Maybe you’ve heard that old joke before, and you’re probably thinking that this is going to be another post about trees and how to draw them. Nope. Not this time.
That little acorn said “Geometry!” And geometry has been giving me fits throughout my life. I hate geometry, and thank goodness my grandmother isn’t around to hear me say that. She taught geometry in high school before she met and married my grandfather back in the 1920s.
Now, for what it’s worth, I made excellent grades in the subject, but I hated it all the same. All that measuring. All those angles. All those theorems. I can’t tell you who postulated what, nor do I know why any of it matters.
Well, except when it comes to art. It seems that angles do play a very important part in drawing, and once again they’re giving me fits, just as they did back in school. Curves, spheres, and even circles are fairly easy for me to draw freehand. But show me anything with angles — triangles, squares, boxes, cubes — and you’ll hear me groan.
My boxes are always lopsided, a problem that gets worse as one box is put on top of another, as in this crazy little tower.
Now, I could point out that I drew this last summer, only a few weeks after I started learning to draw. Even my husband — always my biggest fan — honestly pointed out how crooked and misshapen my boxes and cubes were.
Today, after many hours of practice, I still can’t draw boxes and cubes any better than I did back then. It’s not that I don’t see the angles. I do. I just can’t translate those angles to paper.
It’s a frustrating problem, and one I haven’t yet figured out how to solve. I’m fine with 90-degree angles, so now I’m attempting to train myself to accurately “see” 45-degree angles. But again, seeing an angle or knowing the precise degree doesn’t translate into the correct placement on my drawing paper.
I did buy myself a Grid-Vu, but I haven’t yet developed the knack of using it correctly. Rulers, compasses, and protractors frustrate me.
What to do?
I’m struggling to find a solution that works for me. I suppose there’s no work-around about it. If I want to draw angles accurately, I’ll have to rely on various tools — or settle for skewed boxes, buildings, and other cube-shaped objects.
The frustration came out in full force recently when I attempted to draw the exterior of the Scrovegni Chapel — also known as the Arena Chapel — in Padua, Italy. I saw the building while watching a Great Courses Plus lecture on the history of European art.
It looked so simple and straight-forward. An excellent exercise, I thought, for developing my architectural drawing skills. Very basic straight lines. A clean, uncluttered building. Surely I could draw this!
Wrong. It was a disaster, far worse even than my tower-about-to-topple from last summer.
I’ve now redoubled my efforts to learn to draw boxes and cubes, and I’m looking more closely at angles. I’m using mind tricks, like trying to visualize a circular clock…oh, that angle looks like four o’clock! My husband suggested visualizing a pie cut into eight pieces, but I think that was only because he likes pie. Neither the clock nor the pie helped.
I am going to take more time studying angles in photo references, trying to identify them accurately, and attempting to reproduce them faithfully in my drawings. I’m not a naturally patient person, and that’s why I have so much trouble with angles, measurements, and meticulous plotting on graphs or grids.
But if I want to become an artist, I can’t confine myself only to curves and spheres. There are a lot of angles in the world, and I’ve got to find a way to draw them.