Notebook, 1993-


From: Collier, Graham. Form, Space & Vision, An Introduction to Drawing and Design. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1985.

Dynamic Factors
Factors Contributing to Compositional Forces

I  N  D  E  X 
Five Areas
1. Space energy as determined by factors of shape

2. The enlivening of space by drawing marks.

3. The energy of line in drawing

4. The energy and structure of planes and curved surfaces.

5. The energy potential of area stain can become a compositional force in drawing
Five Principal Ways of Achieving Vitality through Area Stain [i.e., suggestions of: Fluidity; Crispness and Diffusion; Tempo; Distribution; Shape]

T   E   X   T  [Notes]

FIVE AREAS - Five principle ways of achieving vitality through area stain, contributing significantly to the "life" of a work:

1. Space energy as determined by factors of shape [Open or closed shapes; Two or three dimensional shapes]. Aspects of horizontal, diagonal, and vertical space shape profoundly affect perception of the compositional characteristics. We associate such divisions of space with our overwhelming visual familiarity with the layout of things as they appear in the world, and with the cone of sight through which we see into the world. We look out into the world with two eyes, and thus with two sight lines that come together at the object on which they are focusing as they diagonally converge, and so form what is commonly termed the "cone of vision." Hence the horizontal line suggests the stable horizon of space, dividing things into up and down, sky and earth; the diagonal line implies the scope of space seen against the mountainside or cutting the angular form of objects, and so is associated with obtuse or acute energy movements; and the vertical line connotes the motion of space away from earth to a weightless and energy-possessed region escaping gravity. We cannot help but carry these existential associations with us, however abstract the images in which such space shapings appear. You can see how conditioned we are by these associations when, as in diagram #1, diagonal lines are inserted into the flat rectangle and, because we are accustomed to seeing the world by means of a diagonal cone of vision the once-simple rectangle now assumes a "window-like" function and becomes a way of perceiving space in depth. Once imposed in the previously empty rectangle, the diagonal space line in #2 acts like a natural sight line cutting through space. We also perceive an implied instability in diagram #4, when diagonal space penetration becomes bent.

Ways in which the treatment of space contributes to the kind of vitality possessed by a work of art.

How empty space begins to assume varying shapes once lines of drawing appear and establish basic horizontal, vertical, and diagonal formulations.

Fundamental ways in which space becomes shaped and so vitalized by rudimentary line placement.

A. The space (or ground) is totally enclosed. More limited and two-dimensional.

B. The intruding line stops short before reaching the rectangles boundaries, leaving each region of space open. There is a flow of space between the regions which causes these simple sketches to appear more active--unconnected lines suggest to the eye that it can go around and behind them--that depth is attainable--more active adn varied movement is evident. Can see three-dimensional possibilities and a far greater energy potential

C. Increasing motion and instability from 1 to 4. Going several stages further by incorporating horizontal, diagonal, and vertical space formations in each image, showing open and enclosed areas, substituting the angular slope of line for the vertical and curved lines for strait. Can see how the energy factor increases once space is opened and firm connections with the border are broken; when leaning-line space replaces vertical-line space; and when curved-line space supplants non-curved space. [Depth is suggested by the diagonally opening "window" and space is enclosed and all is stable in #1.]

Shapes of space which suggest stability and motion:

Related questions:

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2. The enlivening of space by drawing marks.
Unmarked regions of empty ground can challenge an artist to make that ground more perceptually specific and thus "navigate" through it. This inevitably enlivens the ground. A concentration of brush-point jabs create certain regions of turbulence, while those regions with widely dispersed jabbing marks have the opposite effect.

To graphically mark ground with line or point or smudges of stain is to endow space with a volumetric vigor (nearness and distance), as well as with the vitality of things on the move in a three-dimensional situation.

Leaving the virgin ground untouched maintains a two-dimensional flatness, allows space to function as an empty backdrop, and thus permits figure to assume clarity and dominance.

