Saturday, September 19, 2009

Developing the Art In You!

One of the first things in learning how to draw is to see and evaluate things beyond their superficial layer. Everything visual in nature, as taught by the Post-Impressionist Paul Cezanne (1839-1906), is based on a fundamental shape. The shape of an apple, for example, in spite of its bulges and recesses, is based on a sphere. The trunk of a tree, in its simplest form, can be seen as an upright cylinder. An ice cream cone is a combination of an inverted cone and a hemisphere, which represents the single ice cream scoop. The human body can either be constructed as a combination of cylinders or cubes and rectangular planes of varying sizes.

Cezanne was a master of the form. He took special care in constructing an object by bringing it down to its most basic form. According to him, “everything in nature is modeled after the sphere, the cone, and the cylinder”[1]. And it should be in this way that any novice artist must develop his perception.

In developing this acuity, the trainee will include in his exercises portrayals of nothing but the basic shapes. He may begin with a single shape, say of a sphere, filling his entire plate. It may also be enhanced with what he knows about lighting and shading; later, he may include the use of color. The most important thing, however, is that he must recognize and pay his respects to the basic shapes he may identify in everything.

Once the artist has accustomed himself to the basic shapes, it will be time for him to distort them. His next exercises will feature the distortion of these basic forms. By this time, the artist may be apprehensive in disfiguring the shapes he has learned to respect and draw in perfection. His plates, therefore, may show a slight warping of the shapes while largely maintaining their integrity. This is but a normal reaction. And this is how the very trend of how expressionism and the non-objective art of abstraction took shape. The artist may start with a standing cone twisted at its trunk, or a cube that appears to have been mashed by a careless grip.

The importance that this exercise promotes is that of experimentation. In this way, the artist develops a new way of seeing the world. Masters like Cezanne and Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) grew out of the convention of merely copying from nature and began putting their creative visions above the obvious. Cezanne, in seeking for his own brand of balanced composition, ventured to distort the shape of an apple [2].

The later phase of an artist’s exercise is to compose his shapes in a shattered formation. While the second phase merely deformed his figures, this last stage requires him to blow apart his image. This is the beginning of the non-objective art of abstraction. In its simplest sense, one of the reasons why we see no figure in an abstract work is that it has been splintered all over the plate leaving the essence of the subject to be felt by the viewer.

For this stage, his illustration plates will attempt to portray figures in their broken state: maybe a cube that had been smashed by a sledge hammer or a sphere demolished into a hemisphere. The artist may reduce a basic shape into smithereens. The challenge here, however, is to retain any idea of the basic form despite the transformation represented. This is not difficult to portray. In real life, we reconstruct with our minds what a broken down wall must have appeared before state we presently perceive it. In this same way, the artist will allow his audience to visually reconstruct his shape, even without the use of a title to guide them.

Work cited:
1. Jeremy Kingston, “Arts and Artists” (Aldus Books: London, 1980), p.103.
2. Ibid., pp.16-17.


  1. That's a generous knowledge transfer, thank you. You Mr Author must be an artist yourself otherwise it could never be this interesting. Thank you again.

  2. Can you consider organization and system art? Should it not be integrated to art?