Building Cont Values Gradually

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Imagine you're taking a walk on a foggy day. In the distance, something approaches. At first, all you see is a pale, indistinct gray shape. As it comes closer, you see contrast in the middle range and enough definition of edges to recognize a person. By the time the person is closer, high-contrast values, sharp edges, and specific details have emerged. Keep this progression in mind when you work with this medium.


Create several "poses" for your fabric and make a series of drawings. If you can't pin fabric to a wall, hang it on a hook, doorknob, or over a chair arm. A drawing board is helpful for this exercise. Clip several pieces of newsprint to it as a cushion, then rest the bottom on your lap, the back against a table edge. If you don't have a drawing board, substitute your 14"-x-17" drawing pad for extra support (instead of a newsprint pad, which tends to collapse easily). Light your setup to bring out the shapes of folds. If your draping gets supercom-plicated, reduce the number of folds to simplify the project. In this exercise, just try drawing contours accurately, but not perfectly. If you get lost, begin again where you can find a clear line to follow, and build in that area.

1 Begin with light marks to softly define the shapes you see. Place your drawing next to the fabric; step back to evaluate, to see if it's congruent with your model.

2 Use contour drawing to document folds, which radiate from tension points where the fabric is hung, pinned, or caught. Don't outline the whole shape first. Build in areas as you record folds.

3 Move from the top of your drawing downward, letting gravity pull your hand gradually along your paper as you "go with the flow," transcribing edges.

4 Using the flat side of your Conte, apply all shadow shapes in the same light-to-middle range. Let your stick move along the shapes you see, rubbing in values lightly. Bring the stick right up to contour lines and press in tightly to define sharp-edged shadow shapes.

5 You don't need to fill in all folds or shadows. If some folds are completed and others just suggested, as in some of the most interesting drawings, the viewer's imagination is engaged.

As these drapery drawings illustrate so well, dark values make areas seem to recede, which in turn, make lighter areas appear to move forward. The greater the contrast between dark and light, accompanied by transitional middle values, the greater the illusion of depth. student drawings by pam heberton (top) and kristen nimr (bottom)

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Freehand Sketching An Introduction

Freehand Sketching An Introduction

Learn to sketch by working through these quick, simple lessons. This Learn to Sketch course will help you learn to draw what you see and develop your skills.

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