More Complex Subjects

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Level-two choices from your veggie collection are somewhat more complex. However, proceed using the same methods. The following helpful hints are for approaching particular subjects:

• Count out the number of segments in lobed subject matter, such as pumpkins, acorn squash, or colored peppers. On a pepper each highlight shape is specific in shape to the surface it sits on. Keep your eraser clean. There's a real payoff to careful rendering of these.

• Eggplants have varying darks, not just one. Some highlights are crisp, others can be swabbed with the side of eraser. Don't forget to draw the stem end carefully, observing that it has a variety of values.

• Cabbages require an overall value against which one can pick out ribs with an eraser. To appear round, its entire surface, including patterns, is affected by shadow values.

• Lemons require a light layer of values against which little pores can be picked out with an eraser. The overall shape is what says lemon, not tons of surface detail.

when is a drawing finished?

The more you observe and add to your drawing in the way of value detail, the more closely you replicate the dimensionality in front of you. But some artists make charcoal studies rapidly, in a more direct fashion. Fast finishers in class will glance around, wondering if they should keep going, even though they feel finished with their drawing. If that sounds like your experience, examine your work at a distance to help you decide. If you like it, it's complete. The drawing rules, more than the initial aim or directions. If you aren't satisfied, follow the evaluation procedure, until you are. Sometimes a nice drawing pops out quickly. If it does, accept the gift!

Now, take a break and take a look. Position your paper so you see both drawing and subject at once, from the same vantage point from which you drew. Find three aspects of your drawing that you can improve. Take a fifteen-minute break before doing more.

Subjects Draw

"I discovered that if I could find just one thing and change that—meaning, fix it—then I could see the next thing that I could change."

-student nancy opgaard

"When I did this charcoal, chaos was all around me. My son was doing his homework, my daughter was in and out, the dog was doing what she does—so it was a surprise that the drawing came out at all." —student stephanie seidel roving Your Charcoal Drawing

To refine your value shapes, observe how those shapes fit together, just as you did in Chapter 1. Note how some shapes have crisp edges, others soft. Use your sampler tools to feather the edges to soften them or use your finger to blend. You'll bear down on one side of the charcoal for crisp ones, or use your eraser to soften an edge in the co-joined negative space.

Highlights are value shapes as well, with crisp and soft edges. Sharp edges have precise downward dabbing; soft ones call for pulling at the highlight edge to break it down and blend it slightly into the surrounding darker value. To make the highlight stand out, you need contrast with a surrounding darker value. Make sure you have enough contrast by putting the surrounding value on first, overlapping the planned highlight area. Then use a clean eraser tool to dab and lift out charcoal to reveal the paper white.

refining your contour line

Initially, you'll rely on your contour line to represent your subject. However, we see both soft or crisp edges due to contrast in value shapes, not because there's an actual line around objects. Contour lines are an artistic device; they don't correspond direcdy to how we see the world. Look around you. Find two objects with contrasting values slightly overlapping. Do you see the edge because of an actual outline? Or is it the contrast between two different value shapes that you see?

If needed, soften your contour line by running a QTip, eraser tool, or finger over it. Reinforce the edge here and there with contour line. Do what works to make your drawing interesting and satisfying. This is your choice, because it's art, not reality.

improving dimension

When you want to create the illusion of dimension, the same principles apply for all value drawings. Spotting problems and the solutions for them, as presented in Chapter 4, can be applied to charcoal as well. To review:

• If a three-dimensional object looks flat, its contours are too uniformly emphasized or three values aren 7 present.

• If an object looks fragmented, it lacks middle values and/or has overly sharp transitions between values.

• If an object is vague and seems to fade, it lacks value contrasts and clear edges.

new solutions

The use of your kneaded eraser with charcoal allows you to extend values into the lighter, brighter range, just as you did with darker values in pencil and wash. It's not that you can go lighter than the white paper provides. However, by using the eraser effectively, you can create the impression of a more dramatic value range.

If your still life has high contrast but you haven't captured the effect to your satisfaction, perhaps you need to push the light areas further-especially if you've pushed the darks as far as seems accurate. This most often occurs in a large, light area, rather than a small highlight. While keeping an eye on the still-life contrast, gradually scrub the lightest areas with your eraser. Try to match the extent of high contrast as you erase. Remember, you can add charcoal back if you take it too far.

You may not feel comfortable with this technique now. When you do try it, work a small area. Evaluate its effect from a distance to see if it helps. This can be done in small, controlled steps.

Charcoal Rubbing Techniques

"I had three different colored peppers, so I got those out. I put the outline in first, to see where they were in space, then the local values. For lighter areas, I picked up layers of charcoal, mostly with my finger. The yellow pepper was hardest." —student Stephanie seidel

Pumpkins Drawings Charcoal

"What I loved about this drawing was how physical it was working with the charcoal. Rubbing and redrawing, using the eraser to pick up a bit here and there. My whole body could get involved when I put in the ground. I could dance it!"

—student patricia r. spoor

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