Touching VS Overlapping Lines Fun & Easy Tutorial

Some news about Fantasy Landscapes:
I’m working on setting up a Facebook Group where I can post challenges and people can share their fantasy landscapes.  Only I’m going to call the group ‘Life Imitates Doodles’ Fun & Easy Landscapes’.  I chose Fun & Easy after doing some research to see how often ‘Fantasy Landscapes’ is used, and what it is used for.  It’s crazy of me, but I’m going to change Fantasy Landscape to Fun & Easy Landscapes going forward.

Have you ever drawn something, and looked at it, thinking “Something’s wrong with this, but I don’t know what?” Duh.  Who hasn’t?

Well, today I’m going to discuss a problem that might be the problem. And the problem is not the problem. The problem is your drawing of the problem (sorry, I couldn’t resist misquoting from ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’).

When you are drawing, you are a magician who transforms a series of lines into something that resembles real life.  As with all magic there are tricks to help fool the viewer. One of tricks is to make sure objects overlap instead of just touching each other.

Look over these examples, and then I’ll try explain what’s going on.

Forgive me – this write-up gets a little talky, but I think it’s important.

Normally, I don’t use the words good and bad to describe a mistake.  Most mistakes aren’t – you just think they are.  But in this case, we’re dealing with the way the brain interprets what it sees.

The brain looks at drawn lines and tries to find something familiar from real life.  It does the same with clouds and stains on the wall and cracks in the sidewalk.  So the trick is to draw lines that help the brain find the familiar instead of confusing it. You don’t give the brain a choice.

When two objects overlap it gives the brain familiar information – the object in front is closer and the one behind is farther away. That is how your brain will interpret it.

When the two objects only touch each other the information could be interpreted two ways. That means the brain has to make a choice.

Look at the drawing above and:

  • Find the bunny touching the top of the bush.  Is he behind the bush or sitting on the bush?
  • Find the bunny touching the bottom of the bush.  Is she in front of it or carrying it on her back?
  • Find the bush that is touching the bottom of the road.  Is it in front of the road or pushing against the road?

The brain tends to be lazy. If a choice occurs with a major focal point or there are too many choices like that, the brain will just reject the drawing as impossible.

There are exceptions.  Rows, mainly.  If you have a hedge row, or a line of people holding hands, they can touch without overlapping and the brain will be perfectly happy.  Because row objects touch in real life.  Patterns can also touch.  If you are drawing a Zentangle-Inspired artwork touching might be preferred to overlapping.

Abstract art or Escher-like art with its playful interpretations of perspective, often mess with real-life perspectives. Such things might confuse at first, but soom the brain knows that it won’t find direct comparisons to real life.

So what if bunnies in your fun & easy world DO carry bushes on their back? I’d add straps or something to help the brain understand.  But most of the time, you should keep things simple, and remember the magic trick.  Make sure objects overlap instead of just touching.

Don’t stress about this.  If it happens, it happens, and it will.  But next time you look at a drawing and think “What’s wrong here?”,  I suggest looking for touches where you should have overlap.

Alphabet Textures Fun & Easy Step-wisely

When you think of alphabetical characters, you probably think of writing or calligraphy, but the letters of the alphabet are simply line marks that we’ve assigned special meaning to.

If you ignore the meaning, and make a letter of the alphabet the motif – a string of the same letter clumped together – why then it becomes a pattern, and patterns make excellent texture!

Such patterns tend to draw the eye, as well, because we pay attention to words, and our brain will look for some meaning.  It figures out the trick soon enough – but what a way add some subtle interest to your drawing.

Use Textures Fun & Easy Step-by-step Tutorial

Although, I created the  Use step-out years ago as a tangle pattern,  I think it works just fine in my Fun & Easy landscape, so I’m using it today.  If that’s woolly thinking, I feel sheepish.

NOTE: I have to apologize.  When drawing the step-by-step, I wasn’t happy and started the whole thing over.  I did like some of the first try, so I traced parts of it.  What I wasn’t aware of, was that the scanner was picking up underlying drawing, and creating bluish shadows on my new drawing.  I cleaned it up some, but it’s impossible to get rid of it all.  I loves all of you, but not enough to redraw the step-out a third time!

