Part 1: Project 2: Exercise 4 – Shadows and reflected light

For this composition, use two objects with reflective surfaces, such as a stainless steel coffee pot and ceramic sugar bowl. The different reflective surfaces will provide an interesting interplay of light and shadow.

Use charcoal, a putty rubber and decide on the size of the composition. Use A1 or A2 paper with a tooth so that you can do bold strokes using the side of your charcoal or conté stick.

Try to fill the paper with your objects. Show the reflected light and shade of one object falling on another and leave as little background space (‘negative’ space) as you can. Look carefully at the shapes, shadows and light before you start drawing. You might find the annotated example below helpful.

Draw the basic pattern of shadow first with sweeps of charcoal and/or hatching marks and spots. The white paper will represent your lightest tonal value, so start with the mid tones and then build to the darkest tonal value, as in previous exercises. Observe the reflected pattern of light and shade and work it into the surface of the object. Lift out the smallest lightest tones with the point of a putty rubber, and use the sharpest edge of the charcoal or conté stick to add the smaller finer marks.


Shadows and reflected light 1
Shadows and reflected light conté stick

Conté on A2 paper – I didn’t quite manage to get the highlights as I wanted as I found it difficult to use the putty rubber with the Conté stick. No matter however many time I needed the rubber to get a clean edge or tip it smudged rather than lifted the black from the paper – I think you can see the effect of this in the image of the drawing above.

Nonetheless, I am quite pleased with this first attempt and there are some picked out areas of reflected light, including the suggestion of a reflection of the ceramic cheese container against the stainless steel kettle.

There is also an indication of reflected light from the kettle lid against the under side of the black handle, but it could be better defined I think.

The source of the light on the composition is marked with an arrow (top left).

Shadows and reflected light - charcoal stick
Shadows and reflected light – charcoal stick

I decided to try another version of the same composition – this time using charcoal – and changed the ground surface from paper to an A2 sheet of canvas with a heavier tooth.

I took a slightly different stance behind my drawing table in front of the composition to give a different viewpoint. The light source was the same, from the top left.

Working with the charcoal sticks was much more natural I found – layering middle tones, working to darker, picking out highlights with the putty rubber and finally marking in some of the darker strokes.

It was a very enjoyable exercise working with the charcoal – laying down marks and using the putty rubber much more effectively to lift charcoal from the canvas surface to create highlights. I also used my fingers in scrumbling some of the mid-tone areas.

While I am reasonably happy with the conté stick drawing I feel that the charcoal stick one meets the brief more accurately. I get a better feeling of the ‘roundness’ of the kettle in this composition and the darks, lights and reflected lights seem more natural to my eye.

I think that the different angle of approach to the drawing also makes for a more pleasing composition and treats the negative space in a more interesting way than the conté drawing. My last thought is that I made the kettle handle a bit too thick on the left.

It only remains to treat each drawing to a dose of fixative to combat any excessive smudging.

Shadows and reflected light pdf file

Stuart Brownlee – 512319
25 May 2015

Part 1: Project 2: Exercise 3 – Creating shadow using lines and marks

Choose a simple single object to start with. Work in your sketchbook using four drawing tools such as pencil, ballpoint pen, dip pen and black ink and drawing pen. Divide a page into four and try to make four distinct grades of tone using crisscrossing lines – hatching – and spots. Try marks close together or further apart, short and long lines, curved and straight, large and small spots and stipples, etc. Don’t worry about neatness or accuracy.

Once you’ve practised a range of small lines and marks, arrange three or four objects and make a very quick and loose line drawing. Don’t draw obvious outlines; use just enough line to indicate the objects’ three-dimensionality, then work fast, using the hatching and/or spotting techniques to create tonal shadows that will make the sketches more believable as objects.

Creating shadow using line and marks 1Creating shadow using line and marks 2

Creating shadow using lines and marks 3Creating shadow using line and marks 4


1. Half closing your eyes will help you eliminate most of the detail and see the range of tones.
2. Use slightly longer lines, cross-hatching, different amounts of pressure, etc. to create the impression of shadow. Unless the object is suspended in the air, its cast shadow will always be joined to it and emerge from it.
3. Avoid outlining shadows – either before or after drawing them. If you look at shadows closely you’ll see they have a sharp or soft edge, but no outline.

