Drawing Basics: On Midtone Paper

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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Daniel Maidman

About Daniel Maidman

Daniel Maidman was born in Toronto, Canada. He was raised in Toronto, Jerusalem, Washington, and Chicago.

Since attending college in North Carolina and Texas, Daniel Maidman has lived in Los Angeles and New York City. In Los Angeles, he set himself on a program to learn how to draw and paint the human figure. He attended life drawing workshops 2-3 times a week for eight years. As well, he spent two years working on an anatomical atlas based on human cadaver dissections in which he participated at Santa Monica College, under the guidance of Dr. Margarita Dell. Illustrations from his atlas are currently in use in the United States Army’s forensic field manual.

Since moving to New York, Daniel Maidman has sped up his painting schedule, while continuing to maintain his drawing skills through life drawing workshops at Spring Street Studio. Although he remains primarily self-taught, he has learned a good deal about color from conversations with Adam Miller.

Daniel Maidman’s other interests include filmmaking and writing.

WEBSITE: www.danielmaidman.com

BLOG: http://danielmaidman.blogspot.com/

11 thoughts on “Drawing Basics: On Midtone Paper

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

  6. 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.