A Toolbox Full of Triangles

Myron Barnstone was my teacher’s first teacher. Juliette began her art training by studying classical design systems at Barnstone Studios. Barnstone’s aim is to have students approach drawing as an analysis of geometric shape relationships. Once students have this foundation, through which they can look at objects and immediately see the defining shapes and angles, they never look at anything the same way again.

If you have time and can watch all 8:40 it’s worth it. He’s an amazing teacher. If not, just scrub to 4:15 when he talks about the alphabet of drawing and take in these brains.

Juliette is still highly concerned with design elements in her work to this day. Taking a leaf from her old teacher’s pedagogy, Juliette extends to us in the Aristides Atelier some of the famously rigorous Barnstone drawing lessons. The first of which is an analytical drawing of a set of three bottles. To prepare for this, we draw six gesture drawings per page, three pages per bottle. So, nine pages, six drawings each — and since you’re way ahead of me you saw this coming — for 54 drawings. That’s just a warm-up for the first lesson. There are nine.

A designer in recent times, I’m excited to have a context for the kind of problem solving we’re doing. In design software like Adobe Illustrator, designers make more complex vector objects out of polygons that we snip together (nobody go looking for the snip tool, that’s not a thing). So, if you can imagine a wine bottle, let’s say, you can imagine it filling the space of a vertical rectangle. Inside that rectangle you may analyze the shape of the bottle from the top down as beginning generally with a vertical rectangle for the neck, which connects to a circle where the neck swells to accomodate the body which is at last a vertical rectangle. From there, you can refine and smooth out the abrupt turns with yet smaller triangles and circles. This will make a blueprint of a wine bottle.

For the next week, it’s life room in the mornings and then bottles in the afternoons. Yesterday I completed the gesture drawing part of the lesson. It took five hours. Moving on to the grand drawing of all three bottles together, today I finished one bottle. And I’m already thinking there are a few more shapes I should go back and add tomorrow.

(Featured image: Pewter and Silver Vessels and a Crab, 1633, Willem Claezoon Heda)

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