As you’ve probably realised by now, a flat area will never be evenly lit: the part closest to the light will always have the lightest tones and there will be some gradations of middle tones, however minimal. Look carefully at a flat surface such as a table top and see if you can identify the gradations of tone. Some light sources provide a more even tone, for example a fluorescent strip light or sunlight on a surface outside.

Review your work for the previous two exercises. How difficult did you find it to distinguish between light from the primary light source and secondary reflected light? How has awareness of tone affected your depiction of form? Make some notes in your learning log.

Process and Critique

Creating shadow using lines and marks 1
Creating shadow using lines and marks 1

A simple box shape, drawn from a standing position with pencil, biro, graphite and a nib pen. I think that I managed four distinct grades of tone in the pencil (lines) and graphite (spots and lines) sketches. However, I found it much harder to achieve this using ink, maybe just about with the biro, but not at all with the nib pen and ink as I found it difficult to control the flow of ink off the nib and control of the weight of the nib on the paper.

Creating shadow using lines and marks 2
Creating shadow using lines and marks 2

My four objects were a box, an upside-down tin, a clear plastic pot and a wooden ink rubber stamp. I used graphite pencil for this drawing and I think I managed to control the weight of the pencil on the paper more successfully and loosely, laying down differing grades of tone using lines and marks of varying pressure and styles of application – straight and curved lines, cross-hatching and what I can best describe as ‘squiggles’ (top of tin can). The main difficulty I found was trying not to outline the shadows, particularly with the larger box.

The light source for both drawings was a 13w side lamp clipped onto the right-hand side of the backing board.  I probably made the right-hand side of the can closest to the light too dark in tone, although I think the other objects deal with this better. Both in this and the previous exercise I found that identifying the impact of the primary light source and the resulting shadows was relatively straightforward. However, capturing the effect of secondary reflected light was more tricky, although the relationship between the left-hand side of the tin can and the right-hand side of the box shape has a suggestion of reflected light. Likewise, in Exercise 2, the light seeping around the back and front of the candlestick from the right does have an effect on the surface of the cheese dish top.

Creating shadow using lines and marks pdf file

Stuart Brownlee – 512319
19 May 2015


Part 1: Project 2: Exercise 2 – Observing shadow using blocks of tone

There are many ways to evoke the impression of ‘real’ space and the use of tone is a basic drawing skill that will help you do this. Essentially it’s the depiction of light and dark on a surface that offers the impression of three dimensionality – and sometimes mood.

To start, place two pale simple-shaped objects together and position a lamp so that they are lit from just one side. (You can use natural light if it’s a bright day.) Observe the main areas of light and dark. Make some quick sketches in a large (A2 or A1) sketchbook, mapping out the broad areas of light and shade. Use a conté or charcoal stick on its side to achieve thick bold strokes; break these into shorter pieces unless you’re working on a very large surface (A1 or larger). Also make sure your surface has sufficient ‘tooth’ to capture the pigment – smooth and shiny paper won’t work. Next, block in all the gradations of tone. Look for variations of tonal value. Essentially this means the degree of lightness or darkness. Begin with mid tones, then work in lighter and darker tones, lifting and pressing down across the surface as you work. Pause and take a long view to fully observe the pattern of shadows over the whole surface of the picture plane, then look for the smaller details, the interlocking shadows and the negative shapes between the objects.

You may find that light is reflected from one surface to another and interferes with and complicates the shadow cast from the primary light source. Try to find the tonal gradations that the reflected light causes. Try to get all areas of tone to work together in a series of tonal shifts. Fill the entire sheet.

Observing shadow

OCA student, Leyla Bilsborough, Charcoal drawing

Process and Critique

For this exercise I chose a composition including a cheese dish and a candle stick
holder that I had previously made on my lathe, with a candle on top.

For the quick sketches I used an A2 fine grain paper and a black conté stick to try out marking down the shapes and the scale of the objects in relation to one another.

I think I managed to get the feel of the object shapes, light and shadow, but drew it too small in relation to the A2 paper – as you can see I sketched additional versions of the cheese dish, candle and part of the stick holder. The paper was also too fine for the conté to hold well to the texture:

Observing shadow using blocks of tone 1
Observing shadow using blocks of tone 1

My next effort was much more successful I feel. For this I used charcoal on an A2 canvas weave block. I made the whole composition in a much larger scale, filling the surface in a more pleasing way. I also found the charcoal to hold really well to the surface of the canvas weave.

