-value approach in different ways and mediums.  The first two were done in ink washes and the last one was done on toned paper with conte and chalk...

The students had a scale of four values from which they created a sense of 3-dimensional form in space.  They had to simplify the infinite values of perception into just four.  These four values would indicated how the planes were situated in space...according to a single source of light.  A family of related values created abstract shapes.

Below are some examples of the work my students produced for the 4-value projects.  The one on the left is done in ink washes, the one in the middle with ink washes and pen and ink, and the one on the right done on toned paper with chalk and charcoal...

I discouraged what would be considered the rendering or illustration of the objects.  I wanted the students to be free of the idea of 'things' altogether and just treat the composition as the relationship of shapes and values without any idea of 'thingness'.   

Remarkably, if you observe shapes and values carefully, 'things' come into being quite magically...of their own accord...without thinking about creating them.


Again, we created a 4-value scale as a reference from which we reduced the infinite values in much more complex 'organic' objects to composites of simple value shapes...  

These simple 4-value simplifications result in bold, striking compositions made of clear, abstract value shapes.  The resulting images are crystalline in definition and clarity.

Copyright (c) Donald Archer 2020  All rights reserved.


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