Soft and Sharp Edges Using Two Designs: Inverted Steelyard and the Silhouette for Composition

Yippee! Whoop! Whoop! I'm back working again.

Edgar Payne's steelyard is a balanced scale with a large mass on one side balanced over a pivot point and a smaller mass on the other side. He said the steelyard design could be reversed or turned on its head with the pivot point above the balance beam.

The above pen and ink sketch resulted from a view of a lake nearby. In most cases, my notan sketches start out with what I see and then 4-5 sketches later I have taken what is there and found one of the many designs that make the subject work.

In this instance, before I started sketching, I saw the steelyard design and began the drawing knowing it would be the steel yard. NOTE: there's a large black pivot point above the balance and close to the smaller mass in the right side. This was an error

To be in balance, the pivot has to hold the weight of the heavy mass, left. This pivot point can move or vary. The steelyard is a balanced scale. By sliding the pivot point around i can change the weight of the objects in the composition.

I can also make the composition fail if I place the pivot too far off the balance of the large to the small mass. Just because I recognize the design and can create it in the picture area, this doesn't insure success. Everything else still must work.

Soft and Hard Edges: the silhouette

In the notan, I had the trees suggested as lighter, but the dying light of the day over the lake made me want to try to make use of the silhouette design element in combination with the steelyard. This is a case where I could combine more designs to make the composition more interesting than just one type of design.

Past Critiques by the professor from the Rhode Island School of Arts and Design stated how my layering of color over the texture of my home-made ground was interesting, but that she wanted to see more sharp edges in the area of interest.

In this case, my area of interest was the sunset, so I made the tree light holes and trunks more crisp than in other areas of trees.

Examples of the Inverted Steelyard

Below is the line drawing using sale boats to show the steelyard turned on its head. The largest masses are the reflections, much like my image of the large and smaller trees. In this case, a darker sailboat acts as the pivot in the sketch below.


Under the sailboats sketch is a replica of the Edgar Payne concept as he illustrated it.

What I Learned

  • After I determined the design, I had to pick which group of trees were to have soft and hard edges.

  • I needed to look at my notan and study it to find my error in placing the pivot on the wrong side of the weight. My seeing the design didn't mean I didn't have to move nature around to make a better design.

  • Identifying the design my subject most resembled before starting to draw saved me several notans that I would do normally. I did about 3 drawing instead of the 4-6 if I had not identified a composition to try.

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