Supplies: Pen and paper.  Pencil and eraser recommended. I recommend drawing things in with pencil.  I used a Pigma Micron PN because it is waterproof, so I can paint or color marker over this later if I wish.  I used a good quality paper but it wasn’t necessary.

Resources: Today I’m using the textures I presented in my Basic Textures step-wisely.  I’m using the Winding and WrapAround Roads from my Three Roads step-wisely.  The step-outs used are Basic Bush, Big Rocks, Grass Tufts, Hummingbird, Petal Plant, Popcorn Leaves, Lavender Plant, Sun Arrows and Use.

Before I get to the nitty gritty, I’m adding some definitions of terms I’m using and an explanation of the choices I made in drawing this first example.  I think the info is valuable, but if you don’t like reading a lot, or don’t have time, 0just scroll down to where it says step-by-step.

Extra Credit (as in you learn more)
When you look at drawing and just feel something is wrong, it is often the composition that makes you uneasy.  Knowing a little about this subject will help you make decisions, and to understand when you’ve made a decision that you don’t want to repeat.

Interest: The appeal an object has for most viewers.  People are more likely to look for, study and remember a face than a rock.  Therefore a face has more ‘interest’.  Textures, values, size, numbers and shapes all add interest.  It’s a little bit like rock, paper, scissors.  A group of rocks would be more interesting than a single rock.  But a rock with texture, larger size or unusual shape might be more interesting than a group of rocks.  A squirrel (which has a face) would be more interesting than a rock, but a huge rock might be more interesting than a tiny squirrel.
Focal Point/Focus: The area or object in your drawing that pulls the viewer’s eye first when they look at your drawing. There should be one main focal point, and then lesser focal points to help the eye move around the drawing (see flow).
Values: Value is a term in art that refers to a scale of light to dark.  You should have at least three values – light, medium and dark, but will probably have more.  High contrast between light and dark adds more interest and can create a focal point in your drawing.
Weight: The combination of interest and values creates weight.  The area of your drawing with the most weight becomes the focal point.  Lesser areas of weight help guide the eye around the drawing.  A drawing with equal weight through-out seems flat and uninteresting.
Flow: When someone looks at a drawing, their eyes move around, picking out detail.  Drawings with clear focal points and balanced weight help them decide how to travel through the work almost like there were arrows directing them to go here next.
Composition:  The placement of  all the elements of a drawing, including interest, weight, values, focal points, and flow in a drawing (or any art for that matter). Composition is a subtle and complex thing.  Even experienced artists who can draw the most beautiful objects may be dissatisfied with their work because the composition is not good.

Flow, Weight & Value in the first example:
If you read the glossary above, you know that weight is used to help the eye flow through the drawing.  I’ve tried to establish a zig-zag flow moving the viewer from the bottom left to the upper right.

I loaded the weight in the lower left the largest sheep, the most contrast and the clearest face. I added some texture, rocks and grass tufts to create a group of things that were low interest, thus adding interest in the area without competing with the sheep.

On the right, the Popcorn Tree and plants are a group with almost the same overall value as the sheep, but there is less contrast.  The tree is larger, but most people will find the sheep more interesting and interest adds a lot weight.  However, the way the tree is leaning should also lead the eye to medium left section of the drawing.

To help increase the flow even more, I drew a couple of sheep standing away from the flock.   Those two sheep help the eye cross over the road yet keeps the road in sight.

In the mid-ground left, the number of sheep adds weight to this section. The eye may rest here for a few seconds, because the value hasn’t changed much and the background has low levels of interest.  That isn’t a bad thing.  If the eye isn’t allowed to rest, the brain may feel the drawing is too busy.  However, while those trees are low level interest, they also have the largest change in value, so the eye will go there and feel they’ve reached the end.

The texture throughout is also important.  In the foreground the scribbling is darker and covers more ground.  In the midground, the scribbling brings the focus to the sheep, but the texture of the sheep’s fur is less distinct.  In the background the trees have little to no texture.  The texture on the ground changes from the scribble to line hatching.

