Sunday, February 22, 2009

Drawing,light and shadow.

Here is a drawing by Pierre-Paul Prodhon, a French artist who lived from 1758 until 1823. The image is courtesy of . whose online museum is something you should be aware of, as it is a great resource. I am routinely indebted to them for images without which much of this tutorial would not be possible.

This beautiful figure is a good example in which to clearly observe an artist finding the shadow edge or our "bed bug line". His shadow edge is easy to see and the two worlds, the light and the shadow are carefully divided. I am now going to write something you will have to read a few times to understand. The first time I heard it, I thought it was gibberish;




There are two separate worlds with no note occurring in both. When we draw, we are "sorting " the values into the two great camps, light and shadow. Everything belongs to one or the other. Either the light strikes it or it doesn't.

No matter how dark some gradation in the halftone may appear, it is never as low in value as anything on the shadow side of our drawing. When you get this overly dark halftone it is because you are comparing one part of the halftone against another, rather than looking at the object in its entirety. This is what causes a problem called over modeling. More on that in the future.

Routinely when I teach I will explain this to students who "get" the concept. Then when I join them at their easel, I will place the heel of my brush at some random point on their canvas and ask them "is this in the light, or is this in the shadow?" They are sort of dumbfounded and will look down at their feet and say they don't know, or that its sort of in both, or neither. Every time your brush or pencil touches that canvas you need to know whether that mark you are making is in the light or if it is in the shadow. Every time. If you place one note from the light into the shadow the illusion of form vanishes.

PS. the reason I am finishing the aforementioned charcoal drawing from left to right is, because that way ( since I am right handed) the heel of my hand is to the right of, and not sitting on and smearing the delicate area of drawing I have just completed.


JAMES A. COOK said...

Your blog is helping me out and have been following your sugestions. I know this blog takes alot of work but it is just what I need and I appriciate all of your efforts.


Stapleton Kearns said...

Thanx James
You are right about the blog being a lot of work.I am enjoying it though and my readership is growing slowly. Let me know if you think of something you would like me to write about,or if something I have written is unclear.......Stape

Unknown said...

This produced for me an enormous AHA moment. I realize now why my drawings appear so flat and sometimes muddy. Thanks, Stape!

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thanx for being out there! I intend to go on with this theme on values in drawing. Look back in my previous posts at the drawings by Ingres and notice the minimal amount of modulation in the lights. All of which are very understated and very delicate,in fact they are almost breathed onto the paper,using no more modulation than is absolutely necessary to make the form turn. You can help steer this blog with your responses,when I read your comments it really is helpful to know what my readers out there find useful..........Stape

Anonymous said...

thanks from me too. I"m just catching up on your blog, so so helpful. A load of ah-ha moments for me. Judy

Carol said...

Thank you so much! I've made some notes from this post, together with a 10-value scale for reference. Very helpful.

jpgr said...

Stape wasnt sure if my original comment was forwarded.Iunderstand that on a single object that nothing in light is as dark as anything in shadow and vise versa,my problem is where things in light within a scene are still reading as dark for example in your photograph,your dark jacket in light reads darker than the shadow on your would you treat this?

jpgr said...

Stape.I get that on a single object nothing in light is darker than anything in shadow. where i seem to have a problem is,when light hits a scene there are things that are being hit by the light that are still reading as dark ie a dark suite.Iknow that a lot say that even black stuff, being hit by light reads around a value 5 or 6 and white shadow reads darker,I seem to see dark stuff in light that stays dark.any advice.