The other thing I noticed in making this drawing was that as well as getting down
and dirty with the charcoal, blending and making marks with my fingers as well as with the sticks themselves, using a putty rubber made picking out highlights easier and enjoyable. For both drawings I used a 13w side lamp to illuminate the
composition which brought out quite marked areas of dark shadow:

Observing shadow using blocks of tone 2
Observing shadow using blocks of tone 2

Observing shadow using blocks of tone pdf file

Stuart Brownlee – 512319
19th May 2015

Part 1: Project 2: Exercise 1 – Groups of objects

Choose at least six objects of different sizes and shapes. Some of these should be three-dimensional forms made from rectangles and cylinders – a paperback book, a cereal box, jar of coffee, tin of beans, etc. – and others should be less regular in their form, for example a net or loose plastic container.

For the first image, work on a surface (A2 or A1) that seems appropriate for the image you want to make. Be imaginative and don’t assume you have to use a bright white sheet of paper. You might want to use a sheet of brown paper or an unfolded newspaper as your support, for example.

Try to make your composition as natural as possible. A supermarket shop with the objects still in the trolley or spilling out from a carrier bag makes for a very different feel than a highly posed scene. Using just one colour (charcoal, conté, oil stick, ink and stick, etc.) and bearing in mind the previous exercises, loosely describe the group of objects. Don’t forget their weight, transparency, shine, etc., and don’t forget the spaces between them and the things they are resting on or against. Remember that writing on labels will curve around cylindrical objects and elements half hidden inside bags will jostle for space.

Fill the sheet with drawing. Imagine you can see through the forms to the spaces inside. Try to evoke some kind of expression in the marks you make and in the relationships you create inside and around the edges of the forms and the picture plane.

Groups of objects from course notes

OCA student, Sally Pennington, Sketchbook drawing, 2012

Process and Critique

Reference photo – studio table with objects, ink bottle and drawing sticks (forsythia branch that has a hollow centre into which I cut a nib):

Group of objects
Ink and drawing sticks

My chosen objects are:

Copy of Vitamin D
Copy of Drawing Projects
Copy of A Beginner’s Guide to Drawing
1 x open metal tin
1 x ‘Pencil’ pencil case
1 x open clear jar
1 x (empty) bottle of Tobermory whisky
1 x bottle stopper
1 x set of teeth mould (mine)

Group of objects in ink
Groups of objects in ink

Unsuccessful first attempt with the ink on A2 paper. I found it difficult to get the ink to flow with my home made sticks and as you can see my idea of scale was way off the mark. However, I intend to come back to trying ink again with this same composition.

So, I gave the drawing another go using green ink. This time my tool of choice was a nib pen which turned out to still be a bit of a challenge to keep loaded and create clean lines. I then tried out a Rotring isograph pen with the same green ink and several grades of nib (.70, 1.0, and 2.0) – very scratchy on the paper and no easy flow. In frustration I picked up a charcoal stick and set  to it to finish the drawing. You can still see green ink peeking through in places:

Group of objects with ink and charcoal
Group of objects with ink and charcoal

My second attempt on A2 paper was more successful, this time using a green conté stick for mark making. Scale and perspective a bit better I think although the ‘pencil’ pencil case in the can is wrong – it should be lying up against the edge to accommodate its full length properly in the tin can.

I haven’t really used conté much before and found it a bit tricky to use to get clean lines. My other observation is that the drawing could have been larger in scale on the paper while still leaving sufficient negative space around and between the objects:

Group of objects in conte
Group of objects in conte

Third, and most pleasing effort to me, I chose a graphite pencil to capture the objects and space as loosely as I could manage. I think the scale is better and the sense of depth is there with the light sketching in of the table top leading into the backdrop.

I found working with the graphite much easier to control and I managed some thicker, darker as well as lighter lines. I was quite tempted to do a bit of shading, but decided that wasn’t the real point of the exercise.

I know I am a fairly untidy drawer – no real precision here – but I kind of like the fuzzier, less ‘clean’ approach to placing down marks on the paper:

Group of objects in graphite
Group of objects in graphite

Groups of objects pdf file

Stuart Brownlee – 512319
19 May 2015