Posted in 05 Observing Shadow Using Blocks of Tone, COURSEWORK, Drawing 1, Part 1 - Form and Gesture

Observing Shadow Using Blocks of Tone

After reading the brief for this exercise I concluded that I was to demonstrate an understanding, awareness and ability to observe light, darks and the mid tones in between.  It was for this reason therefore that simplicity in terms of composition and objects used are required in order to help highlight this.  With that in mind I found two random, pale objects – being a candle and a flower pot –  and set them simply on a table using a studio daylight lamp to light the subject quite dramatically from the top left.  In the previous exercise I had already done something very similar, a number of the objects I drew were pale and quite simply shaped and so I felt I had already done enough experimentation to jump straight into the piece.  In hindsight I should have done a couple of preliminary drawings in my sketchbook even if only very quick simple sketches.  Although the drawing looks nice I have made a few errors in terms of shape, this is especially noticeable on a couple of horizontal curves on the pot and possibly the right hand side of the pot too.  In future I shall make an effort where necessary to do a few sketches before I begin, if only just to warm up and get my eye in.  This exercise though was about observing tone and in this this sense I feel I have been successful, I have tried to not only observe the darks and lights but to study them trying to find the origin of both which can be seen in the diagram above.

Using a viewfinder and some willow charcoal I started with a very basic outline drawing just to separate the negative space from subject using the borders of the support and then started laying in the darkest areas (leaving the lightest areas) using the side of the stick and then trying to blend away uneven pigment using my finger.  As I blended the charcoal it lightened up quite significantly and I lost a lot of the darkness, so I reapplied some more charcoal in an attempt to darken everything back down again, whilst this was an improvement it still wasn’t going as dark as I would have liked it, in order to show a full range of values.  This is possibly down to the paper I was using, it is a mixed media paper with a medium tooth and whilst it does mentioned being suitable for charcoal/pastel I wonder perhaps if a dedicated pastel paper may have worked better and I will definitely try this the next time I use willow charcoal.  For this reason I switched to compressed charcoal which is darker in nature and this seemed to work much better for me.  I continued layering in the darkest areas and blending them out towards the lightest parts and then reapplying charcoal to the darkest areas until satisfied.  There are of course areas that need not be blended and I used an eraser to remove pigment creating bold highlights and applied thicker layers of charcoal for the shadows.  I like the look of this drawing it has some atmosphere to it, I think this is partly due to the dark background but also there is quite a high contrast between the darkest dark’s and the lightest lights due to the strength and proximity of the lamp.  Whilst drawing this piece I tried not to see the objects as they are – being a candle and a flower pot – but rather as blocks of tone.  I think I was successful in this and in fact I didn’t realise the cast shadow from the candle onto the flower was just that until around halfway through the picture when I stepped back to assess what I had done up until that point.  This drawing looks three dimensional and has form, this is certainly achieved through the use of tone as I have drawn this piece almost exclusively in this way. I haven’t been hugely experimental throughout this exercise, choosing instead to entirely concentrate on the exercise at hand.  If I were to do this again however, I may choose to be a little more experimental, though this probably would have occurred a little more naturally if I had done some preliminary sketches, mentioned earlier.