A Path Leading into a Forest Clearing
This is not a drawing. It's a pen and brown ink wash, closer to what we today call a watercolour. I'm including and commenting on this because even though it is strictly speaking, not a drawing, it captures some basic principles that can make both drawings and paintings compelling.
What is this image? It is a busy image of trees and what looks like some dirt. If you take a moment and give this image a look for a bit more time, what else emerges?
If you break this image down into its elements, there are several pieces. There is the foreground. In the foreground, there is a path. The path leads the eye to the middle ground. In the middle ground, it looks like a pond or stream. It could be quicksand, but let's hope not. Beyond the stream, there is a ridge. And beyond the ridge, there is a light space in the distance.
I find this pretty neat because the artist was able to create these coherent layers of depth and space, without the typical use of lines and form. There are no perspective lines or horizon line. There is no colour or the engulfing blue of atmospheric perspective. The artist used only light and dark to create depth with a complex, busy image comprised of primarily organic forms.
The trick or principle here is the pattern of light-dark-light-dark. This is a trick, principle, heuristic, or whatever you want to call it, that tends to work. In the immediate foreground, at the very bottom of the image, is a relatively light area that comprises the ground and path. (This is our first light in light-dark-light-dark) Next, we have the trees in the foreground are the darkest value elements in the whole piece. (This is our first dark) Immediately behind the foreground trees, and creating the highest level of contrast, is the bright light of the pond/stream. Just behind the stream is the ridge, which is a dark and darker than the stream, but not as dark as the trees in the foreground. So that pattern of light-dark-light-dark sets off each area from the others and leads is into the picture.
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