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Sketch Layers

August 26, 2009

Layering drawings one on top of the other and tracing is a technique I use to modify and think through my design processes. This concept is used in computer-aided design software to separate different data of a drawing. I use a similar concept of layering when sketching. These layers are “fore-ground”, “middle-ground” and “back-ground”. I always keep these in mind when navigating a scene for a “framed view”.

The jetty in this conceptual sketch of Victoria Harbour is in the “fore-ground”. The buildings beyond are in the “back-ground”, while the tall ship and the promenade, the focus of the sketch, are in the “middle-ground”.

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From → Sketching

5 Comments
  1. daf permalink

    Are there always the “3” grounds? Is the focus always being the middle-ground?

    And do you sketch the fore-ground before middle-ground, and middle-ground before back-ground?

    • sketching journey permalink

      Fore-ground, middle-ground and back-ground are layers that I use to mentally organize zones in my sketches. They help to compose my framed view, as well as to accentuate depth to the simulated perspective. e.g. Objects in the fore-ground would be highly detailed compared to those in the back-ground. And generally I would set the focus of the composition in the middle-ground.

      No that is not always the case. It depends on the complexity of the scene. Which zone is sketched first depends on the overlapping of the objects in the view that you are attempting to sketch. But the key to where one should begin a sketch depends on the object that will be used to “scale” the view. But that is getting ahead of my sketching journey. More on “scale” later.

  2. iyahman permalink

    That is a great way of composing a view. I guess we all do it, especially when taking a photograph, but never really break it down in steps.

    • sketching journey permalink

      Yes, “layering” views comes from experience in analyzing what you see in the 3D world. A camera does this easily, but if you look closely at your photograph you will discover that the image is “flat” compared with the image in your “brain” (your perceived image)! Try comparing views taken with a 50 mm lens, with a “fish eye” lens and with what you see with your naked eyes. Your eyes perceive the image from multiple viewpoints (your rotating eyeball) compared with the fixed camera lens. I only take photos of my on-site views after completing my sketches because I discovered that I “see more” than a camera does every time! (More on perspective later)

  3. sketching journey permalink

    Thanks for you comments Shelley, Watch out for the launch of my Sketchbook!

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