In my life drawings I seem to have some difficulty making the shading realistic. This was my latest drawing from life drawing class, but my shading is quite bad. Any tips on how I can improve it? Especially when it comes to forms like the muscles, particularly the back muscles.
Look at old master drawings like ones from Rubens or Michelangelo. When they use shading, it's to reveal form and prove the figure in action. They use a core shadow where the form turns away from the light, reflected light where the light bounces off another form, local tone to imply the general color of the form and a highlight where the form is closest to the light. Use shading to reveal where joints meet, where bones are visible.
The shading on your drawing has very hard edges. Look harder the next time you draw at the edges of the shadows where they meet the light. A cast shadow has hard edges but core shadow does not. The figure is organic and muscles don't have hard edges like boxes nor do bones. Rounded forms have a more subtle shift from light to shade and understanding how to vary the stroke from your charcoal will really help you explore that. I would tell your teacher what you want help with and he/she can help you analyze it.
Last edited by deepbluehue; January 3rd, 2008 at 03:57 PM.
Well, if you're looking for a true to life look, I would say there are two things you could do.
1. Start by softening the whole drawing. This will probably smudge it too, which will be a good thing because it will create a halftone over the whites that you can go into with a kneeded eraser and shape.
2. Beef up your core shadows. This is where the light and dark meet. you can feather some halftone strokes by the cores to round the form and it will automatically look more realistic.
Graphite and charcoal pencils give a nice sense of control, but for starting out, it might be a good thing to work with willow charcoal or something that you could get a softer, more realistic effect with almost by default. It will need some time to get the control of a pencil with it, but the payoff is huge.
For the record, your shading isn't bad. It's very clear where the light is coming from and it has a nice, graphic shape that would be easy to work from.
Also, this appears to be drawn fairly small. Try drawing larger to get more room to render and add detail.
To improve the process of rendering ("shading") it's just like anything else..practice. Print something off like this and try to match it exactly. Use only your pencil. Smudge sticks are for little girls! You need to develop the fine muscle control.
What deepbluehue said- Read up on chiaroscuro and see how the old masters used it. See if you can get your hands on a copy of "Drawing Lessons from the Great Masters" by Hale and read what he has to say. And check out this thread on edges:
the main problem with this is that the form itself is off. The shading of her legs and rear works better, because the form itself is more accurate. It's her back that's off. The right side of her shadow is a straight line going up, with a couple little shadow lines going off to the side. A real figure never has a straight line like that. Find as many circular body masses as you can in the back. Draw them first - a simplified mannequin, so to speak. Find the center line of the back, and how it curves into the figure. Draw that, and then try and add shadows over that. Check my sketchbook to see what I mean.
get a white ball, a white egg, a white cilinder ,a white cone, and a white cube..and start shading from those under natural light..also if you can get hold of a white cast it will help you tons on seing tone..drawing from the nude is tough and without doing this preliminary study it will be always hard to see form..copy from masters as well..and study your anatomy..nothing beats that.
spend 100 hours on a still life drawing with varying shapes. Do it large about 18x24 or bigger. You can use graphite or charcoal. light it so a little more or a little less then half in in shadow. examine it and study it. Study the values, they will all be different. Study the edges, hard soft firm and lost. Try to be as accurate as you can.
And don't think I'm joking about the 100 hours. Certain art schools in china make you spend 300 hours on one still life in one semester.
I agree with sweetoblivion. You need to create some still life with bunch of different objects and draw it on large piece of paper. In one atelier I had to draw this stuff on no smaller than B2 format (which is propably 19x27 inches). Then it's all about comparing what is darker and what is brighter. For example shadow side on an egg might be brighter than light side of red pot. You need to be able to fit very big value scale in your drawing with all subtle variations even on single object. Also avoid smudging especially when using graphite pencils beacause you loose control over edges/values and don't learn anything.
Here are typical still lifes from my university (on architecture faculty). It looked very similar in art school.
Still life is good to study. Spending a long time on a big drawing is a good idea too. But without a basic understanding of how light turns across an object you'll be confused by all the local colors & varying materials of the objects in the still life, and 60 out of your 100 hours will probably be wasted time.