Drawing Basics: On Midtone Paper

23 Oct 2013

Figure drawing by Daniel Maidman, Alley
My pencil drawing, Alley, was the result of a 40-minute
pose that I did a few weeks ago.
Let’s get right down to the business of drawing. I attend life drawing classes twice a week at Spring Street Studios, and for many years now, I’ve been drawing figures on Rives BFK Tan printmaking paper. This is an archival paper, but the reason I chose it from among the many archival papers available is its toning. I draw using white Prismacolor pencils for highlights and Staedtler graphite 2B’s for darks.
The toning is important when doing a figure drawing because it establishes a mid-tone before I make any moves. In a life drawing workshop, the problem is always how to get a drawing done in the time you’ve got. Once the pose changes, it's gone. A lot of my strategy for life drawing involves solving the problem – how do I cover more surface area in less time? I can’t use a thicker drawing implement like charcoal because I’m finicky about detail. The toning of my paper allows me to go for the fine structures when drawing anatomy in a 20-minute or 40-minute pose by leaving me free to focus only on highest highlights and darkest shadows.
Figure drawing by Daniel Maidman, Ilya
Ilya by Daniel Maidman,
pencil on paper, 2010.
A few examples of the results of my life drawing classes are below. What strategies do you use to match your style and the time you have when figure drawing in a limited-time situation?

Much longer posts, more esoteric and with more bad words, can be found my website. And if you’re wondering, “Just who is this guy?” you’re welcome to look at my work as well and decide for yourself.


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Kisu wrote
on 2 Mar 2011 8:07 AM

Hey Daniel!  Good to see you blogging here!  I love using printmaking paper for drawing myself.   I look forward to more blogs by you.

dmaidman wrote
on 2 Mar 2011 9:07 AM

Thanks Kisu! I look forward to writing them!

on 2 Mar 2011 6:40 PM

Daniel, great to see you added to the blog count here.  One of my favorite artists, Don Demers, suggests this same strategy for thumbnail sketches of landscapes, two colors and a toned paper, and for the same reasons- it establishes a mid-tone value, high and low very quickly.  You can then refer to the thumbnail as you establish your final work.

dmaidman wrote
on 3 Mar 2011 5:34 PM

David - thanks for the kind words, and for the anecdote. I hardly think of landscape, but I have found the same thing to be true the one time I used the technique for drawing landscapes, which was when I visited Florence, which was awesome.

on 5 Mar 2011 11:41 AM

Beautiful drawing, "Ilya", Daniel.  Lovely work.  

dmaidman wrote
on 5 Mar 2011 11:46 AM

Thank you, Patricia.

on 5 Mar 2011 4:56 PM

Daniel! I have been so busy that I just found this today! Wow - I so look forward to more blogs from you. Your drawings are amazing.  Fabulous - I must make sure to not miss them in the future too.  Congratulations!

dmaidman wrote
on 6 Mar 2011 11:38 AM

Thank you Sarah! I usually don't post drawings on the gallery because I make so many of them, and they're such a hassle to scan - they take two scans and photoshopping to produce a complete image. But I'm glad you enjoyed them here, and I hope you keep enjoying the blogging!

carr_jeanne wrote
on 28 Apr 2011 4:17 PM

Daniel, what beautiful drawings! The foreshortening on "Alley" is really something! I've given myself the challenge of putting more time into refining my skills this year. I'm doing this by burrowing around the internet and looking at what other artists do to learn from them. While I haven't done life drawings in years, your method of starting with a midtone paper so that you can focus on the highlights and shadows makes a lot of sense and is definitely a lesson I can apply to my work. Thanks for sharing this and I'll definitely be checking back.

Philip2 wrote
on 26 Jan 2012 10:24 PM

Hi Daniel

Beautiful drawings and sound advice about using the midtone papers for life drawing from a live model....You explained the concept very well!...I've never used the Rives BFk Tan  printmaking  paper ...I must have a fine texture that you are able

to get such fine detail .....I look forward to seeing more of your works.


picky pencil wrote
on 14 Jan 2014 5:48 PM

Hi.i love the tone of the paper much nicer than the grey tone.