Part one, Project 2, Exercise 2- Observing Shadows Using Blocks of Tone (p23)

The aim of the exercise was to use variable tone ‘values’ to give the impression of three dimensionality, using conte or charcoal on a large sheet of paper.

First Attempt: Compressed charcoal stick on A2 cartridge paper.



I observed a wide range of tones in the subject, but the charcoal stick I used was much too black, resulting in a picture that was much too dark overall.  It was very hard to create subtle medium tones and highlights.  The lemon started out the wrong shape and my attempt to correct it was messy.   The shadows are much too dark and  failed to represent the variations in pattern and gradation of shadows I wanted to recreate.  I was pleased with the top of the pepper, where I had left enough white paper to create interesting highlights and shape.

There were in fact two light sources; I realised later that I had set up a desk lamp as a primary light source, but that the window behind me was also throwing light on the subject and complicating things!

I wasn’t sure I liked the effect made using the side of the charcoal stick on the paper- a rough mottled effect.  In places I tried smudging the charcoal with my finger to create solid smooth areas of tone.  I think both methods worked in some areas of the picture but not in others.

Second attempt: willow charcoal on cartridge paper (A2)


Willow charcoal was much more forgiving and less intensely black than the compressed charcoal so it was easier to generate mid-tones.  Nevertheless, I felt the picture still tended towards being too dark.  I started off doing quite a lot of work using the side of the charcoal, but I was still in two minds about whether I liked the resulting texture…. so it developed into a combination of smudged areas and more obviously drawn hatched lines.  It was also possible to use the putty rubber effectively to lift off tone and create highlights.

I was pleased with the pepper and the overall relationship of the arrangement with the shadows. There was definite variation in tone, from white to black, across the whole picture and I was able to bring out subtleties in intensity of shadow.  I am happier with the lemon than in my previous attempt, although I was still struggling to depict its skin texture.

Third attempt: willow charcoal on textured multi-media paper (A2)


Picture of the same subject by my 11 year old daughter:P1010615

I set up this composition with the deliberate intention of capturing reflected light and very definite shadows and reflections on a smooth object. I tried really hard to draw only what I could see and felt I had made a decent stab at it.  There were significant areas of reflected light under the egg and the shadow contained a lot of gradation of tone. Such a simple subject was very exposing of any failure to observe what was in front of me!

However, I had taken delivery of some new paper, as  I had run out of the cartridge paper I had been using, and it’s texture (purchased for a substantial tooth) was too rough, rather like watercolour paper.  The resulting effect was therefore over-textured, which I did not like, because it was hard to make smooth marks.  I am struggling to find a paper which I like for charcoal/pastel work.

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