Part Two, Project 6, Exercise 3 -Tonal study

For this tonal exercise, work on a large scale (A2 to A1) and use light marks to map out the composition. Be sure to use all of the picture space.  Notice the lightest areas and map them in. Using charcoal, soft pencil, conté or pastel, work out the mid-tone areas and the darkest. Find a way to convey the subtle gradations within these areas. All of the media mentioned will give you problems of smudging, so work from the centre of a dark area outwards so that your hand doesn’t rest on an area of heavy charcoal or graphite. Don’t worry if you lose lighter areas; you can use a putty rubber to pick out highlights. You could also use white paint, chalk or conté for this, but be careful not to overdo it. Look for the lightest tones again when the drawing is almost finished.  Keep looking from your subject to your drawing while squinting to check on tonal values.

This is the view I was working from (as sketched in exercise 2).


Firstly I did a light pencil drawing to map in the main areas.  I used charcoal powder to smudge in the main tonal areas- medium and them dark areas (ie. the back of the sofa, shadows on the walls and the piano etc).  Then I worked in shading and detail using willow charcoal.  I tried very hard to respond to the tonal information before me rather than focusing on details.


“Music Room” Charcoal on Daler & Rowney 220gsm heavyweight A2 cartridge paper.


Assessment criteria points

  • Demonstration of technical and visual skills – materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills (35%).  I was very pleased with  this piece of work.  The charcoal and moody tones echo the victorian feel of the room.  I deliberately chose this interior because I liked the play of light in the room and I worked hard to observe and capture this.   I think the composition adds to the success of the work- I like how the sofa is situated perpendicular to the fireplace.  By leaving the white paper to shine through (e.g. on the mirror and cushions) this creates highlights which contrast strongly with the deep shading, to lift the picture.  I haven’t been over-obsessive about detail, and in my opinion, this looseness gives the picture life.  Careful observation of where shadows fall lends objects in the room a sense of form and mass.
  • Quality of outcome – content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas (20%).  I felt quite confident using charcoal for this drawing as I had developed knowledge of it’s limitations & its use from part one of the course.  It was the correct choice for this exercise, and achieves the effect that I wanted.
  • Demonstration of creativity – imagination, experimentation, invention, development of a personal voice (25%).  I had a strong feeling that I wanted to play with the light/shade in this picture before I started it.  Creativity was mainly in how I used the media.

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