Week 11-13 summary – learning to draw

This covers weeks 11-13 of my year of learning to draw. This was quite an exciting few weeks of drawing learning and practice. My main focus during these three weeks was learning about shading and shadows.

Brent Eviston has two courses on shading, “Shading Fundamentals : Drawing with Dramatic Light and Shadow” and Shading Beyond the Basics: Shade Any Subject No Matter How Complex“. I did both of them this month.

Brent’s two shading courses cover quite a lot of territory. You start with learning about values of light and dark. Then you move on to learning about the line of termination, cast shadows, form shadows, the core shadow, and how these concepts apply to different geometric shapes. This meant spending a lot of time observing how light falls on very basic forms (spheres, boxes, and cylinders) and noticing the patters of shade and shadow that are created. And then, of course, trying to choose the important parts of what you see and render them as drawings.

I took my time with these two courses and did a LOT of practice. Below are some of the practice pages from the shading courses.

Value scale, and notes about shade and shadow.
A sphere on grey toned paper.
Some of my practice pages from week 11
Practicing form and cast shadows with basic shapes – I did a lot of these.
Applying what I learned to organic shapes (ipad Procreate with photo reference)
Learning to shade convex objects (and practicing ellipses…oh, those dreaded ellipses).
Pear in charcoal pencil
Another pear in colored pencil (I drew a lot of pears this month)
Shading a complex object. I’ve put my photo reference as an inset. There is no way I could have drawn this back in November when I started.
A celery root in colored pencil
Second try at a celery root. In November I wouldn’t have even attempted this. I also tried to make a basic composition with a background and foreground. Covering that much territory with a small colored pencil is pretty hard on my hands.

One thing I noticed during my shading practice is that I kept getting seduced into wanting to render too many details. I think this is partly because the fine tip of the colored pencils I’ve been invites you to draw details. I’d start a big sheet of practice paper intending to draw a lot of basic shapes with their cast and form shadows, and an hour later I’d still be working on the second one because I was trying to get too detailed.

My tendency to want to put in too many details was becoming a bad habit, because I would find myself doing it without realizing it. When you want to break a bad habit (or create a good one) it helps to make the bad behavior hard to do, and the desired behavior as easy as possible to do.

So to make it basically impossible to work on details I ordered a bunch of “blunt” media (charcoal and different chalks and pastels). This was a good move, because it FORCES me to stick to the big shapes and just work on the forms and values. I seem to have a really hard time figuring out the shape of cast shadows when drawing from life, so I need to do a LOT of practice just blocking out basic forms, the “line of termination” and the cast shadows. I’ll learn more from doing, say, 20 different iterations of a sphere, reflecting on my mistakes and trying again, than I will by just slaving away over one or two for ages trying to make them perfect.

Sweet potato – Example of basic shape and shading practice with fat charcoal.
sugar beet charcoal pencil
I used a charcoal pencil for this sugar beet, and ended up doing more detail than I planned just because I had access to a finer tip!

These large, soft mediums sure are messy, though! I had to bring in my dust buster to vacuum up the dust that accumulates, and also keep a hand towel next to me to wipe off my dusty fingers. I have a little dog who loves my attention, and my blackened, dusty charcoal hands are a dangerous combination with her fluffy white coat!

After completing the two shading courses, I decided to take the plunge and move on to learn the art of Figure drawing. You can read about how that is going here.

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