The general tendency of the beginning artist to think of space as mere background--as a neutral backdrop against which objects are to be seen--should be countered as soon as possible. One of the best ways to do it is to emphasize the forceful possibilities offered by the various graphic treatments of ground . . . . any or all of the marks in the repertoire can be employed to imbue the space or ground with depth and with the contrasts of dark and light, and to show movement occasioned by radiant or physical energy forces.

If left alone, space will remain at rest, a two-dimensional plane.

What does the artist wish to achieve--how will s/he treat the ground? Skillful employment of light and dark hues, concentrated and dispersed points, and incisively drawn fast-moving lines activate space . . . . becomes a significant element in its own right.

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3. The Energy of Line in Drawing
Line is the most effective way to impart energy in both figure and ground. Let us pursue some of the possibilities that line affords, and in so doing reaffirm its importance as both a shaper and an energizer of space.

One can draw a line in such a way that the eye is induced to follow its direction, the rhythm of its curves, and the elegance and beauty of its movements. Such a line has the character and value of a pattern, but, in itself, has "no significance" . . . . One can, on the other hand, draw lines--not just a single one; two are almost necessarily required for this purpose--related to one another, in such a way that the eye has to interpret them as the bounds of a corporeal, a plastic form situated within them. These coupled strokes are drawn in such a manner that the eye is prevented from following them lengthwise, but must apprehend them in a direction independent of their own. It must proceed beyond the flat sheet of paper on which they lie, and to which they are tied down, in three dimensional space. In this case, the lines have a "significance" beyond charm of their own lead and their descriptive capacity; they signify spatial extension, and are at the same time expressive, demonstrating by means of their forms the inner tension, the lively vigour of the body which they make apparent . . . . Delacroix was unable to do justice to the value of these lines (single lines) because they play no part in expressing active life. On the contrary, they are opposed to it, tending to restrict the richness, vigour and abundance of living forms. Ornamental line (the single line) has no "significance" for him because it achieved exactly what his own art never aspired to; it stills life, reduces its fullness and curbs its vigour . . . . By means of . . . . the ornamental line an artist dominates life, by soothing and purifying it and setting it in an emphasized order . . . . By means of the second (a multiplicity of coupled strokes), an artist dominates life by extolling its power, expressing its vigour, and implying its volume and richness . . . . Between these two alternatives the art of drawing swings. There is no third, unless, indeed, one be arrived at by the synthesis of the former two. Such synthesis, uniting calm and purity with power, vigour and the richness and volume of Life has been rarely achieved, and by very few masters. [Kurt Badt, Eug¶ne Delacroix Drawings (Oxford: Bruno Cassirer, 1946), p. 48].

Some basic types of linear energy
Any one line, or many lines, may suggest the conveyance of energy . . . . We have described line as a point in motion, and motion is, after all, energy on the move . . . . When we use lines to draw we are registering the transmission of force no less credibly than nature itself . . . . Some basic types of linear energy inevitably determine the dynamic quality of any drawing . . . . Each carry connotations of direction, rate of motion, and force of motion . . . . Each "reads" in a different way in terms of the energy patterns . . . . Different time rates are involved, different accelerations and slowing downs, and varying outputs of energy. When the line goes up and down, diagonally or horizontally, these factors undergo change. And when one linear direction is set against another, tensions result as these differing energy patterns interact.

Fundamental energy characteristics:
The direct linear thrust - provided by the completely straight lines, moving in any direction, yet not dissipating energy or speed by angular or curvilinear changes in direction. These are fast lines of concentrated energy.
The meander - Turns and twists, slows and speeds up, and carries a relatively relaxed energy charge.
The curvilinear swell - Arcs into space at an even sort of pace, conveying a sense of a bulging area of pressure, rather than that concentrated in a point of movement and proceeding in a strait line.

Graphic quality of a line
Its tone value, smoothness, roughness, heaviness, lightness, brokenness, continuousness, or sharpness plays an important part in determining linear vitality. In order to fully understand the dynamic possibilities of line in drawing, it would be useful to turn back [to the introduction to mark-making] to account for what happens when the weight of line changes, when tone value varies from dark to light, and when a broken line replaces a firm one.

