The part of an object which has either less or no light upon it is in shadow. Details are muted or lost, and the tonal range within the shadow is limited. You can exploit this fact by paying close attention to remove unwanted highlights in a shadowed part of your drawing. One of the challenges with a pencil rendering is to prevent the pencil from shining. Try blocking out an area of white paper with a soft pencil by pressing hard. Hold it at an angle, and it will reflect light. You don't want this. The techniques in this book describe ways to prevent or minimise this. If you apply the pencil to a shaded area and leave some of the white paper showing, then it will not look like a deep shadow. Again, the techniques given in this book will show you how to avoid this.
If you are drawing on white paper, then the brightest highlight will be the paper itself. Most paper is slightly cream coloured, so it's a good idea to shop around to try and find paper which suits your needs. Once you lay down graphite onto the paper, it is very difficult to remove all of it. This means that you need to plan ahead by identifying your brightest highlights and avoid drawing in that space until the very last moment. Usually a highlight should not be completely white, except a very bright point that you might find on the corner of a shiny object, or the highlight in a wet object. Even then, the edges of the highlight are likely to be graduated rather then a definite line. In some cases, you can use an eraser to lift graphite from the paper to create slightly subdued highlights. We will talk more about this legitimate drawing method.
1.2.10 Mid tones
The mid tone is a value which is approximately 1/2 way between the darkest dark and the general highlights. In a portrait if it has typical lighting, the mid tones will make up a large part of the skin. Hair and clothing could go either way depending on the colour. It is important to find and maintain good mid tones.
We talked about value in the section of tonal range. Value is a measure of how much light is reflected off the surface. Different colours will have varying strengths referred to as value, so that a light green and a certain yellow might be at the same value even though they are different colours. In black and white images, value is independent of colour since there is only really one colour (grey). If you were to make a black and white drawing of a bowl of fruit, then you would need to make a judgment on the relative values of the orange and of the banana. Some parts of the banana will have a darker value than some parts of the orange, and vice verse, but overall, you would expect the orange to be a darker value than the banana if it is viewed in the same light. Things in shadow naturally have darker values.
Look around at the objects you see. Every surface, is not uniform in value even if it is flat. As light falls on an object, it is reflected at an angle. For a curved surface, the amount of light reaching your eye depends on your current viewpoint. Therefore, a curved surface will have a high number of values. The way that you draw the transition between two given values is called shading. Almost all objects don't have distinct lines. Most objects are best represented by a continuous shift between light and dark. If you look at a person's face, there are no hard lines. You might at first perceive a wrinkle as a line, but a closer look will show a gradual change in value from light to dark to light to dark again. If you draw lines, then you produce a cartoon-like result. For realistic work, try to use shading. For a cartoon like effect or something else that you have in mind or feel like experimenting with, try using hard lines. Please note, there are no rules here, only guidelines, and in no way do I wish to restrict your artistic expression. If you find a way to use hard lines to good effect, then use them. One of the most impressive line drawings I have seen was a contour drawing of Lawrence of Arabia. It was constructed with hard lines in pen and ink. The drawing was minimalistic so that it would be degraded by the removal of any single line. But that drawing, good as it is, is not a realistic graphite representation which is the subject of this particular book.
Please head on over to THIS link to get the details on how to draw an ear. I use a combination of negative drawing, brush blending, carbon dust and circularism.
When a photograph is take in low light, you need a fast film, and the speed of the film is achieved sacrificing fine detail. Ideally, each point which is recorded on the film is very tiny. It is usually so small that you cannot see it as a single grain. But as the film speed rises, the grains get bigger and at some scale, the grain is clearly visible. In technical ideal terms, grain is undesirable. But in a work of art, whether this is photography or hand drawn, you can use grain to convey a message of some kind. A grainy image might be a smaller part of a composition. The grainy image could also be the main subject matter. An image which conveys a smokey subdued or mysterious atmosphere might benefit from a grainy texture. When drawing, you can either draw grain on smooth paper, or you can use rough paper so the texture of the paper provides the grainy appearance.
