Working with Eye Level – Refining Cube Shapes in Charcoal Drawings

In the last article, Working with Eye Level: The Foundations of Perspective in Charcoal Drawing II you practiced drawing a series of everyday objects where the cube was the main shape. Getting the dimensions, proportions and interior shapes in perspective can be easier when dividing an object such as a bookshelf, into a series of smaller cubic shapes.

Using Initial Sketches to Refine Drawings of Cube Shaped Objects

Examine the picture below. There is a box of pencils, an eraser, a notepad, a cigarette packet, and a square-shaped pencil. These everyday items are positioned below eye level. Each object reveals its top plane and two of its sides. This is a good spread of objects, and you can see the artist is practicing drawing cube objects by using the same vanishing point to get the perspective and proportions correct.

The refinement stage of drawing basic shapes in charcoal involves recognizing that as you search for the correct width, height, or depth of a plane, you’ll draw many inaccurate lines. Don’t erase them. Keep searching with other lines, until you feel satisfied you’ve drawn the right one. Accent these correct lines by bearing down on them with your pencil.

Place a fresh sheet of paper over your object drawing and pick out only the correct lines.  

Eye Level

Eye Level Charcoal Cube Drawings – Two Stages

Artist Rudy de Reyna perfected the two stages for drawing charcoal shapes in his book “How to Draw What You See”. He recommends drawing all objects in two stages. In the drawings above, on the left of each pair, notice how roughly the overall shape is drawn, initially. As the right proportions are found, the correct lines are darkened. Again, the emphasis is on never erasing the initial sketches. Refine the drawing by darkening the lines. If you erase, you lose your means of comparing correct to incorrect shapes and dimensions – a skill which perfects and improves with time and practice.

Using Tracing Paper to Refine Initial Sketches in Charcoal Drawings

More complex shapes at different eye level perspectives can be successfully drawn using the two-stage technique. In the drawings below, the artist began searching for the correct set of dimensions within the sketch on the left. If an angle or line proved incorrect, he simply drew another. After darkening the correct lines, he transferred them to a fresh sheet of paper using tracing paper. Then, the corrected drawing and its lines were perfected. You can see this in the right side of each pairing.  

Eye Level

It is worth noting you don’t have to use tracing paper, however, it is worth using paper that is transparent enough for you to see through. If, by chance, some inaccuracies should remain on your second sheet, correct them with new lines, darken these, and transfer the correct drawings to another page.

By using this method of refining your drawings, you will soon be drawing every cubic object in the room around you with confidence. Remember the golden rule of thumb for drawing cubic objects in perspective with charcoal:

Wait until the proportions of the basic cubic shape are correct before you start adding any details the objects may have.

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