Getting to grips with Tone


Tonal study in charcoal

In this post I intend to delve in to the subject of tone. Above is a tonal drawing I made in charcoal of my new favourite subject apples and pears.

Looking at it I can’ quite decide if I’v nailed the illusion of form. I am happy the apples and baby tomato I added to provide some balance to the composition. The pears I am not sure on. Some time I look and think yes, they do look fat and juice. Other times I think no they just look flat. I was conscious of not taking them as dark as the apples as there true value is lighter. Can’t help thinking maybe this is why they look flatter?

I was conscious to add in a back ground Just a ruff footage style wall that is not smudged so as to contrast with the fruits. For the table surface I was reluctant to go grey as I thought it may all get to murky. Looking at It now I think that greying the table plan would have helped the pears pop out more. Instead  just suggested at the wood grain with a faint line. Making it fainter on the right hand side of the pic to show the light source. I think this gives the picture a narrative informing the viewer of where the fruits are situated.

I’m pleased with how the composition turned out. No real thought when it to this as it is a tonal study noting more. However I quite like the way the group sits to the right leaving the left quarter of the page negative. I’m sure there are others who wouldn’t. The group is a bit high though. Would have looked better coming down the table top a bit leaving more wall above the top pear stalk.

I like the way the stalks all point different ways. Seems to add something. Quite by chance the two apples opposite the top pears stalks mirror each other making a nice triangle between the two apple stalks and top pear stalk. Also the way the bottom left pears stalk points to the baby tom leading the eye. This was more considered.


This is the point when I realised I was working on each item as am individual again. Working on all the whole picture as a whole to build up tone worked so well in exercise two — still life tonal study. Old habits die hard.  Must remind myself before staring on a drawing to approach it as a whole not piece by piece.

tone2Having remembered his I approached the last three apples together.tone-stillf

Maybe I should have added more detail in the back ground showing the changing plans of the wall and even the blinds. I will aim at this for future drawings.


Peppers and tomatoes at sea.

Ignoring the back drop this quick line drawing demonstrates how objects can be grouped together using tone which unifies them. The black shape is a group of baby tomatoes. This shows how together they form one shape. The tree peppers form another block shape. It you look at an arrangement for a Millisecond your brain remembers these block shapes first. It’s an effective way to plane out drawings and helps create a relationship between all the smaller shapes to be added later.

I plane to add to this post from time to time with more tonal research.


About Emma Perring

Artist, oil painter

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