Article Three - Light and Shadows


Drawing Lessons: Using Light and Shadows to Create 3-Dimensional Shapes

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What gives objects form and shape?  Light and the shadows it creates.  Since graphite creates only shades of gray, values are all we have to represent light and shadow.  They are also the most expressive and effective tools we have. In this entry to Pencils.com’s stable of drawing lessons, we’ll explore how we can use light and shadows to create 3-dimensional shapes.
There are 4 main components of light and shadow:
Highlights – where the strongest light hits the surface of the object
Mid-tones – where light is indirectly hitting the surface
Reflected light – light bounces back onto the object
Shadows – core shadows are the darkest and strongest, cast shadows are various values depending on how strong the light is.

We know this is a red delicious apple because of its naturally dark mid-tones and shape.  We can almost “see” that is it red because colors correspond to specific gray values.  Imagine drawing a green granny smith apple and consider how you would draw it differently with lighter values and a rounder shape.
Good Drawing Practices
  • Avoid drawing too light.  Find the darkest area and establish your blacks.  This allows you to use the full range of values from white to black.
  • Work right to left if a lefty, left to right if right-handed.
  • Work background to foreground; top to bottom.
  • Start on the most detailed (focal point) area.  All other areas can then be sketched with less detail.
  • Understand what you are sketching before you put down that mark.  Being timid will show in your work, so be confident in your pencil mark.
  • Avoid overworking your sketch. Fresh, spontaneous pencil mark will create energy and keep your work alive.
  • The 3 P’s – Patience. Practice. Perseverance.  Be patient with yourself.  Practice, practice and practice some more.  Your perseverance will be rewarded! Happy Sketching!

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