Drawing Glass is Crystal Clear

Do you avoid drawing difficult things in your art, such as transparent items such as water and glass? Many do. It’s a paradoxical subject, for often times a transparent object will actually hold the most patterns. Transparent objects contain more dark and light contrast, and most color of other simpler subjects. “Clear” isn’t void and without detail.

So, you may ask, how in the world do you draw something that’s “clear?” It’s really pretty simple in theory. It boils down to pure observation! Look at your subjects closely, and it’s “clear to see” (pardon the pun) that everything surrounding a transparent object is showing through or reflecting off of it.

how to draw a crystal goblet

Look at the crystal goblet above. This was drawn in graphite. You know that it’s clear glass, but the chisel cut of the crystal is creating very noticeable patterns of light and dark. When looked at this way, it becomes a puzzle of geometrical patterns and shapes. Some are light and some are dark. Draw the shapes correctly and assign them a tone. Voila! You have the illusion of cut crystal! It’s important to not over think it. Our brains are our greatest hindrance when drawing, telling us what something SHOULD look like, rather than what we’re actually SEEING.

The other areas of the crystal glass, while smoother, also are made up of light and dark patterns. Always view your subject matter as a puzzle. Draw the shapes correctly so they all fit together, and your art will be more accurate. Draw them right, and you draw a picture of the glass!

In my art classes, many of my students see the subject they’re drawing way too literally. You must train your brain to see everything as nothing more than patterns of light, dark and colors. If you discipline yourself, it will become second nature to view your subject matter this way.

How to draw a marble

This drawing of a marble is obviously still in progress. It was a demonstration I did in my colored pencil class to show how to draw shiny, transparent things. (I recommend Prismacolor for shiny subjects.) Most of the marble is clear, but the colored area on the inside is showing through. Because of its sphere-like shape, the illusion of seeing through to the other side is very important. To create this look, the highlights on the outer surface streak across everything. This makes it look like the shine is on the outer surface, giving it depth.

How to paint a vase in acrylic

This close-up of a flower vase in acrylic paint is in the early stages of another work in progress. I used it to demonstrate painting clear glass and water. You can see the same theories that I used in the marble, of having the highlights streak across the things behind, pushing them back into the distance. This illusion takes it from looking flat and opaque to dimensional and transparent.

Pastel bell jar painting

This painting of a set of bell jars is a piece I created in a class I taught on pastels. I love all of the subtle colors. While the jars are clear, all of the colors of the surrounding garden are reflected and repeated onto the glass. The light-colored highlights follow the curves of the jars, making them look round and dimensional, just like those seen in the flower vase.

You can see that the theories are the same no matter what medium you are using. All it takes is keen observation and a ton of practice. I would highly recommend practicing drawing and painting transparent objects. They’re a challenge worth investing in.

Have fun, and I’ll be back next week!


Edited by Cherie Haas, online editor of ArtistsNetwork.com

Lee Hammond has been called the Queen of Drawing. That may not be fair these days, since in addition to providing the best drawing lessons, she has also created fantastic books and videos filled with the same easy to follow acrylic painting techniques, colored pencil techniques and more. Click here to see all of the instructional books and DVDs that Lee Hammond has to offer!

Free download! Easy Acrylic Painting Techniques by Lee Hammond

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