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"finger painting"

When you smudge, both the movement of your pencil and finger echo the shape of the object you draw. Feel its contours in your imagination, then recreate that impression with the movement of pencil and/or finger. Give yourself permission to do it, to play with it. It's a kind of finger-painting technique that works to create the illusion of an object's surface.

Wherever you're sitting now, check out contrasts in the values around you: books on the shelf, furniture, the markings on your cat, the groceries on your counter. If you're people-watching, notice that each face has its own unique value scheme. Which has the darker value: brunette or blond hair? What about red hair? When you discern that it fits between the two, you've already made a value scale in your mind.

using household items

Gather seven objects with different solid colors and different values from around your home. Avoid things that are transparent or patterned. A mixture of food, shoes, clothes, and toys will do. Arrange them in a graduated sequence, from darkest to lightest.

squinting helps

Close your eyes nearly shut to create a slightly blurred effect. This will eliminate detail and crisp edges, and allow you to focus on the basic, overall value of the objects you've lined up.

It's fun and useful to do this exercise with assistants—kids or adults. Explain the goal and the squint technique. Then take turns placing your collection of objects on a value scale. Just one object per turn, and you can use a turn to correct another's choice.

Two areas will be particularly challenging: Close values are more difficult to distinguish from one another than high-contrast values; and the unique quality of intense colors doesn't translate entirely. They generally fall in the light-to-middle range.

Place objects in the dark and light ends first. Then fill in the middle values, building toward either end. Objects whose values are more difficult to establish will fall in the middle range.

Pick up a problem object and hold it next to each of your other lined-up objects until you find where it belongs. Don't try to get a perfect sequence; just get a feel for the concept for now. There will be natural gaps from one object to the next, depending on the items you've chosen. Some beginners treat these moves like an international chess tournament, until I remind them they're only holding eggplants and lemons!

Leave the items that make up your value scale in place, since you will be referring to them again a bit later.

exercise: value application pencil sampler

The methods described below create a variety of grays, as in the "Pencil Sampler" (opposite). Refer to those illustrations, but spread yours out much more, use plenty of 14"-x-17" paper, and experiment freely. Notice how we use fine scribbling and other movements that are similar to crayoning. The amount of pressure applied to your pencil point determines how light or dark the values become. Modify results by smudging with your finger or eraser.

1 Test your pencils by scribbling to see their value differences. Drawing pencils with the H code have the hardest consistency, and therefore make lighter marks; pencils with the B code are much softer, making darker marks.

2 Use your 2B to draw meandering, lazy lines. Let the pressure ebb and flow freely. Lift the pencil and break the line if it feels natural. Notice how the pencil line turns light and dark as it moves, creating lost andfound edges, also known as abbreviated contour lines.

3 Draw six small squares and fill in three with 2B, three with 2H. Fill each square with a different value by controlling pressure: dark, medium, light. Smudge each square; compare the value range.

4 Draw a square. Fill it in with your 2B pencil, making it as dark as you can. Then go over half of the square with your 2H to see how it subdues the 2B texture.

5 Make a series of curved lines, close together.

6 Make a square filled in with horizontal and vertical scribbles.

7 Using your 2B, scribble a coil on your paper. Start with lots of pressure, keeping strokes close together. Ease pressure gradually into middle values, then light ones. Now do the same with your 2H. Erase some of the light end of the first scribbles, then some of the dark. Experiment with both erasers. See which pencil (and which end) is easiest to erase.

8 Make two small triangles, one with 2B, one with 2H. Fill in a value band around each triangle, using the pencil you made them with, respectively. Make the value darker than the triangle contour line. Fill in neatly until the gray band becomes the prominent shape, not the triangle. This is the basis for making convincing highlights; the value of the contour line must merge into the surrounding value. Notice which triangle attracts your eye.

9 Draw a curving line, about three inches long. Then move your hand farther back on the pencil than normal handwriting position. Starting at the line, fill in a one-inch-wide band with a middle-gray value, using long, multidirectional scribbles. The band should bend with the curve of your line. Resume the standard hand position on your pencil. Using more pressure and finer scribbling, build a second, darker band on half of the first, starting right at the line. Add a third, much darker band on half of the second, starting at the line. Create a smooth transition among all

Pencil Scribbles

three value areas, using pencil scribbles, eraser, or smudging techniques, so that the bands blend into one another.


Put the "Pencil Sampler" that you created on the wall, and step back. Do you see a variety of gray tones, from extremely dark to very pale, silvery gray? If you didn't make any area really dark, use your 2B to do it now. Keep in mind the full range of gray values at your disposal. Your 2B is the best overall pencil; however, 2H comes in handy for values that are light, silvery, and close, as in light skin or an egg. I often use the two pencils alternately: 2H to sketch in the basic shape and to develop the first value level; then I complete my drawing using 2B with 2H to subdue grainy texture, if needed.

PENCIL SAMPLER. This group of pencil marks shows how to translate the value differences you explored on the opposite page into gray tones with pencil. The various shapes and values of the marks are discussed in the exercise on these two pages.

