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Foundations of Drawing
Illustration by John Hersey

Our first tonal-ground study


From:

Foundations of Drawing

with Will Kemp

Video: Our first tonal-ground study

So for our first simple tonal ground study, just look around the house and I've chosen a pomegranate as I can see darks and lights within the subject. So now I've got the line When you rest on the total ground it can often come off onto your hand.

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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

Our first tonal-ground study

So for our first simple tonal ground study, just look around the house and try and find a simple object that's just got a range of tones within it. Some parts really dark, an old part really light, and just so we've got something already within the object to really help us in our drawing. So, let's get started with our tonal ground study. I've chosen a pomegranate as I can see darks and lights within the subject. Also, interesting textures and shapes. Then I just move it around within my viewfinder, until I find the angle of position that is going to give me the best drawing.

So now I've got the line drawing out onto the perspects just with one simple line on there and I've also got the tonal ground next to it. So just lay them out so they're directly next to each other So the tops of each of the frames line up.

And then you just need to transfer the line drawing from the perspects onto your total ground. When you rest on the total ground it can often come off onto your hand. So if you just get a couple of pieces of computer paper, put that under your hand, you can just help you to keep your hand clean, keep your paper clean, as you work. Remember, just try and concentrate on the shapes.

That you've made with your line drawing. So you can use a piece of paper just to make sure you get that line where the white paper was, and this can really help just to give us a simple background to the piece.

Okay, that's looking great. If you want to double check your drawing, you can always take your picture plane, lay it on top and just check to see how close you are have actually been with your drawing. So once you are happy with that, put the peach plane to the side and we are just going to draw the object directly from life. So what's so great about using the tonal ground? Is the first thing that I am going to do is actually the eraser to bring out the real lights in the picture. And this can really help you get out of that fear of really the white paper and where you start with your drawing by just concentrating on the whites, so for this particular drawing, these areas in here and the whiter the paper.

What it will help us to do is look at the abstract elements within the actual object So this is just with the putty eraser. Then you just swap to the plastic eraser, just to see the difference between the two. And it really helps you to notice, just when you're concentrating on the lights, how you get all these little spots of light all around the whole of the image that we're looking at. You can really rub it back on the bottom half of this. So I'm just looking at the shapes that are there. Looking at this car shadow shape that comes around the bottom here.

And as I start to pull out these. White shapes around the object, the positive shape of the object starts to come more into focus. So, in terms of traditional drawing with a pencil, I haven't really done much yet. We just applied the tonal ground; and then, using the eraser, we brought out all the lights.

And now with a softer pencil, so this is just a 7B, I can really look to see where are the darkest parts in this particular drawing. So if I squint my eyes, what this helps to do is just give me a simplified view of what I'm looking at. It takes away the details and let me just concentrate on the blocks of tone. So if there's any areas in here that are more of the mid tone I can just leave those at the tonal ground, and then start to put in this darker tone here.

On the bottom of the pomegranate. So, I'm just applying the tones quite flatly. And this is good when you're first starting because you don't concentrate as much on mark-making There's more, just to understand how tones can work within your drawing. So now, I'm just swapping to a 2B.

Or a 3B is fine, just to get a fine line of dark. So, you can start to see how simply, with this technique, you can really build an effective picture, just by working with the eraser, a couple of pencils and looking at that idea of having a wide tonal range in the subjects that you're looking at.

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