The Third Something

076 / Miles And Miles Of Squares

A fun warm-up exercise for your sketchbook that improves your technical skills at the same time.

A page of 3D cubes drawn in polychromes pencil

Here’s a good warm-up exercise I’ve started doing in the last few weeks: filling a page with hand-drawn cubes.

I start with a flat square in the middle of the page and then work my way out from the centre, turning the cube by 45 degrees or so each time. If you stand back it almost creates this illusion of a large sphere.

A page of 3D cubes drawn in polychromes pencil

A challenging alternative is to draw a horizon line with two or three vanishing points and then fill the page with as many cubes in perspective as you can.

The shapes should be hand-drawn (no rulers!), you should try and draw ‘through’ the cube (that is, to show all sides of the shape) and the perspective should be eyeballed (again, no rulers!)

This works best on large paper (I’m using A3 newsprint) as you can put the vanishing points further apart. This stops the shapes becoming distorted.

A page of 3D cubes drawn in polychromes pencil

What’s the point of doing this?

Two reasons. Firstly, like a pianist starting each day riffing up and down the C-Major scale, it warms up the wrists and aides dexterity. Meanwhile eyeballing the perspective improves accuracy. In fact, this is the closest thing to a literal interpretation of practicing scales (#17) I can think of.

Secondly, I’m learning that pretty much everything there is to be drawn can be reduced to either a cube, a cylinder or a sphere - or a distortion of them. So if you can draw these three shapes in three dimensions from any angle, it stands to reason you can draw any object.

A page of 3D cubes drawn in polychromes pencil

One of the frustrations I had with my first drawings was how flat they appeared. When you only draw the outline of something, it ultimately appears two-dimensional.

But if you can train your eye to see objects as volumetric shapes - and capture that volume - the result is pictures with depth.

And this includes the human figure. What is a body if not two cuboids, a sphere and a bunch of cylinders?

I finally got around to binging The Mandalorian last weekend - this drawing of your man Mando started as some cubes, cylinders and spheres, and even though you can’t see those shapes, the volume remains.

A fan art drawing of Mando from The Mandelorian by Adam Westbrook

Give it a go - draw some cubes!

Until another Sunday soon,

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