Photo journalists seem to like finding subjects with strong cast shadows — you can find lots of these in your local newspapers from time to time. Select a few of these and make corresponding formats (margins) in your sketchbook. Then draw only the shadows as your subject matter. Can you tell what time of day it is by observing the length of the shadows? From which direction is the light source? This is a good way to concentrate on shape only to the exclusion of anything else.
Category Archives: WHAT TO DRAW IN YOUR SKETCHBOOK
ASSIGNMENTS I HAVE MADE FOR MY DRAWING STUDENTS AND WHICH I DREW IN MY OWN SKETCHBOOKS
In this abstracted 16 x 16″ landscape, I was trying to use one of the six basic value schemes mentioned by Edgar Whitney. The scheme was a little dark with a lot of light in medium values. I seldom use this value scheme; that’s why I wanted to try it. I also wanted to continue breaking up the picture plane into sections, but still be able to lead the eye movement to the center of interest (the barn in the upper right area). As usual, I worked out the value and color scheme in my sketchbook and decided to use a split-complementary color scheme: blue, red orange, orange, and yellow orange. The acrylic colors I used were Cadmium Orange, Hansa Yellow, Indian Yellow, Thalo Blue, Prussian Blue, Raw sienna, Burnt Sienna, Cadium Red Light and Titanium White. (At least, that’s what I think I used — hard to remember now!)
Using a monochromatic color scheme is one of the best ways to understand the use of value. “Mono” means “one”, and “chroma” means “color,” so all you can use is one color with various tints, tones and shades for your painting. If you add white to a hue (another name for ‘color’), it is called a “tint;” if you add gray, it is called a “tone;” and if you add black, it is called a “shade.” So all you have is the darkness and lightness of the color for variety. Sometimes I like to do monochromatic underpaintings for my pastel works – the underneath color sets the mood for the rest of the painting.
To further complicate things, every color has its own value. For instance, yellow is a light value, purple is a dark value. Greens and oranges are middle values. You can see this best by looking at colors through a red glass (or a green glass if looking at red hues). You will be able to see the relative value of the colors that way.
Here is the color wheel image sectioned off so that only a blue-green hue is selected. You can see that the tints and tones are much muted.
In the example below, I have used the same subject as in the complementary color example, but with a monochromatic color scheme of blue with whites, grays, and blacks. The time of day seems to be early evening, with perhaps a little light left in the sky.
Try this exercise if you like and let me know how it turns out. I highly recommend the book by Stephen Quiller, COLOR CHOICES; MAKING COLOR SENSE OUT OF COLOR THEORY, which I used in my exercises.
There is a great deal of difference in how you make a detailed drawing in graphite pencil. You can’t lay your pencil on the side and scumble back and forth for the proper value. That doesn’t look too good. No, you must keep your pencil tip sharp and use it at a more upward angle. If you want a drawing that is finely “rendered,” as opposed to just “sketching,” I recommend the following procedure.
The first step is an accurate drawing. Not only are the positive shapes drawn correctly, but the shadows and highlights are also “mapped” out — which means their shapes are drawn as well. Be sure that your objects are connected either by overlapping or cast shadows. Here’s my example:
The reason for the many cast shadows in this is because I have light sources in my set up – not a wise decision! You notice that I have used a center line to make sure my objects are symmetrical, and that I have mapped out the reflections in the silver goblet.
My second example shows that I have layered a light value over all the shapes in my drawing. I did this with a 2H pencil and covered up all the white paper. I made sure not to lose the highlight and shadow shapes.
In this final example, I have darkened the values with 2B-4B-6B pencils, and erased with an electric eraser where the highlights are. The silver goblet now looks shiny. This is a good way to depict texture in a drawing: overall layering with a light pencil, darkening with softer pencils for the shadows, and erasing the highlights. Try it on your next drawing.
I’m sure everyone remembers the old Chinese proverb, “One picture is worth more than a thousand words.” A thousand words seem like a lot, but it does seem true that drawing is a universal language understood in all countries. This is especially noticeable in expressing certain emotions. I sometimes begin my basic drawing classes with an exercise that prompts students to make spontaneous marks on sketchbook paper as I call out a certain human emotion, such as ‘joy.’ After several of these words are called out, the students compare their drawings. It is always amazing to note how much alike the drawings are for the emotions depicted. I ask the students to use lines only, and not symbols. (Someone is always wanting to draw a heart for the word, “love.”) Sometimes the lines can be joined to make shapes, but this is not necessary.
