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Perspective Drawing

October 2010 Studio News Blog by OM Braida –

Dear Friends:

Here we are at the beginning of a new school year and the Academy has been busy preparing for you not only programs but also instructors in other locations for those students who would like to learn from the Academy teachings and do so with the aid of an instructor.  With this in mind, we have two certified Academy instructors: (1) Ms. Diane Harm who is now the director of the Academy @ Ohio where she will be teaching in several locations this fall.  You can find out more about her right here on this Blog by clicking on “Classes and Workshops.”

Our second newly appointed Academy Instructor heads up our most exciting new program, Entomology Illustration Certificate Program.” This is a Distance Learning Program taught completely online with renowned entomologist, author, educator, Dr. James L. Castner.  Read about Dr. Castner here:  http://www.omartdesigns.com/instructors1.html.

To learn more about the program click the icon to read a pdf file.  For more information, you can visit our Academy Marketplace here: http://www.omartdesigns.com/mm5/merchant.mvc?

Click on the files on the left and it will introduce you to the courses and course tuition.  See what you think about this program and give us a call.

Leslie Nicks is apprenticing to become an Academy instructor.  In the meantime she is in charge of Student Affairs and has been contacting many of you to find out how you are enjoying the books, the program, and the use of the Perplexi®.  To my delight we have been getting great reviews and this has spurred me to write to you this month about the Perplexi® – a wonderful drawing tool based on the 15th century models.  I can’t claim I invented it, only that I designed this table top, portable model and trademarked the name.

If you are not already familiar with this wonderful drawing aid, the Perplexi® is a drawing tool used to explain dimensional concepts. It is a visual aid to understanding foreshortening, perspective, and proportion. The Perplexi® is a modern adaptation of earlier inventions developed around the 15th Century.  Many artists, including Leonardo do Vinci [1452-1519], Jacopo do Pontormo [1492-1557], and Michelangelo Caravaggio [1565?-1609] were “perplexed” by the illusion of perspective and set about experimenting with grid arrangements of various types.  Unlike these earlier models, the Perplexi® is a simple, lightweight, totally portable and adaptable tool.  Yet, just like its predecessors, it will help students of all ages better understand basic drawing concepts that are often difficult to perceive.

To my delight, I have seen very young children grasp the concepts of this tool and produce drawings that thrilled them.  The Perplexi® has found its way into the studios of college students and adults who have found it helpful in demystifying drawing concepts associated with the “picture plane” and “visual relationships.”  When we draw three-dimensional objects [height, width, depth], we must apply its equivalent image onto a two-dimensional surface [height and width] – thus everyone who uses it quickly discovers the secret to measuring the third dimension of depth and portraying it correctly.

Initial drawings made from the Perplexi® drawings are in preparation for the “Modello” (a comparatively highly finished 3-dimensional drawing made by the artist before executing the final work.)  It is with the assistance of the Perplexi® that one can obtain the accuracy sought.  When the resulting “template” or “Cartoon” is completed and transferred to a drawing paper, wall, or canvas, a gray scale “Modello” can be created followed by a color “Modello” all in preparation for the final painting. In addition, the Perplexi® can be used to facilitate the enlargement or diminishment of the subject simply by creating proportional squares and by enlarging or decreasing the size of these proportional squares. These classical techniques have been used for centuries.

As I mentioned, the Perplexi® is a modern adaptation of earlier inventions developed around the 15th Century.  Many artists, including Leonardo do Vinci [1452-1519], Jacopo do Pontormo [1492-1557], and Michelangelo Caravaggio [1565?-1609] were “perplexed” by the illusion of perspective and set about experimenting with grid arrangements of various types.  For example, Dürer’s “Perspectograph” allowed the artist to translate the illusions of three-dimensional subjects as depicted in his woodcut, Man Drawing a Lute, 1525.  There is very little written evidence in support of the use of optical devices in drawing.  It is, however, often quite obvious that grids were in fact drawn directly onto the artist’s working paper.  The practice of these methods continued throughout the centuries and many 19th-century artists used variations of this system.