The general nature and intensity of the lines and the forces at work in the composition as a whole?

How does the graphic quality of line intensify or diminish a suggestion of dynamic force or energy?

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4. The energy and structure of planes and curved surfaces help to determine the dynamic nature of things --the liveliness or stillness we perceive the object to possess . . . . Ways in which shape characteristics appear to pressure space and to reveal the force of internal and external pressures which have worked on the formÍs material substance. To see how lines describe them and reveal the forces involved, focus here on the movement and organization of

Two fundamental types of surface:

NOTE: Although the lines of force are discernible, the overall movement of surface determines the kind or degree of vitality possessed by each piece.

With Sculpture [three dimensional drawing] we face a true multidimensional plasticity in real, three-dimensional space. Lines in sculpture are formed as a result of plane meeting plane and are, therefore, structural manifestations of three dimensionality. When a surface is composed of flat planes, arranged in strong convex to concave opposition, angles become acute and form lines--or, more strictly speaking, edges--which carry the thrust of the force; the skeletal-like lines of edges you see in WomanÍs Head by Picasso represent the pressure of subcutaneous bone at forehead, nose, cheek and chin jutting against flesh . . . . Once we start to deal with the dynamic aspects of three-dimensional objects . . . . we see that while lines of drawing do not exist as such, the edges of the various surfaces, which appear as lines, do; and that because of this, the linear aspect of surface configuration continues to convey the forceful nature of the works. If an object presents a surface made up of juxtaposed concave and convex planes, then the forces at work are concentrated in angle lines of direct thrust. But if the form offers an uninterrupted flow of rounded volumes, then such forces become perceptually manifest by the curvilinear swell of their apparent contours--the line of curvilinear swell.

We perceive the structure and force loading of solid objects through their surface shapes and motion; thus, the apparent lines formed by organizations of planes or representing the contours of curved surfaces carry the same connotations of force and energy as are present in the graphic lines we employ in drawing. But . . . . the kind and degree of vitality possessed by solid form is conveyed more by the plane or curved nature of surface areas and their juxtapositioning than it is by the linear "reading" we take. Yet obviously, a complex series of planes will create an abundance of force lines (edges seen as lines), whereas curvilinear regions, exerting pressure via surface spread rather than by a succession of skeletal edges, will not produce such a linear impact.

Two basic force systems found in three-dimensional design [Each possesses its own dynamic character; each can move from a condition of equilibrium to one of turbulence; and each shows matter subject to differing orders of force working both internally and externally]:

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5. The energy potential of area stain can become a compositional force in drawing --Force and movement may be strongly communicated through the fluidity of staining medium and through the way the medium responds to an artistÍs touch and technique.

Illusion of space in depth created because differing tone values take up different positions.

The effectiveness of point in punctuating space and so establishing a scale of distances.

Five Principal Ways of Achieving Vitality through Area Stain:
1. The use and exploitation of a staining medium capable of sustaining considerable fluidity while the brush is in motion, yet also able to dry rapidly once it is touched down.

2. The application of stain: the controlled, sure sweep of the brush across the paper, producing both an immediate crispness and diffusion of "drawn" edge to an area which suggests, in itself, alternately fast and slower rates of speed.

3. The use of differing touch pressures in the brushÍs travel over the paper, constantly intensifying and lightening the deposit of stain. This results again in a change in tempo; dark areas tend to slow up, lighter ones to speed away. Also, as the tone value changes back and forth, a wave-like effect is produced, again indicating an area in motion.

4. The placement of dark and light areas, causing the lighter stain to appear as a dispersal of stain from the black concentrations. The resulting implication is of the distribution of energy; the darker area is seen as the energy source, bleeding out through space into lighter, more distant areas of tone.

5. The shape of stained areas, which also results from the touch pressures of the brush. Where the brush lifts delicately off the paper, a delicate tipping concludes the mark of stain, thus suggesting point thrusts of energy. Consequently we see left and right movements vying with each other in the overall energy tensions present in the image.

[Collier, Graham. Form, Space & Vision, An Introduction to Drawing and Design. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1985.]



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