Daffodils are blooming and all sorts of life is pushing its way out of the dirt. Intending to do a seasonally correct series on How to Draw Flowers, I thought that I should begin with the ellipse because this understanding will make such a difference with every flower. That decision opened a can of worms big enough to fatten all the spring robins. It’s taken me a week to sort it all out and decide that the best way to simplify the ellipse is to begin with How to Draw a Glass. Sounds like more malarkey, but it’s St. Patty’s day, and I’ve kissed the Blarney stone, but wait, to bring this full circle you need to know that an ellipse is a full circle – seen in perspective – and if you learn to draw your ellipses with elegant ease, your artwork will have greater beauty and strength of form. Maybe you’re regretting my kiss and the questionable gift of eloquence that it gave me. Back to business:
Hold a drinking glass in front of your face with the rim at the level of your eyes. (To understand eye level see linear perspective part I.) You KNOW that it is circular, but you SEE a straight line. When drawing or painting your knowledge of what the shape “really” is gets in the way of your actual perception. This trait has helped us survive as a species, but it has messed with our artwork. We need to sip out of that straight line and to do that we need to know that the straight line is “really” round. In your artwork, sorry to say, even minor mistakes along this line will make work look amateurish.
It’s not just moving above of below eye level that changes the ellipse. Rotation of the glass has the same effect. Play with a real glass until you have this firmly in your mind.
Look at the photos of the glasses. Click on them to enlarge them and then trace the ellipses with your finger to get a feel for drawing them with smooth curves all the way around.
Now go back to the photo of the daffodils and trace your finger around the obvious ellipses of the trumpet. Then trace the less obvious ellipses by connecting the larger petals. They will not all perfectly conform, but your structure will be stronger if the petal lengths fall into a basic ellipse that is in the same perspective as the trumpet. It really can’t be otherwise.
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