Mark making for shading

By now I have a clear mental picture of a ball and its shades and shadows and for these sketches I concentrated on the mark making side of things. While working I found that the principles of shading are really quite simple: find a way to make an area appear darker than an other. I can do this by either using more graphite/pigment with a softer pen or more pressure or – if the medium always draws in the same tone – by varying the space between my marks (as in stippling). Or indeed a combination of both. This made the ideas pop up in my head and gradually opened doors away from graphite pens.

Parallel straight lines give an impression of fast movement. A strong effect, I find, but I do not particularly like the picture. It looks stiff. I like the wriggly lines better.


This is done with letter rubber stamps – my initials. I like this very much. As with the stippled ball I like how it retains its shape without an actual outer line. I love letters and find the pattern they make when stamped over each other really pleasing.

While stamping I came to think about letters as carrying meaning in themselves. Maybe not a single letter, but other signs – like question marks. Does the meaning they carry by themselves change the statement of my picture? I think it must. Or give it a statement. These are sketches of balls, I do not mean anything by them, but the following picture carries a whole load of meaning – or could at any rate once one starts thinking on these lines.


I chose lighting from below to enforce the dramatic effect. Now suddenly there are questions, confusion, and in the shadow urgency and quite some force, too, through the directional orientation of the exclamation marks.

Thinking back to my other marks – they, too, add meaning in a way. They certainly lead a viewer’s thoughts in different directions. Marks are essential.

Back to shading and the amount of black. If that thought holds I should be able to use a pattern to indicate the form. As I made this the form already appeared before the “shading” as the pattern changes around the curved form. But the use of lines in different thickness added light. I omitted the shadow here. To be honest I don’t know how I would make it for it to do justice to the delicate pattern. And I don’t want to spoil it.

Inkpens 0,05 – 0,5 on cartridge paper,  ca. 7cm across


On the other hand, due to perspective the lines around the edges are closer together and thus add more black. So prior to adjusting line thickness the edges are darkest. Maybe this should be done the other way round?

White calligraphy ink and quill on blue-grey drawing paper, ca. 13cm across

I like the luminosity of this. Although the contrast between light and dark parts of the ball could be stronger. The effect is strongest in weak light I found and becomes hard to spot when a light is shone on the drawing. Interesting. How it reacts to daylight remains to be seen.


7 thoughts on “Mark making for shading

  1. Using punctuation mark stamps is an inspired choice – you’re absolutely right; is gives an added dimension to the simple shape and becomes an image in its own right. Powerful stuff!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. This is a beautiful collection of studies, SibyIle. I would never have thought of using letters – thank you for the inspiration. The one with the question marks and explanation marks allows for very interesting interpretations!

    Maybe you could tear up a bit of tissue paper or thin rice paper or similar and try out how to do the shadows for the final two?

    Liked by 1 person

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