It is so hard to get past the meaningfulness of things so we can see in visual terms. Can you tell whether this is a tree, petrified wood, or a rock? Is it alive, a dead snag, a piece of plastic? What if I told you it was a living tree? What difference does it make?
If you think it is a tree, it is probably because you have been informed (incorrectly) by the trees and brush in the background. This picture is from Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area near Las Vegas where I live. It is, indeed, a red rock. When it comes to content, context is everything.
When it comes to drawing and the visualization process, I think it is better to not know. If I'm all worried about whether I can make this rock look like a rock instead of a tree, I am going to be distracted from seeing the light and form. I try to keep it very abstract. I am a shape wrangler. My questions have to do with how the shapes overlap, butt together, or transition into each other. That is pretty much all I need to know.
What is this? Be careful... Don't say it. See it as something else - like you have never seen it before. You have no idea what it is. Place your thumb over its head. For me, once I remove the head, it makes it so much easier to draw. Why? It helps me to forget and lose the meaning and impact of the narrative story and symbolism. I feel the shift immediately. With the head covered, place your other thumb over the tail. Now it becomes very abstract. Is it easier to draw the shape?
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