Adjusting Shadow Values, Tools for Graphite, and More: Four Tips From Drawing Magazine, Fall 2016

The latest issue of Drawing magazine covers subjects including working on toned paper, shadow values, and drawing with Conté. Here we present four handy pieces of advice shared by this issue’s featured artists and instructors. To learn more you can purchase the fall issue or download a digital copy. (You can also see a complete list of articles here and subscribe to the magazine here.)

Drawing Magazine Fall 2016 | Artist's Network

1. When you want a sharp graphite point, consider going mechanical.

Among the strengths of mechanical pencils are their fine points, which in many cases are so thin that they do not need to be sharpened, unlike traditional pencils. No standard pencil, no matter how well sharpened, can compete with the point of 0.2mm lead. [–Sherry Camhy, “Material World: The Nuts and Bolts of Mechanical Pencils”]

2. Don’t think. Just look.

Stop thinking and look at your subject. Many times I’d have students who could very easily draw something, for instance a skull—they were comfortable with that. Then I’d bring out an actual skull and make them look at it. There’s that back-and-forth between what you think you see and what you actually see. [–Fred Dalkey, “Meditations in Conté”]

3. Shadow values: always lighter than halftones.

A common rule of thumb is that even the lightest value in a shadow (the reflected-light shadow) should be darker than even the darkest value in the light (the halftone). That is to say, all lights should be lighter than all shadows. Accordingly artists often compress the value range in the lights, to keep light values and shadow values distinct. [–Jon deMartin, “Drawing Fundamentals: Illuminating the Shadows”]

Drawing Magazine Fall 2016 | Yuka Imata | Artist's Network

Aubrey, by Yuka Imata, 2016, mixed media on prepared paper, 20 x 16. Collection the artist.

4. For a softer effect, apply graphite with stumps or brushes.

During a portrait demonstration, in order to make her sitter’s hair dissolve into the paper, Yuka Imata used graphite powder applied with brushes in combination with blending stumps. “When you use a pencil the graphite goes on with a sharper line,” she says. “With the stump, it makes a sort of line, but it’s very soft—it’s somewhere between the brush and the pencil.” Imata did use graphite sticks for stray hairs separate from the main mass, “to create a little bit of a rugged edge.” [demonstration by Yuka Imata, “New Angles in Portraiture”]

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