Overall, both texture and detail grow less as distance increases.  This not only leads the eye, but gives the brain information about the amount of depth in the drawing.

The road and the white space also add to the flow and sense of depth.  They follow a gentler zig-zag pattern that similarly leads the eye and if the drawing is reduced in size, or from a distance, it will be more dominate than the weight and values.

The Step-by-Step
Now, I’m going to walk you through a step-by-step where I’ve done things a bit differently.  I’ve based my choices on things that I felt could be improved from the first example, and also made some choices simply to expand on my points.

I drew the road and sections in with pencil so I’d have a guide for placing my objects.  I recommend drawing everything with pencil first.  I didn’t only because it would interfere with what I’m showing you.  I decided to go with a winding road on sloping hills because they made more definite sections to show the flow. (Sorry about the line in the middle.  The scanner picked up a flaw in the paper that I couldn’t see with the eye, and I didn’t realize it until I was halfway done.)

I drew my first sheep and she’s a lively one.  This creates more interest, thus more weight.

I want people to leap to the right, but I decided to go a different route from the trees and plants because I felt the tree was too tall for this layout.  My second sheep is facing away, making her less interesting than the first sheep, but also pointing towards the area I want the viewer to look.

I liked the idea of the sheep facing away, and decided to repeat it for the next section. (If anyone needs it, I can do a step-out for that looking-away sheep).

Before deciding what I wanted on the next hill, I felt I needed to establish a bit more weight in the midground.  I used the Basic tree step-out.  I wanted those trees to echo the sheep, yet be different, so I added the branches and dark sections at the bottom, but changed the texture to cross-hatching for the foliage.

I put my flock of sheep in the far mid-ground, reducing the number and decreasing the amount of detail.  You can’t even really make out their faces.  This increases the weight of the first sheep, because she is the only one with a really clear face.

I added a few basic trees with no shading on the right.

Between the flock and the tree shapes, I put one lone sheep with virtually no detail.  It could even be a bush.  It acts as a bridge to further lead the eye toward those tree shapes.

Going back to the lower left, I added some grass tufts and rocks.  I used curled line to show the facets of the rocks, and straight (hatched) lines to show where the rock is flat.   I put some grass tufts near the edge of the road to lead the eye that way.

The grass tufts didn’t feel like enough, so I added a lavender plant.

Now, to really punch up the contrast, I scribbled some ground cover.  Notice that:

  • the scribbling is darkest where it meets something – the fur of the sheep, the edges of the lavender plant, etc.
  • I darkened areas beneath the sheep to imply shadows (but not as dark as where edges meet).
  • At the bottom, where the road starts. I lessened the scribbling to imply a slope in the ground.
  • The sheep on the other side of the road is further away, so I scribbled less to imply distance

Darkening the values around the fur and plant increase contrast.  Things like the slope in the ground are fussy details, that can increase interest, but could also crowd the drawing.  If you are dissatisfied with a drawing, look for the fussy details.  If you work seems crowded, eliminate them.  If it seems to empty try to add some. Remember though, usually less is more.

NOTE: Here’s where my scanner started picking up details from my first drawing, creating a bluish cast and darker value. Sorry about that!

In the left mid-ground I added weight with texture.  I used lines to resemble distant grass, and a more open and lighter scribbling for ground cover.  Notice that I did NOT darken around the fur or trees.  I wanted to keep the contrast less.

In the far mid-ground I added something that could be a lavender plant, but could be a rock.  I scribbled some shadows around the flock and the trees.  I felt it wasn’t enough, so I added more trees with minimal detail. To finish up, I added some line texture to the roads.

Now I want to show you something extra.  I’ve been yapping on about values and contrast and also pointing out possibilities to look at when you are unhappy with a drawing.  So here’s a version with values in the fore-ground that I think are much too dark.  Compare it with the first example (lightest contrasting values) and the finished step-by-step (medium contrasting values) and see what difference those values make.  If you are unhappy with a drawing take a close look at the values you’ve created.  This is probably the source of most frustration for beginners (and advanced artists as well, to be honest).

