2.2 Tone and Form

Exercise 1: Circle to ball

  • Draw three circles and shade them so they become balls
  • Change direction of the light and shading techniques
  • Draw from your imagination

A simple enough exercise I thought but realised quite quickly that there are a number of decisions to make, e.g. what is the ball made of? What kind of surface is it lying on? What is the light source like (diffuse or sharp)? To begin with I decided on non reflective surfaces and a diffuse light source. The first two I drew from imagination, the second two with a tennisball as a model placed under a spotlight.

Graphite pencils in sketchbook, cartridge paper, A4

I really enjoyed doing these, to observe the shadows and what the angle of the light does to the composition. With the light from below the picture gets quite dramatic (as far as a ball can be dramatic…), with the light from exactly above it gets heavy and squat. A light from the side and above brings out the best form.

Shading – or rather the representation of what happens to the light – says a lot about an object. Not only about its form, but also what material it is made from, where it is placed and what its surroundings are. I got very curious about other materials and made a raid into the boys’ treasure tins. Here are two marbles, both in glass, the first one opaque, the other transparent:


B-9B graphite pencils and putty eraser on cartridge paper, A4

A smooth surface complicates things as the reflective light is stronger and reflections of reflections start to appear. Transparancey seems to change everything!

In order to make the highlight as light as I saw it I had to darken everything else, so that in comparison the white of the paper shines out. In the first image the contrasts are too weak, the second one is better.

I also tried my hand at alternative shading methods. I have to do more of these. (Playing around some more yielded these).

HB-5B graphite pencils / ink pen 0.3 on cartridge paper, A4

I like the stippled one as it does not have any line and yet the shape is unmistakable. With hatching I feel I have a very hazy idea of what I am after and how to get the effect I think I have in my head. This needs further study!

Exercise 2: Observing light and shadow

  • place two simple objects together
  • light from one side
  • Make shadowmaps in my sketchbook
  • Then draw the gradations of light, beginning with the middle tones

These are my objects:img_5221

I wanted one in a shiny smooth material to see what the light would do with it. It turned out that the pestle and mortar are a bit translucent as well as smooth so there was not that much shadow. Again I darkened everything to make room for the highlights. Not enough as it turned out.

HB-9B graphite pencils and putty eraser on sketching paper, A3

IRL the midtones and highlights are a bit more prominent than in this photo but still the contrasts should be stronger. Otherwise I am quite satisfied with the outcome. The mortar is somewhat elongated (not quite as much as it seems as the photo got stretched somewhere in the process so that there it is too squat). I think this happened because I worked on a flat tabletop rather than on an easel so that I saw my own drawing foreshortened. I have heard of this but never experienced it so markedly.

While drawing I noticed how lines appear where different tones meet. Sometimes, the line is not really visible and the drawing gains from such a line being omitted. An example of that is the top edge at the front where the side merges into the top without there being a line. A bit to the right the edge appears as a line where it has a highlight and to the left where the side is darker than the top. This allows the brain to read the line even if it is not drawn all the way.

Again I chose a drawing technique where individual marks are blurred and all but disappear. I think it is difficult to show detailed shifts in tone with other techniques. Also I find it a very good way to get to know the subject. However, now I am acquainted with it I intend at least one different technique (the outcome of which you find here, and two other ones here).

These are my shadow maps:



2 thoughts on “2.2 Tone and Form

  1. Brilliant! I’m not confident with shading but you’ve been really thorough and I love the marbles.
    Ps your blog is very enjoyable to read 🙂


    1. Thanks, Jen, I’m glad you like my blog – the feeling is mutual 🙂

      I like the marbles, too. It’s fun discovering what the light does when it hits glass. Or polished metal – I’m looking forward to the spoon exercise!


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