The elements of mass conception are; the Idea or concept of the Form, determining the precise shape of the Form, establishing Form lighting, and the positioning of the Form in Space.

The apprentice should make a daily practice of drawing cubes, spheres and cylinders. In the architectonic drawing, all other forms are composed of these forms or parts of them. The master draughtsman can give the illusion of any complex subject by combining the simple forms or parts of the simple forms. To get to this point, one must force everything into their purest geometric Form. Feel these forms in their entirety, disregard the details that are so loved by the beginner.
The ability to think in mass is the essential knowledge the apprentice needs to acquire. Think of everything fitting into a box or rectilinear solid. This is the most straightforward geometric construct of your subject. The box or cube gives birth to all other form units; it is the genesis of spheres, cylinders, cones, and pyramids. Observing Form as mass conception is what separates drawing from rendering, interpreting from imitating, creating from copying.

To draw specific forms, we need to be aware of those form units, which is why the beginner, when confronted with the figure, has so much difficulty. There are not aware of many of the forms that make up the human body. (the tensor of the fascia lata for example.) Once they are made aware of a form we must have a concise conception of its shape. We must decide on the exact shape of the Form in order to draw it. They can’t communicate what you don’t know.

Going farther, they determine the source of light that best describes those masses, that best reveal the hidden construction of the Form.
Form lighting is one aspect of the best aspective view.
The figure should never be in full light. Light reveals the Form but to much light destroys it. The master draughtsman chooses a position where the effect of light best describes the Form, not only because the construction is more evident, but because the explanation of planar Form is much clearer and the visual appeal much stronger. Once again it is about supplying the viewer with the best available inFORMation.

The second part of aspective view is the aspect or perspective of the Form in space, its rotation, and orientation, the aspects of angles, axes, and alignments in relation to the viewer.

These four elements of mass conception form the basis for everything else involved with learning to draw beyond mimesis.

“Have I made it clear that drawing is not a mere act of copying, but a highly creative act controlled by the artist’s expressive intent.”

  • Robert Beverly Hale –

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