Learning to See

Can you see the bones in this candlestick?

Can you see the bones in this candlestick?

An artist and teacher I respect told me that anyone can draw.

He said, “You can pick up a pen and write letters on paper, that’s drawing – you did that in the first grade. Drawing isn’t the barrier people think it is, it’s learning to see.”

This idea of learning to see is at the heart of drawing and also at the heart of design. Look at these images from a 16th century Spanish treatise on drawing and proportions. Note how they show finished detail on the right side and the underlying simple shapes or bones on the left. From a candlestick, to a building, to the human form itself, simple shapes help the eye see beneath the surface.  Can you imagine designing something contemporary with those same bones? Could you take the bones from that candlestick and put your own spin on it? If you would like a closer look at the original book, here’s a link.

 

George R. Walker

This incense burner from a liturgical setting has these simple underlying shapes.

Incense burner from a liturgical setting.

This isn't confined to built objects.

This isn’t confined to built objects.

Even something as ornate as this column is  made up of simple shapes.

Even something as ornate as this column is made up of simple shapes.

ionic4

Note how the simple rectangles in this building align with the diagonal.

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3 Comments

Filed under Architecture, Design Basics

3 responses to “Learning to See

  1. nvmepeter

    can this book be translated into english?

    • If you mean, can it be translated by a machine? I believe the answer is no. Since it’s basically a collection of photos, it can only be translated by a human.

  2. stryder762

    Great stuff George, and I’m very sorry I missed your class in Oregon in March.

    “Learning to see” is also the key principle behind Betty Edwards’s method of “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain” http://www.drawright.com/