March 1, 2008

Drawing Fabric - Part 1

The folds and wrinkles of fabric are endlessly fascinating and can be overwhelming in their shifting complexity. Some simple observations to help us:

Just as we study the forms of the skeleton so that its masses are always understood to be within the body we draw, so the body itself (and the skeleton within it) are understood to be within the clothing of the person we're drawing. The folds and draping shapes of clothing are thus defined by the body the clothes cover, enfold, surround, and hang from. We essentially draw the effects of gravity on the cloth that dresses the figure.

The variety of folds and wrinkles - always changing as the figure moves - are a series of transient abstract shapes that express the action of the figure, and pass by like clouds on a windy day. But like clouds, their abstract shapes have been given names and organized into categories - just as wispy, insubstantial clouds are labeled 'cumulus' and 'cirrus,' so folds have been given a series of names by George Bridgeman, the influential drawing teacher at the Art Students League a hundred years ago. His categories:

Pipe Fold
Zigzag Fold
Spiral Fold
Half-lock Fold
Diaper Pattern
Drop Fold

It is, one will soon discover, a bit arbitrary, and fabric sometimes acts as if it never read Bridgeman's books at all, but it's an entry point.

A basic idea is that fabric wants to hang from a point - let's say a shoulder - in a series of perfectly coned-shaped pipe folds, but other forces - like other tensions and compression points - will interact with the pipe fold shape and create the other forms. We can see clearly, usually, that the diaper pattern is really two sets of pipe folds radiating from two hanging points and creating new valleys and ridges as they meet together. There are many ways to visualize this, but let's begin with the following illustrations:


Anonymous said...

This is very useful. Thank you.

tillygrimes said...

was having a sketching quandary and back to a simpler time of classes and teachers and questions ... and are found myself consulting this 'ere blog. Folds are once again clearer! TG

Anonymous said...

Crystal-clear and useful.