Weight Is in the Rear but Coming Up Fast

Let's go back to those basic shapes you collected and practiced drawing in space. In Chapter 9, "Step Up to a Still Life: Composition, Composition, Composition," you drew them as contour line drawings. Now, try them as toned 3-D objects. Pick objects that are simple and not too richly colored or patterned for starters.

1. Establish a light source and direction. See how the light plays on the objects. See the gradation of tone relative to your chart of tonal range.

2. Squint at your arrangement, you will find it easier to see the lights and darks. Squinting makes it easier to see the tones. It softens detail and blurs the mid-tone so that you can see the extremes on your tonal scale.

3. Pick the lightest spots like highlights on fruit or the lighted side of a cube or mug. These areas will be at the light end of your tonal range.

4. Decide on the darkest spots, like spaces between things or a darker object. These areas will be on the darker end of your scale of darks. How dark do you want the darks to go?

5. Pick the middle tone between the lightest one and your choice of the darkest. Try to see that tonal color in your arrangement, what is halfway between light and dark. This play of light and dark has a name, naturally: chiaroscuro.

No amount of tonal rendering will make for a sense of weight and volume if the object drawn doesn't have enough space to be three-dimensional. Your careful seeing and drawing of the shape and the relationships between things must come first. Then, contour line on flatter items and tone on things with greater weight can suggest the differences in volume.

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