1.1 Dramatic marks

Light and dark add drama to a drawing, accentuate values and thus convey a range of emotions. In art this has been used throughout history. (I should find examples of this…)

Exercise 1

  • blacken a sheet of paper with a lump of charcoal
  • Work parts of the surface with a putty eraser -> lights
  • Fast and light upstrokes with a thinner charcoal
  • Repeat until you reach an interesting image (keep it abstract)


I started this exercise without any idea how to achieve dramatic marks. But I chose a compressed charcoal block to get a really black dark.

Stage 1


Soon the marks with the eraser became dramatic without me planning them to be. They were a revelation. They look like light spilling out and suddenly the picture has some depth.

Stage 2

Charcoal is very sensitive to precedence. I had noticed this in earlier exercises, too, but here it seems very important to the outcome. Marks drawn later are very much in the foreground, earlier marks recede to the back. This gives a strong sence of depth and threedimensionality.

I am surprised how the white – not even clean paper white but only a light grey – gets such strong luminosity in comparison to the darker shades next to it. This spilling light effect reminds me of ink drawings by Rembrandt I have been studying this summer.

Final picture


Exercise 2

  • Do the above again, this time with graphite
  • Add dark marks with graphite and ink


The dramatic effect is considerably less with graphite. I think this is because it is not as dark as charcoal.

Graphite and putty eraser

To enhance the dramatic effect I finished the image off with black ink. The effect is somewhat stronger but nowhere near the charcoal image.

Graphite has a silvery sheen to it when tilted to the light. Ink stays matt. This ads an interesting quality to the image.

This exercise inspired me to play more. For the outcomes of that go here.


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