In David Hockney’s book, Secret Knowledge-Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters, he states that, “…the methods artists use have a profound, direct and instant influence on the nature of the work they produce.”  Hockney’s convincing statements of evidence reveal that many old master artists used grids and optical devices [i.e., the camera Obscura, the camera Lucida] to execute their paintings including Caravaggio whose famous Flute Player, 1525, achieved perfectly accurate curved and spherical objects [no drawings were ever found]; and Hans Holbein the younger who achieved distorted shapes like the distorted skull in his painting, Jean de Dinteville and Georges de Selve [The Ambassadors], 1533.  Hockney points out that the optical effects created in these paintings, as well as paintings by Vermeer, Van Eyck, Ingres, Degas, etc., etc., could be achieved with the aid of perspective devices.

Unlike these earlier models, the Perplexi® is a simple, lightweight, totally portable and adaptable tool.  Yet, just like its predecessors, it helps to better understand basic drawing concepts that are often difficult to perceive.

Here’s what some of my students have to say about this wonderful tool….

“The best way to comment on the effectiveness of the Perplexi is to send you a picture of a pine cone done with and without it. It is almost comical!”
– Dr. Kathleen Konicek-Moran (Ed.D.) 2008

“The Perplexi is great and using the ten steps has improved my work – at least, I feel better about the drawing when I am finished. I am thoroughly enjoying the whole course and find that my art is improving quite a bit.”
Peter J. Scott, PhD. Professor of Botany Retired, Specialist in Plant Taxonomy 2008

“The Perplexi® for me was a necessary tool. I came into the Drawing course unable to draw. The Perplexi® was my life preserver. After using the Perplexi® for three solid months, wondering if I would ever be able to draw on my own, one day, it all came together for me and I drew my first plant on my own without the Perplexi®!  It was a huge mile stone. I probably would have given up long ago if I had not had the use of the Perplexi®. It is the single greatest tool for those of us who cannot draw.”
B. Cole 9/2008

“The Perplexi® helps botanical artists create accurate proportions. It is an aid to the eye and saves some of the time necessary to measure the size of leaves, stem, flower parts and fruit. The Plexiglas® has been particularly helpful to me in drawing those leaves and branches that point directly toward the artist or directly away from the artist. It is also helpful in calculating relative size of parts of the plant. I recommend it as a useful tool.”
Susan McDonald, PhD. Professor of Art History 9/2010

I am a graduate with a Digital Art and Design degree from Full Sail University in Orlando, Florida. Full Sail’s primary focus is to teach the digital perspective of art & design; however, they frequently would urge us to explore the traditional side of art as well. My curriculum only provided one class in this area, and I found the material did not provide the level of detail I was looking for. I turned to OM Braida Drawing Book – Volume I [which includes instructions on how to use the Perplexi® Drawing Tool] to supplement the course, and found it to be immensely helpful in my discovery of variations of form, developing an eye for detail, and the application of light & perspective to design depth in my artwork. I still will periodically use this resource to look up information on traditional drawing. The resulting foundation has polished my skills in a way that allows me to wield my technical knowledge of any given tool set much more effectively.”
Martice E. Nicks III, Bachelor of Science In Digital Art & Design, Visual Communications Technologist, Modeling & Simulation Technical Analyst9/2010

To sum up what this tool can do for you if you have not already tried one, the Perplexi® will:

1. Demystify drawing concepts associated with the “picture plane” and “visual relationships.”

2. Help measure depth.

3. Help you understand how the subject recedes, protrudes, extends, to portray accurate foreshortening.

4. Help you see images correctly inside their spatial environment.

5. Help the landscape artist see the foreground appear in the lower cells and conversely, the background in the higher cells.

6. Help the still life painter or the botanical artist observe the spatial phenomenon by dividing their subject into sections.  Thus establishing foreground, middle ground, background, and far ground.

7. Help you discern the subject’s various shapes and contours thereby correctly observing whether a curve is concave or convex.

8. The Perplexi® is lightweight and portable and can be used in various positions.

9. The Perplexi® can travel into the field with you and converted into a lightbox or drawing surface.

10. Visit here for pictures of the Perplexi® http://www.myperspectivedrawing.com

Well, I look forward to your comments and to seeing you in future classes.  Finding time to do our art and keeping life in perspective is always a challenge.  I wish you a colorful fall. God bless. OM

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