I ask my students to divide their sketchbook paper into 12 blocks, all about 2 x 3 inches each and number the blocks from 1 to 12. Then I call out an emotion and have them quickly draw a line or lines to express that emotion. The emotions used on the example below are 1. anger, 2. anxiety, 3. loneliness, 4. joy, 5. power, 6. love, 7. peace, 8. femininity, 9. fear, 10. depression, 11. masculinity, and 12. curiosity. When the exercise is completed, the students compare their results with others in the class. Some drawings as compared, such as anger, anxiety, and loneliness are almost identical!
Here are my results:
Here are some more ideas from my list — ideas for compositions that I haven’t tried. They are mostly ideas for drawing subjects. The majority of these ideas came from the book by Bert Dodson: KEYS TO DRAWING WITH IMAGINATION. This is a great book to have in your collection. I got it from North Light books, and I recommend it highly. These are all things I wanted to try at some point or another, and I think I will pretty soon. I’ll share when I do, but please let me know if you try some of them!
1. Draw a sequence of views from outdoors to indoors or reverse. Eliminate unessential detail. Select views that make a strong transition from wide open space to middle ground to closeup space.
2. Photograph an object from multiple perspectives in black and white. Vary the scale and perspective. Make a collage in an interesting composition. Translate this into a drawing and extend random distortions. Put the collage away before finishing the drawing.
3. Observe a rocky subject and make several sketches. Pay attention to the type of stroke used. Now, redraw to achieve a more dramatic result. Try upside down, mirror images, a bigger tool, changing the metaphor such as cracked open nuts, or pebbles.
4. Use a tree trunk or its branches as a subject. Emphasize the character of the stroke in several sketches. Then do a spin -off that further emphasizes and strengthens the pattern.
5. Take one of your previous drawings and redraw it in rhythmic lines. Don’t use outlines. let curving parallels describe form by bending around them. Lines should converge near the edges and widen in central areas to create a 3D effect.
I have lots more suggestions for sketchbook drawings, but alas, I never drew them. Hopefully, you will take some of these suggestions and try them yourself in your sketchbooks. If you do, and want to send me some images, I will be happy to post these on my blog.
Idea No. 1: Make a list of five objects. Make a list of five locations or environments. Combine one from each list into a drawing, such as: a fish in a forest, an alligator on the kitchen table, a lamp in a cloudy sky. Make it outrageous!
Idea No. 2: Draw a still life of reflective and transparent objects — use three different surface qualities. Use a viewfinder to isolate an area of the still life with a wide range of values and elements. Turn this area into a larger drawing either abstract or representational.
Idea No. 3: Tell a story in 4-5 consecutive views on separate sheets of your sketchbook. Use the medium of your choice.
Idea No. 4: Make a drawing depicting an emotion without a figure. How can you do this through space, life, and perspective? For example: space = bedroom, elevator; light = a single bare bulb or candle; perspective = looking upward or downward.
Idea No. 5: An alphabetical landscape: use a short but profound word like WAR and draw a wide, horizontal rectangle on a sketchbook page. Put capital letters in this field. Break up the space in a dynamic way and use negative space to provide the environment. Use perspective and color on the letters.
More to come later…
FIND A SCARY HALLOWEEN MASK AND DRAW IT IN YOUR MOST GHOULISH MANNER. MAKE SURE THERE ARE LOTS OF SHADOWS AND DARKNESS IN YOUR DESIGN. MANIPULATE AND DISTORT THE IMAGES TO MAKE THEM EVEN SCARIER. THESE MEXICAN MASKS I PHOTOGRAPHED IN MEXICO, BUT THE GHOST MASK I FOUND ON MY SOFTWARE. I HAVEN’T DRAWN ANY OF THESE AS YET, BUT I CAN HARDLY WAIT TO DO IT!
LOOK OUT A WINDOW IN YOUR HOUSE/APARTMENT. USING THE WINDOW FRAME AS YOUR FORMAT, MAKE ANOTHER FORMAT IN YOUR SKETCHBOOK CORRESPONDING TO THE SHAPE OF THE WINDOW. THINK OF THE PANE OF GLASS AS THE PICTURE PLANE AND DRAW WHAT YOU SEE FROM THAT VIEWPOINT. THIS DRAWING WAS DONE FROM ONE OF THE WINDOWS IN MY UPSTAIRS STUDIO.