Confessing All of Your Shady Ways

19 Aug 2014

One of my unhappiest memories of making art is drawing a really 70s-looking still life that my art teacher set up for us in the sixth grade. I remember being soooo bored and not interested at all in what we were doing until my teacher gave us a challenge to use any of the different shading techniques we knew for each object in the composition. It got us thinking creatively about how to apply gradations to objects, and to see what types of shading were best suited to what objects.

Seated Boy, Nude by Georges Seurat, 1883, conte crayon on paper, 12 1/2 x 9 3/4.
Seated Boy, Nude by Georges Seurat, 1883,
conte crayon on paper, 12 1/2 x 9 3/4.

For objects with a pitted or gritty surface or one that is porous, stippling was a good choice. Though my hand always took awhile to adjust to this pointillist motion, it definitely gives a texture to drawn objects that wouldn't be there otherwise. Using stippling with other shading techniques can also give a sense of uneven or imprinted surfaces.

I think of tumbleweeds when I think of shading art with accent lines, how merely varying the thickness or thinness of curving hatch lines can give the illusion of turning an object. I've heard instructors discuss these as the opposite of highlights, and that has helped me think of them as less on the surface of an object like an incision and more of the surface, much like tonal shading works. 

Melancholy by Odilon Redon, pastel drawing with charcoal and gouache, 1876.
Melancholy by Odilon Redon, pastel drawing
with charcoal and gouache, 1876.

Blending was always the hardest way of drawing light and shadow for me because I could never get a broad expanse of blending to look consistent. Or, if I did get it consistent, it seemed flat. Shading with blending changed for me, however, when I started focusing on small passages and rubbing them out with a tissue or fingertip.

Shading is one aspect of drawing, and an important one to be sure, but Drawing Secrets Revealed - Basics gives you a bird's eye view of everything that drawing can be, from specific artist processes to the universal language of draftsmanship. It is a feast for the eyes because of all the incredible drawings shown, plus it is also a teaching tool that will never dull over time. The instruction you will find is as relevant for an artist now as it was when it was first developed by some of the greatest artists of the past. Enjoy! 


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