1.2.9 Tonal range
In music, tone refers to the notes which make up the music. In drawing, tone is the level of intensity of a mark on the page. This is also called value. Tonal range is a way to talk about the difference between the darkest dark, and the lightest light. A good tonal range is necessary for high contrast. The number of distinct steps between the darkest dark and the lightest light in the range will control the smoothness, detail, and general feel of the drawing. In the same way as a simple piece of music might only have a few notes, a drawing might only have a few tones. If these tones are close in value, then the tonal range is compressed. If there are only two of three values, and the range is very high, then you get a poster-like picture with high contrast. Highly detailed drawings will benefit from a high number of tonal values, but you can still produce a highly detailed drawing with very few values. Pen and ink drawings only use two values - black ink and the white paper, but it is possible to imagine a highly detailed pen and ink drawing. When we talk of tonal range, it will be in context for the piece of work at hand. We might refer to compressing or expanding the tonal range. For many, if not most graphite portraits, it is important to establish the blackest black that you can get and use it in the deepest shadows. The whiteness of the paper is naturally the other end of the tonal range. The way that you gradually take a dark area to a light area is called a transition. (See also sfumato [sub:Sfumato])
Impact is associated with a sudden change and exchange of energy. When a hammer hits a chunk of metal, we can imagine the impact. This concept of a sudden and forceful change of energy is an analogy in many ways. We talk of the impact of waste on the environment, or an impact statement in business. It's associated with a disturbance, and in general, a kind of “wow” factor. For a drawing to have impact, we want it to make people stop and think. It might be shocking or high contrast or jagged. There are no hard rules for creating impact, but you will know it when you see it. Impact might be hidden in the meaning of a work, so that the impact remains dormant until the viewer suddenly sees something new. An example might be a composition of a group of people chatting. They might at first be seen as casually talking, but as the viewer lingers on the content, he or she may suddenly realise that they are about to be given some terrible news. The impact might be delivered by characters in the background who may be out of focus. Impact, therefore is any element of the work where a sudden exchange of information bursts into the mind of the viewer. Impact is often more obvious, as in an example where strong diagonal lines force the viewer's eye to the main subject matter which stands out due to high contrast and detail compared to the rest of the drawing. If you want to convey peace and tranquility, then high-impact might not be very useful. So you need to use it in the right context, and the right amount.
Throughout this book, I have frequently and necessarily used the word, “technique”. Technique is a mechanical operation applied as a process to produce a predictable result. At first, this seems in opposition to the embodiment of what is art because art is all about creativity which is supposed to be free and novel without a care for such things as procedure and rules. If that were true, then you would not need technique in the same way that an archtitect would not need his load-tables, or a hairdresser would not need to know how to layer hair, and a potter would not need to make a round pot. Technique is the foundation of art, and creativity is, in my opinion an illusion cast over technique to push it into apparent insignificance. Without technique, you cannot create. Unfortunately, you can develop technique and never be creative. These so called rules and procedures are therefore constantly under question. Feel free to break those rules, bend those rule, and modify those rules; but do so in the full knowledge of what you challenge.
1.2.6 Visual cliche
A cliche is normally associated with a verbal statement which has been over-used, like:
• Not my cup of tea.
• Everything happens for a reason.
• No love lost.
• You can't have your cake and eat it too.
• Simple as pie.
Cliches are usually to be avoided. (It's tempting to say “like the plague” but that's been done before [time and time again].)
In visual arts, we also have cliches. Some examples are:
• An advert for a product features a very good looking customer.
• Widely-used standard clip-art in presentations.
• An ostrich with its head in the ground.
• Frying an egg on the pavement/car/bald-head etc.
• A cartoon character whose legs look like a spinning windmill.
• A financial-chart with an upward or downward pointing arrow.
You will find many visual cliches in the art and advertising world. They are boring and unimaginative. Your challenge as a developing artist is to describe and deliver your message with impact and do so in new and exciting ways. This usually means avoiding the visual cliche. It's hard.
