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Monday Morning Art School: angle drawing

Slightly more obtuse than 90°, almost exactly 90°, more acute than 90°. It’s far easier to see when you can compare it to accurate reference (and no, you don’t have to know those terms).

During last week’s workshop, Beth, Sharon and I were looking at a house on Pearl Street in Camden. I’d given them a lesson on two-point perspective and then said, “That’s just so you understand the principle. In real life, you’re going to measure angles rather than draw to a vanishing point.” That’s harder to do, because angle drawing takes practice. However, all drawing rests on angles and measurement.

“That gable end looks like it’s at a 90° angle,” Sharon said. Beth and I immediately disagreed. Of course we were roughly twenty feet away from her, so what we were seeing wasn’t what she was seeing. I heaved myself up (it was a hot day) and looked at what she was doing. She was holding an L-shaped composition finder up to the sky. Immediately I grasped an important new idea.

The angles that matter, very roughly, because it’s hot as a pistol in my driveway.

If you hold something that you know to be a right angle up to the angle you’re measuring, you can see how it deviates.

We’re all carrying around something that’s got a right angle: our sketchbooks. Failing that, we always have our cell phones.

Sharon’s view was, in fact, exactly 90°, but the idea was also useful to Beth and me. From our location, the angle formed by the gable end was about 10° flatter than Sharon’s view. I experimented holding my sketchbook up to various angles in the landscape and was pleased at how easily I could see angles.

(By the way, a roof where the gable end is at 90° looking straight-on would be a 12/12 pitch, which is pretty steep. Most of the time, when you see a 90° angle, it’s because you’re looking at it from off to one side.)

What if it’s so far off 90° that it’s hard to make a comparison?

I was on a roll, so I estimated other angles using Sharon’s idea. That was fine until I was so far off 90° that making a comparison no longer worked.

Drawing a hashmark parallel to the top and bottom of the fence was easy. Taking a photograph of those marks was hard.

What if I held my sketchbook level with the ground and marked that angle as a hash mark in the corner, I asked myself. Then I can easily translate that line into a parallel one where it belongs in my sketch. And, yes, that worked too.

My neighbor’s fence. Three minutes, tops, because I was standing along Route 1.

Angle drawing is important

Angles are critical to representing perspective. They also create the illusion of depth and space. Being able to sight-draw them allows us to draw objects from different viewpoints.

But, wait, there’s more. Angle drawing is important for:

Measurement: it’s often easier to see spatial relationships through angles than with the thumb-and-pencil method of drawing. (Fast, loose  painting rests on a base of good drawing. If you haven’t been taught to measure with a pencil, start herehere and here.)

Anatomy: Angles are essential for capturing the relationships between different parts of the body. This is particularly important in drawing limbs, posture and facial features.

Shading: Angles influence how light falls on an object and how shadows are cast.

Dynamism: Angles contribute to a sense of movement and energy in a drawing.

Foreshortening: You can’t foreshorten an object if you can’t see the angles, period.

That means any trick that makes angle drawing easier, I’m going to use, and I hope you do, too. Thank you, Sharon.

My 2024 workshops:

The gallery is open, finally!

It seems like it’s taken forever, but it’s really only been about three weeks…

I usually open my gallery on Memorial Day, but I was mucking around in Britain until early June. (I don’t regret that one bit.) When I got home, I still had to build the darn thing from scratch. My absolute drop-dead date was the 4th of July, and I’ve made it by the skin of my teeth.

When I moved to Rockport, my gallery was in my studio, which is a lovely, airy, large space on the back of our house. Visitors got a behind-the-scenes look at what I do. However, when COVID came to town, that space was closed down. My solution was a tent in the driveway.

Window frame, by little old me! Good for setting your drink on, but I wouldn’t lean on it too hard.

In the meantime, I started teaching on Zoom and recording how-to-paint classes. When social distancing disappeared, there was no longer room for a gallery inside my studio.

There were things I loved about the tent gallery. People could see it from the road, and there was enough fresh air for even the most dedicated social distancers. But there’s a reason we don’t store paintings outdoors. Wind and rain have done real damage to my inventory. Plus, there was no space to gather people and host an opening.

I researched using a tiny house (not handicapped-accessible) or another structure (difficult to place on this lot). The best solution was to put my gallery in the first 11 feet of our garage. I’m very grateful to my friend Barb Whitten and my husband. If it were up to me, we’d still be trying to figure out places for all the stuff that was in there. My husband worked with me every day since. It’s the most time we’ve spent on a project since we built our first house in 1987.

These are fake walls, in sections so they can come down if necessary.

Coastal color combination

You’d think after all that work, I’d enjoy picking out the paint, but instead I punted to my kids. I made about a half-dozen photo montages of my paintings in front of various paint chips and asked them to choose. The blue you see was not my first choice, but seeing it with the paintings, I think my kids were right.

“This house is becoming fifty shades of blue,” I told my daughter. But that deep blue-violet is a perfect foil for landscape paintings.

I’ve never installed a door before, let alone a door in a false wall. These are interim views of my theater set.

How to find me

My gallery (and studio) are at 394 Commercial Street, Rockport, ME. Hours are noon-5, Tuesday-Sunday until at least Labor Day. See you soon!