Light and Shade in Charcoal, Pencil and Brush Drawing (Dover Art Instruction)

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Metalpoint drawing usually employs either of two metals: silver or lead. Paper comes in a variety of different sizes and qualities, ranging from newspaper grade up to high quality and relatively expensive paper sold as individual sheets. Smooth paper is good for rendering fine detail, but a more "toothy" paper holds the drawing material better. Thus a coarser material is useful for producing deeper contrast.

Newsprint and typing paper may be useful for practice and rough sketches. Tracing paper is used to experiment over a half-finished drawing, and to transfer a design from one sheet to another. Cartridge paper is the basic type of drawing paper sold in pads. Bristol board and even heavier acid-free boards, frequently with smooth finishes, are used for drawing fine detail and do not distort when wet media ink, washes are applied. Vellum is extremely smooth and suitable for very fine detail.

Coldpressed watercolor paper may be favored for ink drawing due to its texture. Acid-free, archival quality paper keeps its color and texture far longer than wood pulp based paper such as newsprint , which turns yellow and becomes brittle much sooner. The basic tools are a drawing board or table, pencil sharpener and eraser , and for ink drawing, blotting paper. Other tools used are circle compass , ruler , and set square. Fixative is used to prevent pencil and crayon marks from smudging. Drafting tape is used to secure paper to drawing surface, and also to mask an area to keep it free of accidental marks, such as sprayed or spattered materials and washes.

An easel or slanted table is used to keep the drawing surface in a suitable position, which is generally more horizontal than the position used in painting. Almost all draftsmen use their hands and fingers to apply the media, with the exception of some handicapped individuals who draw with their mouth or feet. Prior to working on an image, the artist typically explores how various media work. They may try different drawing implements on practice sheets to determine value and texture, and how to apply the implement to produce various effects.

The artist's choice of drawing strokes affects the appearance of the image.

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Pen and ink drawings often use hatching — groups of parallel lines. Broken hatching, or lines with intermittent breaks, form lighter tones — and controlling the density of the breaks achieves a gradation of tone. Stippling uses dots to produce tone, texture and shade. Different textures can be achieved depending on the method used to build tone. Drawings in dry media often use similar techniques, though pencils and drawing sticks can achieve continuous variations in tone.

Typically a drawing is filled in based on which hand the artist favors.

Drawing Lesson - A Theory of Light and Shade

A right-handed artist draws from left to right to avoid smearing the image. Erasers can remove unwanted lines, lighten tones, and clean up stray marks. In a sketch or outline drawing, lines drawn often follow the contour of the subject, creating depth by looking like shadows cast from a light in the artist's position. Sometimes the artist leaves a section of the image untouched while filling in the remainder. The shape of the area to preserve can be painted with masking fluid or cut out of a frisket and applied to the drawing surface, protecting the surface from stray marks until the mask is removed.

Light and Shade in Charcoal, Pencil and Brush Drawing

Another method to preserve a section of the image is to apply a spray-on fixative to the surface. This holds loose material more firmly to the sheet and prevents it from smearing. However the fixative spray typically uses chemicals that can harm the respiratory system, so it should be employed in a well-ventilated area such as outdoors.

Another technique is subtractive drawing in which the drawing surface is covered with graphite or charcoal and then erased to make the image. Shading is the technique of varying the tonal values on the paper to represent the shade of the material as well as the placement of the shadows.


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Careful attention to reflected light, shadows and highlights can result in a very realistic rendition of the image. Blending uses an implement to soften or spread the original drawing strokes. Blending is most easily done with a medium that does not immediately fix itself, such as graphite, chalk, or charcoal, although freshly applied ink can be smudged, wet or dry, for some effects.

For shading and blending, the artist can use a blending stump , tissue , a kneaded eraser , a fingertip, or any combination of them. A piece of chamois is useful for creating smooth textures, and for removing material to lighten the tone. Continuous tone can be achieved with graphite on a smooth surface without blending, but the technique is laborious, involving small circular or oval strokes with a somewhat blunt point. Shading techniques that also introduce texture to the drawing include hatching and stippling.

A number of other methods produce texture. In addition to the choice of paper, drawing material and technique affect texture. Texture can be made to appear more realistic when it is drawn next to a contrasting texture; a coarse texture is more obvious when placed next to a smoothly blended area.

A similar effect can be achieved by drawing different tones close together. A light edge next to a dark background stands out to the eye, and almost appears to float above the surface. Measuring the dimensions of a subject while blocking in the drawing is an important step in producing a realistic rendition of the subject. Tools such as a compass can be used to measure the angles of different sides. These angles can be reproduced on the drawing surface and then rechecked to make sure they are accurate.

Another form of measurement is to compare the relative sizes of different parts of the subject with each other. A finger placed at a point along the drawing implement can be used to compare that dimension with other parts of the image. A ruler can be used both as a straightedge and a device to compute proportions.

When attempting to draw a complicated shape such as a human figure, it is helpful at first to represent the form with a set of primitive volumes. Almost any form can be represented by some combination of the cube, sphere, cylinder, and cone. Once these basic volumes have been assembled into a likeness, then the drawing can be refined into a more accurate and polished form. The lines of the primitive volumes are removed and replaced by the final likeness. Drawing the underlying construction is a fundamental skill for representational art, and is taught in many books and schools.

Its correct application resolves most uncertainties about smaller details, and makes the final image look consistent. A more refined art of figure drawing relies upon the artist possessing a deep understanding of anatomy and the human proportions. A trained artist is familiar with the skeleton structure, joint location, muscle placement, tendon movement, and how the different parts work together during movement. This allows the artist to render more natural poses that do not appear artificially stiff.

Pencil, Ink and Charcoal Drawing

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