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Foundations of Drawing
Illustration by John Hersey

How light and shadows work


From:

Foundations of Drawing

with Will Kemp

Video: How light and shadows work

So what we're going to look at now is light logic and When beginners first come to drawing, they always focus on the If you think of the nose or an eye, you really think of an image an actual So let's have a look at how important it Light always travels in a straight line, and can When you think of light logic, you've got to think As light travels in a straight line, the shadows that are made Here we've got a Bargue drawing by Charles Bargue.

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Foundations of Drawing
2h 24m Beginner Apr 28, 2014

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Anyone can learn how to draw. Success comes down to three things:

Shape: By focusing on the shapes of the objects (and more importantly the shapes between the objects) you can view subjects with a whole new outlook and focus.

Simplicity: You'll get better results by concentrating on simple subjects and drawing techniques that will still prove powerful when used together.

Structure: A structured approach makes drawing easier to master.

Each chapter in this course is built on these three principles, combining drawing theory and practical examples with worksheets and drawing assignments. Will Kemp brings his passion for teaching and infectious love of drawing together in these lessons. You'll learn about line, value, tone, negative space, and perspective, and come away with the confidence to start making drawing a daily practice.

This course was created and produced by Will Kemp. We're honored to host this training in our library.

Topics include:
  • Materials you need to draw
  • Drawing theory
  • Framing your composition
  • Using the picture plane
  • Creating contrast
  • Using negative space to create more powerful compositions
  • Creating form from shadows and light
Subjects:
Design Drawing Design Skills
Author:
Will Kemp

How light and shadows work

So what we're going to look at now is light logic and how cast shadows can be so important to how we draw something realistically. Shadows are really, really important in your drawings. But it's something when you're first coming to drawing, you'll often miss out, or won't put as much importance on. When beginners first come to drawing, they always focus on the object and not the surrounding shadows or shapes around the object. So we're going just help trying tuning our eyes to focus in our shadows because it can really help us to engage that left-hand side of our brain and start to look for abstract shapes in the composition.

If you think of the nose or an eye, you really think of an image an actual shape but if you think of a nose shadow or an eye shadow, they don't really exist. They are always changing as the light changes and because of this you've really going to to focus in on it, in your drawing and that really helps us to get accurate drawings in the sense of balance and real form in your pieces. So let's have a look at how important it can be to understand the dark side of your drawings. Light always travels in a straight line, and can create these really beautiful shapes in the shadow area.

This help your drawing, your painting, and your photography to really get your eye tuned in like an artist, to see what is in front of you and what can create an interesting image. When you think of light logic, you've got to think of the different objects that you're drawing and be aware of the different shapes and shadow lines, that are being made by the light and being created by the shapes within those objects. As light travels in a straight line, the shadows that are made by the light are always in a direct response to whatever they hit.

It's all about being aware of this when you're looking at objects to decide how to draw them. Here we've got a Bargue drawing by Charles Bargue. This is a way of learning to draw while you work one to one and slightly increase the complexity of the object that you're working from. Braque used this technique to teach himself to draw. And Fang also worked from the Braque textbooks to teach himself classical drawing techniques. Braque was very keen into establishing the cast line, the shadow line, and whatever the subject is.

Classically, in a lot of paintings and drawings, you'll see they just use single light source, this makes it easier for you to see a very dark hard line. And what this helps you to do is create form, because you've got a hard light and a hard dark. If we look here, we've just got one shape of the hand and then the shadow line is drawn in. Your next one here is drawing with a flat edge to start with. So they're straight lines. You're not worried about actually getting the roundness of the shape.

It's amazing that when you start to put in the dark, this gives you the idea of form in its more basic of terms. One light plane and one dark plane. If you look at the half tones, they're here only very light. There isn't really many of them but they can be so helpful in turning the form to make it look more realistic. Of course, it's a very crude rendering on the computer but it gives you an idea of how simplistically you can approach creating form in your drawing. Without having to over complicated it.

In this drawing, you'll see have a simple that blocked in to start with then the shaded line, this line here and then the rest of the form is blocked in. And it's amazing how you look at this and it's just a pretty much a solid tone but your eyes and imagination makes up the lines of the face, that there is a cheekbone theres's a nose, the, the eye socket. So again you can start to see how the form will be created just using flat tones. So here's the most basic form, it's a simple sphere that's got an illusion of form within it.

You have the light source, one single light source. And you always have the highlight, and then you have the light side of the sphere. Then you're always going to have a shadow. And this is what's sometimes called the form shadow, it gives form to the shape. And then whatever the object is, that makes it cast shadows onto the surface it's sitting onto. So if it's a sphere it's going to be causing an ellipse shaped cast shadow. If it's a square it will be more of a rectangular cast shadow. Whatever the shape is will directly change and alter whatever the shape of the cast shadow is.

So then what you've got is this very, very dark area down here which is the darkest part where no light at all is hitting. But you notice how the cast shadow is darkest here right underneath the sphere, and then it gets lighter and lighter as it goes out further away from the light source. And you'll also have these areas like down here which are called reflective light. Which is whatever the surface is around the sphere, the light is bounced off then it comes down in a straight line and then it gets bounced back up underneath here. If this sphere was on a black background, there wouldn't be as much reflective light because black doesn't bounce as much reflective light as white.

You can notice here, what happens, if you start to change where the light sources coming from, how it directly affects the length and shape of the cast shadow. If the light is coming down, it hits it square. So, that's where the core shadow line is, along here. In comparison, this sphere over here, where you got a lower light source, but still hitting, still creating that shadow line. But the cast shadow is very, very long and extended right out here. That's a real long distance in comparison to the shadow and the light is coming from above. Now we are going to have a with our pencil trying to get a nice smooth transition so it really gives an illusion of depth and form, focusing in on the shadows and shapes that are created.

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