REFLECTION: Part 2 – project 1 Space, depth and volume


Part 2: Project 1- Space, depth and volume

‘NARCISSUS’ 1560 – ? Valerio Cioli 1529-99

I feel to have achieved a real sense of depth with the figure, Narcissus, without any use of outlining. I’m thinking that the most important thing is that, as you begin to draw, you don’t see the image in terms of outline. From the start, it is volume, depth and space so that as soon as the first marks go down on the page, you’re beginning to ‘sculpt’ the image from the surface. But with only two dimensions to work with, your only tool is light. I’m interested to think of light as a tool and it’s a most demanding tool. In this drawing the play of light across the back of the figure produces all the tension and rhythm of the structure of the bones and muscles, the volume of the shape of the body and the depth of the figure on the page. I found that the slightest carelessness or sloppy observation in the tonal values had alarming results, completely changing the shape of some parts of the figure and losing the ‘believable’ illusion of space and depth.

There was no need to use any outlining of the figure and it’s interesting to compare it to other sketches I’ve done at the V&A.


These were done mainly using line and a pencil and while the figures have volume there is not the same strong illusion of space and depth as in the figure done with the rubber and charcoal. They remain sketches, partly because there is nothing happening in the space around the figure I suppose. Considering the section in part 1 on using space, this makes for some consideration…!

The section of the drawing of Narcissus which excites me the most is in the bottom right hand corner where the underside of the foot can be seen. Because of the play of light against dark, the foot appears to be jutting out of the picture plane towards the viewer.

Another point that I’d like to make is that confining the drawing to the use of the rubber and the charcoal has resulted in a piece of great subtlety. From the charcoal stick, it wasn’t possible to achieve the strong dark which I would have liked, to indicate the trapped areas of dark and at first I felt rather restricted by this. But now I just love the subtle and almost imperceptible changes of tone.

Making work about the space between the surface and the implied three dimensions

I puzzled for a long time as to what this meant and am not sure I have understood it now. From my research I have learnt how artists use space in a painting and that there is an interplay between the surface and the implied three dimensions. So taking these two elements I played around with some compositions to emphasise them, using my original three-dimensional drawing. It’s not the easiest image to build a composition around one image in particular really worked.

I began with drawing on the iPad and I was really trying to bring the surface texture to the fore in order to contrast the three-dimensional element….


I then cut out the three-dimensional figure and began working with creating other dimensions in the image. I kept in mind with these images that the drawing is of Narcissus and so I tried to highlight this theme.


The first of these six images has the three-dimensional figure contrasted on a plain black surface and this has the effect of high-definition – the image becomes the dominant feature in the space. Or does it? If the eye dwells on the space and not the figure, then the depth becomes mysterious, endless, suggestions of loneliness, cut off, certainly sculptural!

In the second, third and fourth image, the three dimensions of the figure becomes part of a further three-dimensional world and you feel to be moving endlessly back into the background. The surface texture is only fleeting in the light thrown across the body.

The fifth and sixth images carry further the idea of narcissus. From a visual composition viewpoint, I feel that the final image is the most successful of all of them because there is the sense of the surface in the background image but intriguingly the line drawing of the face contrasts beautifully with the three dimensions of the figure…love the combination of line and form.


About pbfarrar

I am an Australian living permanently in England. I have recently retired from the position of Principal of an independent school and have taken up the study of Fine Art with the OCA.
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