When I was a kid in college, I thought drawing cloth was one of the most frustrating endeavors a human being could participate in.  Later on, I realized that as hard as it is to draw clothing and drapery, it vastly increases the options an artist has when deciding to draw something.  The ability to draw cloth makes an artist versatile.  As cloth bends and folds according to the limitations  the fabric offers in terms of its thickness and weight, a light source illuminates its form and softly defines its edges with shadow.  Being able to identify the form by picking up clues using light and shadow can be used to create magnificent things like dragons, or other fantasy creatures that can only be born out of your imagination and talent as an artist.  The artist must be able to conceptualize; visualize what is desired to be seen on the canvas in terms of what techniques will be used in order to bring that creation into existence. 

Knowing how to draw cloth is like learning a powerful spell that can help you perform magic that will awe everyone around you.  Before we get into the tutorial, make sure you have read and studied the preceding tutorials as each one builds on the others.

    Take a moment to find something made of cloth around you.  The ideal item would be a bed-sheet, or tablecloth that you can pin up on a wall in such a way that creates a variety of folds you can examine, but it can be as simple as the pants you are wearing, a sweater or a jacket.  Notice what happens when you roll up your sleeves.  The fabric crunches up like an accordion.  Barbara Bradley gives this fold, as well as many others, names in her book, "Drawing People."  The folds you see when you bunch up the sleeves of your shirt around your elbow are called spiral folds.  The folds you see on the back side of your knee when you wear jeans are called zig-zag folds.  Folds of a curtain that droop down like a bunched up Japanese fan are called pipe foldsHalf-Lock folds refer to fabric that gets pressed out by a bending a knee or elbow, and diaper folds refer to fabric when it hangs between two fixed points like a hammock or a sling.  Drop folds form when the fabric hangs by one fixed point.  One example of a drop fold could be in front of your leg; dropping down from your knee.   Inert folds are the most complex folds, because sometimes they lack any clear sense of form.  Take your bed sheet and just drop it on the floor. See what I mean?  The folds are all bunched up in so many different ways, sometimes you really have to strain to see every plane shift of the fabric using clues the light and shadow offers to draw them. Drawing an Inert fold can give a character in your drawing -- a sense of having just finished an action.  Watch Walt Disney's Fantasia.  There are many scenes in that 2-D animated musical where characters are wearing fabric that forms inert folds.  Cinderella  is another good one.  If you pause the DVD at the right time, you can watch the folds of the dresses move in slow motion.  Once you understand the different folds, you will know when they are useful as you draw.  Many of the basic shapes that were discussed in previous tutorials can be found within the various folds of cloth.  Drop folds are conical in shape, pipe folds are cylindrical, zig-zags are shaped like cylindrical tubes that "zig-zag," in a Z formation; spiral folds are also pipe like, but they snake around like the many layers of pedals you see in roses.  If you study the shapes of the folds, you can create your own visualization method that works for you.  So when you're sitting there lost in the many folds of your hanging bed sheet on the wall, it might help to have this vocabulary of folds:
1. Pipe
2. Zigzag
3. Spiral
4. Half-Lock
5. Diaper
6. Drop
7. Inert

    But not everyone learns the same way.  For some people, Barbara Bradley's method might work great, but of others having all this jargon of terminology for different folds, and having to pigeon-hole each one might be a lot more complicated than just drawing each fold for what it is.  I think a simpler way to understand how to draw fabric is to classify all folds into just two categories:

1. Hill (the convex forms)
2. Valley (the concave forms)

The hills are the places where the fabric bends towards you in a convex form, and the valleys define the areas the turn away in concave form.  Take a look at my illustration below.

     Notice how the light source reveals the hills, and how the valleys hide in shadow.  You can also see my drawing that points out how various folds take on the forms of the basic shapes.  Breaking down the folds of fabric into simple shapes is the easiest way to approach a fabric study. 
After you've drawn cloth for a while, it will get easier.  You just have to train your eyes to see the shapes without getting lost in the minutia of trying to keep track of all the surface changes at once.  Your mind will learn to use the clues that the light and shadow give you to put together a kind of road map, or trail of shapes within the cloth. 

    In my next tutorial, I will be showing you how to draw the human figure using Ironman, Tony Stark as our model.  I thought I would use a well known Marvel Comic hero to make the tutorial interesting.  You know what would be really fun?  It would be fun to show you how to create your own original super hero character!  That will be a tutorial for another time.

I'm Stan Levine
I hope you have enjoyed this tutorial.

Peace be with you.

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