1.2.3 Depth of field
This refers to how much is in focus. When you take a picture, the right amount of light is required on the film. Too much light will cause the picture to be washed out, and too little light causes it to be too dark. Traditional photographic film has a speed of light-response. You can get fast film which is very sensitive to light, and slow films which require more light. Depending on the amount of light available when you take the picture, you need to control how much reaches the film. There are two ways to control how much light lands on the film. The first is to control how long the shutter remains open. The second is to control the size of the shutter. The size of the shutter is called the aperture. A big aperture lets more light in for a given shutter speed. A small aperture obviously does the opposite. What's important for us to understand is that a small aperture causes the light beams to hit the film at an angle which is near 90 degrees. Where these light beams cross will give good focus, and for a very small aperture, there is considerable slackness in how we focus the lens onto the film. Alternatively, you can consider that a range from near objects to far objects will be in good focus for a small aperture. But as the aperture is opened up, light can strike the film at a more obtuse angle and the range at which all these light beams cross is narrowed. This means less depth in your subject is in good focus. If you have more light, or a faster film, you can get away with a smaller aperture, and get more of the picture in focus. But this effect is mostly controlled by physics, and the photographer must work with the limitations. To put this into a practical situation, let's imagine that we are taking a picture of someones face. Imagine that you focus the camera on the person's nose, and there is very little light, and you are using a slow speed film. You will need a wide aperture, and only the tip of the person's nose will be in focus. This represents a shallow depth of field. With computers, and a subject which does not move, we could take several pictures at different focal points, and then stitch them together in the computer to create a single low-light image with a good depth of field. If we are drawing a person from life, we can do this on the paper without technical limitations. Although we focus only on one part of the face at a time, we can draw each part in focus as required. But sometimes, we might want to emulate a limited depth of field because the general public is used to looking at photographs, and you may wish to emulate this limited depth of field to create impact. When a portion of your drawing is in focus compared to another part, it will tend to stand out. We can use this as part of our composition. Alternatively, by de-focusing confusing details, like images in the background, we can create more interest in the subject matter. The de-focused images can be thought of as a kind of impressionism.
1.2 Our Language.
As with any specialty, a long list of jargon develops. It is appropriate to dedicate a section to describe the words that we use so that the rest of the book is more easily understood. There are two ways that I could approach this. The first is as it comes. The second is alphabetical order. I think the former is more attractive. Otherwise it might feel like you are reading a dictionary. Each of the terms appears in the index so that you may refer to them later at ease.
Realism refers to artwork which attempts to depict something recognisable. In the extreme, it attempts to do this with great accuracy so that the viewer is at awe with the likeness of the subject. An abstract work on the other hand attempts to remove all recognisable objects from the picture. Somewhere on a sliding scale between abstract and extreme realism lies impressionism. The aim of the techniques in this book is to produce works which are almost photographic. Photo realistic works attempt to fool the viewer into thinking they are looking at a photograph. A photograph has certain limitations like a compressed depth of field and limited tonal range. It may also have problems or at least certain characteristics which alter perspective. A photo realistic work often attempts to duplicate these limitations. Our work aims to duplicate the level of detail, but we reserve the right to introduce a different or more extended tonal range, and contrast and focus. In fact, as a graphite portrait artist, we have none of the limitations of a photographer's task. We can break the rules of physics and get away with it. There is no reason why we cannot draw something that is impossible to construct or observe in nature. We will try to produce works that are definitely realistic, might look at first site like a photocopy or photograph, but closer inspection will reveal pencil marks and hints that make the work recognisable as a drawing.
An impressionistic artwork uses a minimum of individually recognisable shapes, shades and colours, but somehow conveys the whole artwork as a depiction of something real.
Welcome to post #002 of "Rendering Realistic Graphite Portraits"
Be prepared to alter your sense of time for this kind of work. A sketch is a quick outline or shading which takes only minutes or at most a few hours. When you start to add fine detail and layer upon layer as represented in this book, then the time to complete a rendering will be very significant. It can take anywhere from six to five hundred hours to complete a work, depending of course on the size, level of detail, and technique. You will need to prepare your mindset to tackle something of this significance. Here are some thoughts which will help you.
