Throw a piece of clothing or a length of plain fabric (so you don’t get distracted by pattern) across a chair to make folded and soft layers of fabric and then, using an appropriate medium for each, make two 15-minute sketches, one using line only and the other concentrating on tone.
These sketches were completed fairly rapidly and look fairly spontaneous and loose. The line drawing of the fabric is fairly flat. The lines depict edges and folds in the fabric and obvious divisions in tone, but the result is pretty unsatisfactory as picture.
Volume only started to emerge in the fabric when tone was added below:
The drawings concentrating on tone have a greater sense of form, weight and three-dimensionality. My approach was to observe edges first, depicting them using line (lightly), then to shade in the darkest areas, before adding more subtle shading and mid-tones.
Loosely divide a large sheet of paper into 8–12 cm squares and draw five-minute sketches of different parts of the fabric. Look at the shapes caused by the folds and use lines to follow the curves, rises and falls as though the tip of the pencil is walking along the ‘landscape’ of the cloth. Identify and emphasise the areas of light and shade that define and emphasise form. Use both line and tone, testing different approaches and media as you work. Work on a larger scale on single sheets if you wish.
The drawings above were influenced by the beautiful drawings of fabric by Durer. I love his work. I used charcoal pencils on kraft paper and enjoyed trying to emulate his approach; mimicking the shape and topography of the fabric using lines to chart the directiion and shape of its folds. The first one is the most successful where the folds hang in “drop folds”- from a single point.
I also attempted the same exercise using charcoal, trying to shade in the shapes of the folds and then, below, did the same exercise using a foundation pen with water-soluble ink, that I later wet using a paintbrush. The picture below is more successful as a photograph than in real life- it benefits from being reduced in size and starts to look more realistic.
This picture from Wikihow http://www.wikihow.com/Draw-Fabrics
Top left –diaper folds (from two points). Top right- drop folds (from a single point). Bottom left- spiral folds. Here, the folds alternate from different directions. Bottom right – inert folds (crumpled cloth.)