Drawing Basics: No Two Shadows Are Alike

I am usually heartened when I hear disagreements about matters of art and technique. Maybe I’m just combative that way. But, more likely, I think I take such debates as a sign there are more artists coming to the table.

And, that the field is growing and evolving, with no end in sight. This can only mean good things for someone like me, who spends her whole day looking at art.

Beginner Drawing Shading Tips

Drawing study by Renee Foulks, pencil on paper.
Drawing study by Renée Foulks, pencil on paper.

One area in which artistic schools of thought differ is how to approach the matter of shading. Classically inclined artists tend to standardize levels of shading. Drawing light and shadow is codified and controlled.

On one hand, this allows an artist to get a handle on shading shapes relatively quickly.

On the other hand, this gives the appearance of those shadows a level of sameness from artist to artist.

You can often recognize how someone was taught shading techniques because they employ them in a certain way.

Other schools of thought approach shading differently and allow for more variation and less segmentation in shadow areas. One artist who typifies this approach is artist Renée Foulks.

Foulks has a great deal of depth and little systematic transitioning in her shadows. The artist works a lot slower as a result of this because she deals with shadow areas on a case-by-case basis.

A work by Yasuyo Tanaka demonstrating suminagashi.
A work by Yasuyo Tanaka demonstrating suminagashi.

And sometimes “shading” is nothing of the sort. For example, suminagashi is an ancient Japanese technique that produces swirling marble patterns by mixing water and oil. The results trick the eye with their subtle gradations. I know several artists who are exploring this technique as a way to better understand the abstract qualities of shading.

From value scales to creating illusions, you can master shading with this handy guide. Did we mention it’s free?! Just enter your email to start downloading the free shading technique e-book!

The Power of Knowledge

Knowing these differing approaches exist gives artists plenty of options in the area of shading. Drawing shadows in perspective correctly, learning how to use types of shading appropriately and exploring the nuances of crosshatching are some additional steps to take in order to start to achieve drawing mastery.

For more on the building blocks of drawing and how you can leverage those skills into incredible works of art, start with the digital edition of Drawing for Beginners. It’s a great resource for brushing up on key skills so you take nothing for granted and reap the benefits of techniques that all great artists employ. And this guide can be yours for less than 5 bucks. How awesome is that?

And, if you want more drawing basics, be sure to check out the video trailer of Learn to Draw with Alain Picard: Basics. In this sneak peek preview, you’ll get a quick demonstration on mark making using a variety of tools, how to hold a pencil and why it’s important to step back when drawing.

Intrigued?The full-length video instruction is filled with simple drawing techniques, including sizing and proportions tips, adding tone though layers, a quick tutorial on the five key drawing habits, and fun contour and gesture exercises. You can start streaming the video workshop on ArtistsNetwork.tv today.

 

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