These illustrations point up overall value (the tomato) and shadows on the objects themselves (the shallots).

drawings by student kim nightingale

The illusion of a particular surface is created with pencil strokes. As you examine particular shapes in your sampler, if the surface of your imaginary square looks flat, that is the effect you want. Straight strokes suggest flat surfaces; rounded strokes, a curved surface. Do the values you applied along the meandering contour line evoke roundness? Three values-local, middle (transitional), and shadow—with smooth transitions between them, can make an object appear three-dimensional.

local value scale

Returning to the seven household objects you've lined up into a value scale, make a pencil value scale from them, applying what you learned in your sampler exercises.

Begin by drawing a square to represent each object. Squint and fill in

Easy Drawings Household Objects

each square with the overall value of its corresponding object. There will be gaps in your scale, as there are gaps in the value range of the objects. However, you should see a gradual change in the squares from light to dark (or vice versa).

adding values to sketches

Find some items that you'd like to draw; use your 14"-x-17" paper. Smooth, rounded objects that have a sculptural quality are best for value studies. Keep them simple. But before drawing anything, let's concentrate on locating and seeing those different value categories.

Put the objects you plan to draw on a plain surface. Illuminate one side of the objects. (Don't use natural light; it moves faster than we can draw.) Turn off additional light sources. Now, see if you can locate these value areas on those objects:

• Local value is the dominant, overall value of an object, unaffected by shadow or reflections. It relates to an object's position on the value scale, from dark to light. For example, an eggplant has an overall darker value than a lemon, because purple is darker than yellow. The overall value of an eggplant is lighter than the shadow on it. Local value is the lightest of the three important values that make any object appear three-dimensional.

• Shadow values are the darkest, found in three broad categories. The first of these:

• Shadows on an object are caused by the play of light across it, creating shadows on the side farthest from the light. These shadows are the dark values that give an object its greatest sense of dimension.

• Cast shadows, the second group of shadow values, are those that fallfrom an object to the surface it sits on—in a still life, usually a tabletop—or across the surface of other objects. If you've ever walked down a road at night with the moon or a strong street light behind you, you've seen your own cast shadow. It may become long and distorted, but it's a unique reflection of your shape. If you're out with friends, each shadow can be assigned to each individual, much as it can be to each object on the table in front of you.

• Balance point shadows, the third group of shadow shapes, make up the small, very dark area just under an object, where it touches the surface it sits on. Put this shadow value in and it will "ground" your object. Without it, the object will tend to look suspended in space. Balance point and cast shadows give your object a sense of weight.

• Middle values provide transition between light and dark value shapes, to create the illusion of dimensionality. Pencil is the perfect medium for replicating that softly blended transitional value. Squinting helps you see shadow shapes. Wljenyou can see shadows, it helps you to draw the whole shape, since light and dark puzzle pieces interlock at a common border.

• Reflected light can occur as highlight or as lighter areas within a shadow. Highlights are areas of reflected light— the brightest spots within light areas of an object. Highlights are often seen as crisp-edged shapes on wet, glossy, smooth, and hard surfaces. In contrast, matte, nonre-flective surfaces have light areas, but not highlights. Highlights can be present or not, and are not as crucial as the overall lightest area of the object in creating dimension. Reflected light causes lighter areas within a shadow, but in that case, they are still part of a shadow. Keep them darker than light areas of the object.

strategy for depicting highlights

Highlights on clear glass require a local value of light gray, to provide contrast for the white highlights.

Light Shadow Drawing

This drawing contains several kinds of shadows. While no highlights are present, notice the reflected light within the shadow on the pumpkin.

drawing by student kim nightingale

This drawing contains several kinds of shadows. While no highlights are present, notice the reflected light within the shadow on the pumpkin.

drawing by student kim nightingale

Cast Shadow Drawing
A cast shadow of the strawberry echoes its shape, just as highlights reflect varying surfaces of the glass, drawings by student kim nightingale
Objects The Shape Jack Lantern

Basic shapes of objects and shadows are the focus of this casual sketch.

drawing by student sherry artemenko shadow sketches

Using two or three differently shaped objects from your group, focus on their shadows. Squint to find the specific shadow shapes of each object, concentrating only on cast shadows and shadows on the objects themselves. Make some small, undeveloped "tryout" sketches, and use them just to practice seeing and recording shadow values. Tack them up where you can see them and the subjects, viewing from where you sat to make the drawing. Squint and compare the value shadow shapes.

"I tried to use a 2Bfor eveiything, but I found I had a heavj hand, so I had to move to the 2H. What I was trying to achieve using the 2B would turn out to be much too dark. "

-student rita walker copping

Basic shapes of objects and shadows are the focus of this casual sketch.

drawing by student sherry artemenko

Focus Object Sketch

"I did a drawing before of a squash and it wasn't so good, but then I did this, and I thought, boy, this is pretty good! From that point, it felt do-able. I thought it would be dull and boring with no color, but it had lots of character." —student pushpa kapur

The silvery tonal values in this floral reflect a light touch with the 2B pencil, drawing by student genie bourne

How Draw Tulip

Pressure on the 2B pencil yields the darker value scale and bold impact we see in this tulip arrangement.

drawing by student pamela m. heberton

The silvery tonal values in this floral reflect a light touch with the 2B pencil, drawing by student genie bourne

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Pencil Drawing Beginners Guide

Pencil Drawing Beginners Guide

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  • tammi
    How to draw realistic objects?
    4 years ago
  • damiana
    How to draw a realistic tulip step by step?
    3 years ago

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