• Most people in western culture spend about 4 hours a day watching TV. That's a total of something like 1,460 hours in a year. In one year, you could produce 36 drawings each taking 40 hours to complete by not watching TV. Or about ten drawings by dedicating one hour a day to your craft. There may be as much as 20 minutes of adverts on TV each hour, so it's possible to progress quite well with a drawing just by working on it while the adverts play.
• If you take the train to work, it is smooth enough to complete some of the less detailed areas. This makes very good use from otherwise dead time.
• Half an hour before starting work in the coffee shop gives you quite time to draw. It also calms the mind and helps you to prepare for the rest of the day.
• Lunchtime might be a sociable activity for you at work, but now and then, if spent drawing, it helps to split the day into two and reduce stress.
• Ask yourself whether you would like to produce 300 sketches or four amazing works of art in one year.
This is the mindset: Once you commit to a work, don't stress about how long it will take. There is no need to rush. Banish impatience. Of course, if you decide to make a living from producing art and selling it, then there are two options. Either you spend a very long time and sell the result for many thousands, or make prints and sell many copies. Or you could produce many cheap uninspiring works and sell them at a reasonable cost so that people in the street can buy an original and feel proud to have an unique work of art on the wall. The techniques in this book are not-for-profit. These techniques take a long time, and unless you get a name for yourself and find it possible to charge many thousands for one work, you will not be able to pay the rent. However, you may well produce a body of work that will, one day hang in a museum. Your work will certainly be passed down to your children and grandchildren. For this reason, portraiture is particularly attractive. A detailed realistic portrait of a relative will hold strong interest to your family forever.
Welcome to post #001 of "Rendering Realistic Graphite Portraits"
Chapter 1 description
Chapter 1 covers the basics. We define the language used in the rest of the book, and also as much as possible in the same way as specialist graphite artists do so from around the world. Once we have a language to use, it makes the tutorials and descriptions more precise and easy to follow. Please make sure you understand the terms used. The contents and index are both very comprehensive so that you can read any section and look up terms as required. There is no need to read this book from start to finish. The language used is pitched at the mature student and adult reader.
In Chapter 1, we also itemize and describe various tools. In some ways, this is an extension of the language used, but the terms refer to tangible things.
Chapter 1 The Basics.
I am going to assume that you want to start from scratch. Therefore, we will discuss the tools, media and techniques which are most basic for graphite drawing. A sketch is a preparatory task. A drawing is a finished piece; but a work of art is something much more. It is my intention to slowly build theory and technique and practice so that you can work from basics to eventually compose and execute a work of art.
This book is very focused. There are many books which illustrate art and technique in a variety of mediums, but few which focus exclusively on highly detailed and finished works entirely in graphite and charcoal. You can also use many of the techniques presented here with chalk, coloured pencils and tinted paper but this book will only discuss graphite and charcoal on white paper.
The old masters often used charcoal as a preparatory medium. These works were not intended to last long. Charcoal is charred wood, so it was cheap. It is still cheap, and it produces wonderful deep darks without shine; but it smudges easily. It was also used as a sketch on a canvas which was painted over. Today, we have plastic. A type of plastic called Acrylic is available in a spray called fixative. This fixative is supplied by art-shops in a spray can. The fixative may be used over charcoal or graphite to make it stick harder to the paper and reduce the chance of smudging. You may also frame your works behind glass. Later in this book you will find instructions on presenting and protecting your works. Today, there is a slow but growing interest in finished graphite and charcoal works. You will still find however, that colour paintings are very popular. Colour helps to finish the decor in a room where the rest of the furnishings and walls are neutral colours. Where you find impressive colour already on the walls, black and white drawings and photographs have a lot of impact. If there is a trend towards more colourful walls in homes and offices, then graphite works will be more marketable than they have been in the latter part of the 20th century.
(C) Jeremy Lee 2010, all rights reserved.
Note: I am allowing the blogs in the category 'Book' to be stored for personal use only, but not for distribution or commercial use. Should you wish to reproduce any material, please contact me for negotiations.
spOOk's art is owned by Jeremy. He has practiced drawing and painting for about 40 years, and might get good at it one day. spOOk's art is focused on graphite portraits.