A Bit of Tonal Drawing on Toned Paper Research

 After the last exercise ‘limited pallet study from sketch book’ I wanted to take a look at the work of others that have really got it right to try and see where I can improve. I will be looking at the type, colour and tone of papers used as well as type, colours and tones used.

‘Let the paper do some of the work for you…. use the paper as your mid-tone, and simply work in the elements, highlights and light masses with white pastel or conte pencil, and your shadow masses, turning points, and cast shadows with your charcoal or pencil.’ quote from Meredith Lachin
Ok, so I should have used a black charcoal pencil for my darkest tone.
In this drapery Study contemporary artist Meredith Lachin used a light (chalk) and a dark (Graphite or Charcoal) on mid tone paper to depict form beautifully.
The best way to practise this method of drawing would defiantly be from life with a strong and consistent light source. My drawing is from a photo on a gloomy day. I did make up a light source by drawing myself an arrow showing light direction ( from the left). How ever when I got to the detail on the water I found this was wrong as the shadow reflections come straight down. Is the reflection direction effected by the light source as shadows are? here’s another thing to find out!
Chiaroscuro: The behaviour of light as it falls across form and creates masses of light and shadow. An Italian term (basically what I’v been working on over the duration of the course. Depicting form using dark and light.) A technique refined by old masters and still the best way to realistically depict form today.
The Head of an Angel by Albrecht Durer, 1506, brush and ink with wash, heightened with white on blue paper.
Albrecht Durer used Chairoscuro to produce many drawings bursting with form. It is said he made his own paper with a blue, green or grey tint to act as the mid tone. In ‘the head of an Angle’ he uses ink and wash for shadows of differing value. He then uses a white chalk to add reflected light, highlights. This created the elusion of a 3D form.
Praying Hands by Albrecht Durer, 1508, brush and wash, heightened with white on blue prepared paper.
I notice Durers darkest shadows are far darker than mine in the tonal cannel scene. He uses a diluted ink wash to achieve varying values in the shadow. To achieve this with conte I could use different pressures allowing the mid tone paper to show though in varying amounts. I did try this in my drawing. again I am now pretty sure the absence of a dark enough tone is the main problem.
Sadly I am unable to find out which artist made this drawing. I have used it to illustrates what I’m researching. Mid value paper with shadow and high light tone applied on top. I have found it surprisingly hard to source a landscape image made in this way. I can not find and satisfactory townscape made like this at all. It tends to be most common with figure drawing. I’m sure the land and townscape on mid paper are out there but again time is tight so must keep going.
This image is borrowed from The Practice & Science of Drawing – Harold Speed. An e-book choked full of fantastic pointers for the artist. I look forward to dipping in and out of it in the future.
The artist here uses brown paper (the image is black and white) with charcoal and white chalk. You can see that there was a good light source. A nice sunny day creating strong shadow and highlight. This has added the artist attempt to depict form. The mountain has a strong 3D effect. He picks out a few buildings in the mid ground. This drawing has no foreground to speak of. These buildings show us the size and scale of the rocky growth. With out them it could merely be a small bolder. how would we know.
The shadow to the right is the darkest with the cast shadow a deep black. We can see the light source is coming behind the artist and a bit to the left. South west if you imagine a compass with north vertical top, horizontal centre on the page.
with the charcoal he manages to produce a range of vales and of course the chalk shows the lightest areas.
He uses a strong line to show the mountain top. I think perhaps this betrays the elusion of form a little. For the rest of the drawing he uses light and shadow mass to depict the scene. This strong consistent black line doesn’t recede as it should in my opinion. It does clearly define the mountain from the sky.
Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s very accomplished drawing and a wonderful example of what I aspire to with my own drawing. I’m just nit picking for the sake of the exercise.
Note to self:  Paint paper of sketchbooks grey to use as mid tone for tonal drawing.



The Practice & Science of Drawing – Harold Speed

The Artist Complete Guide to Drawing the Head – William L.Maughan


About Emma Perring

Artist, oil painter

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