I’d like to know what’s working for you, so please feel free to comment.  Too talky? Confusing? What do you like specifically (that really helps to know!).

Basic Textures Fun & Easy Step-wisely

Just a few of the basic textures that can be used in your landscapes.

  • These textures work for any shape, and can also be used for ground cover.
  • You can use a little or a lot of any texture as you wish.
  • What counts when using these textures? Tightness, lightness, size and direction.
    • The more lines you draw, the closer together – the darker the value
    • Light pressure while drawing- the lighter the value
    • The width and length of the lines can affect value and the 3Dness of an object
    • The direction and/or curve of the texture lines will affect the 3Dness of an object.

Don’t have much time, but want to get in some drawing? That’s an excellent time to practice!  Just draw lines or scribbles on whatever paper is handy.  Practice for one minute or 10. It can be therapeutic and while you don’t have a finished work you ARE learning and your next finished piece will be the better for it.

Play with the number of lines, the direction, the length and the width. Get a feel for what you like and how you might use the differences.

I’m only touching on the idea of depth or volume here.  Textures can be used to help for that, and are also useful for shadows.  But it depends where you are using them and on what, so I’m not going to discuss it in detail at this point.

You can google and find some truly outstanding tutorials on this subject.  My hope here is just to give you a quick reference that will take little time to look over and be easy to remember.

Three Roads Fun & Easy Tutorial

Step-Wisely? I think I already explained this but when I post something the discusses tips, techniques or how things work in my fantasy world, I’m calling that post a Step-Wisely.
While thinking about this series, I’ve been studying examples of Naïve art.  You might want to google some photos of it yourself, because there is some awesome stuff out there.
While looking over various Naïve artworks, I realized that roadways are a very important part of the style.  And by roadways, I mean anything that winds around, borders or separates the sections of a landscape, including rivers, sidewalks, fences, train tracks, and walls.  Today, I’m focusing on roads, though.
In my fantasy landscape world there are three kinds of roads.  They border and separate in different ways.  It doesn’t really matter whether they are 5-lane highways or simple country lanes (though country lanes are much more charming!).  It is the way they move through the landscape that counts.
Winding Roads
Winding Roads gently curve over slopes, emphasizing the height, width and distance of each section.
To increase the feel of the distance, the road is wider at the beginning (the bottom) of each slope and narrows toward the top.  The road in each subsequent slope is narrower than the slope before it.
Wrap Around Roads
The Wrap Around Road also winds around but not gently. It twists and curls like a snake, wrapping around various objects.  It disappears at times, when it wraps behind something.
If you want to imply distance, the road should be wider at the start (the bottom) and be slightly narrower each time it reappears from behind an object.  However, this kind of road is also often used in landscapes where there is no sense of distance or depth.  If the road is a lane or foot-worn track, it may widen and narrow at random, as it does here.

Striped Roads
Striped roads can be straight or slightly curved.  They carve your drawing into sections, that you fill with trees, flowers, rocks and animals. This is a good roadway to use if you like to create rows of objects.

If you want to imply distance you make each road narrower as you go up the page.  Items within each section become smaller to show they are further away.  But if you wish, you can ignore distance altogether.

Slight curved and diagonal to one another.

Straight and parallel to one another.

These are the three roads in my fantasy landscapes? What other kinds of roads might you have in yours?  Please share your thoughts!

Tomorrow, I have a step-out showing the basic bush/shrub/tree-shape and what it’s good for.

For a full list of Fantasy Landscape Step-outs, Step-by-steps, Step-wiselys and guide rules go here.

Sun Arrow Shading Fun & Easy Tutorial

The step-out Sun Arrows is designed to show you how shading works in my fantasy world.  The arrows show you the direction that shadows would fall.  But there is a little more to it than that.

I’ll get into shading in more detail eventually, but this should get you started for now.

For a full list of Fantasy Landscape Step-outs, Step-by-steps, Step-wiselys and guide rules go here.