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