Part 2: Project 3: Exercise 3 – Detail and tone


In this exercise you’ll practise building up dark, medium and light tones, principally using pencils and hatching and cross-hatching techniques. Select another single object such as a shell or a piece of driftwood. Get a varied effect by combining soft and medium grade pencils and altering the direction of the strokes you make. This is time-consuming but can produce great results.

Use smooth A3 paper and a variety of soft pencils. Use a putty rubber to lift out the smallest highlights at the end (but don’t over-use this tool). Lightly sketch in the outlines of the objects. Then screw up your eyes and identify the darkest areas. Begin to hatch in the dark areas in different parts of the drawing. Make sure you work all around the drawing so that you can compare the tones of different areas of the drawing. Seek out the patterns and really focus on making them key aspects of the drawing.

Introduce contrast into your drawing. Make sure you have areas of strong darks with deep cross-hatching, and other areas that are very light in tone, as well as variety in types of mark, direction of mark, continuous line and broken line.

Constantly review your drawing by stepping back from it. Ask yourself if you have sufficient contrasts and variation in mark, and whether you’re filling the paper in an interesting and effective way.

Part 2 Project 3 Exercise 3 course note image
Leyla Bilsborough, Peppers (showing a range of tones in cross hatching)


On a weekend out on the East Sutherland coast we spent a day on the beach at Brora, dog playing on the sand and in the North Sea – chasing waves and generally having a rare old time. I had noticed this decaying wooden stump of a beach pole on a previous visit and decided that it would make an ideal subject for this exercise.

I spent the day lightly sketching in the outline and beginning to mark in the various colours and tones of the shape of the stump and the surrounding seaweed swirls on the sandy surface with a variety of coloured pencils – until the incoming tide meant a hasty retreat.

When I got back home and looked at the A3 sheet of smooth paper again I washed in the bluish/green background and then started to try and pick out some of the shadows, darks and highlights.

I used many different directions of cross-hatching, but still didn’t seem to catch striking contrasts in the drawing.

Apart form the shape of the stump, I tried to focus on the curved/eaten out sea patterns of the wood, the dark hole in the stump on the left, the darker fracture lines running down the stump, the weaving lines and shapes of the kelp and the stones in the foreground.

Part 2 Project 3 Exercise 3 - Detail and tone draft
Part 2 Project 3 Exercise 3 – Detail and tone draft

I left the drawing overnight and when I returned to it the next morning it looked to me like a washed up parcel wrapped in chains!

More work required.

Today, 15th June, I returned to the drawing and began the fairly laborious process of trying to bring the image into life. I over cross-hatched areas with different colours of pencils and did my best to add darker and mid-tones as well as using a malleable rubber to remove some of the colour to create spots of highlight.

I am in no doubt that I could have kept on at this process of adding darker marks and colours until the whole drawing was totally overworked. So, where and when do you stop?

Part 2 Project 3 Exercise 3 - Detail and tone
Part 2 Project 3 Exercise 3 – Detail and tone

I’m not that happy with this exercise as it turned out. Maybe it is because I Haven’t really managed to capture the 3D-ness of the stump and the seaweed.

But then, considering the kind of mark making I have used, with cross-hatching and random marks of varying kinds, colours and intensity, it is hardly surprising that the overall effect is one of flatness.


Before you move on, review your work for this project and make some notes in your learning log.

• Which drawing media did you find most effective to use for which effects?

• What sort of marks work well to create tone, pattern and texture? Make notes in your sketchbook beside some sample marks. This will prove useful as you continue your journey as an artist.

• Look at the composition of the drawings you’ve done in this project. Make some sketches and notes about how you might create more interesting compositions.

In this project (3 – Detailed observation of natural objects) I have found that markers and dip pens have provided me with the best medium to create boldness and vibrancy in my drawing. Their versatility and blending capabilities have been the most enjoyable to work with.

The detail and simple line of Exercise 2 provided an opportunity to experiment with line in some interesting and unexpected ways. I was quite apprehensive when I started this exercise, but soon found myself loosening up and enjoying a fair degree of random ‘scribbling’! I think the black fibre-tip pen worked well in capturing the tone, pattern and texture of the ‘ice cream’ coconut shells.

The hardest medium I have used in this exercise is the coloured pencil. I have not mastered it at all yet. I find blending difficult and some of my cross-hatching has not been that effective and at times a bit crude.

Having said all that I am reasonably happy with the three exercise compositions. I am sure that they all could be improved in terms of placement on the drawing surface. Looking back, I now think that my idea sketch 3 for Exercise 1 makes a better compositional arrangement as it has more depth and is less flat looking
than my chosen composition.

Part 2 Project 3 - review
Part 2 Project 3 – Sketchbook review notes

Stuart Brownlee – 512319
16 July 2015