Artist Amy Wynne shows examples of figure drawings with beautiful tonal rendering to show how adding light and shadow amplifies a figure's dimensionality and creates a sense of space. Amy explains tonal value and high vs. low contrast lighting, creating emphasis with tonal contrasts to create a focal point. Amy draws on an iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil and the app, Procreate, but you can use any medium that you have on hand, including pencil and paper.
- [Instructor] Once you've learned to draw the figure linearly, the next step is enhancing the dimensionality of our drawings with light and shadow shapes. This means adjusting the values in the image or the lightness or darkness of the colors we see. To describe this through drawing we must understand the tonal potential of the materials we're using. So here's some examples of just a few of the effects you can make with various drawing materials. Like this one at the top here would be smudging with charcoal, the one below it here would be maybe what charcoal might look like on a paper that has texture to it.
This one here is using the side of the pencil, this one's using the tip of a pencil. And then obviously we also have choices about what color we draw with. This sanguine pencil, this red pencil is something I like a lot and I'll be using it a fair amount in this course. This image here at the top is a smudgy kind of effect, this would be, again, an image where we are drawing with the tip of the pencil. And then maybe some experimental techniques, like stippling where you make little dots. And this might be, again, using the side of a pencil.
But the really important thing to think about is that depending on the material you use if it's a red type of pigment versus a black pigment, so take a look at how if I lay down black pigment here I can get really dark with it, really, really dark, velvety dark. This dark black as compares to this red, those two actually have different values. That red is never gonna get as dark as that black.
And it's not that making more dramatic drawings is definitely better, it's really about choosing the right materials for the effects that you wanna make. So realizing a range of values is really important in our figure drawings, because without it our volumes would be flat and lifeless. Mapping the polarities of light and dark allows us to see how the midtones arrange themselves in between. So when we filter a color picture of our model into a monochrome, so if we take a look at the color version, filter it into monochrome, we start to see the value or the light and darkness of each color.
And this is really useful, because the monochrome version starts to speak a little bit more to using let's say a charcoal or a graphite pencil to draw it with. With practice you'll train your eyes to filter color into an expressive value range, but separating tonal zones is what we'll do next and it'll help you keep your drawings luminous and dimensional. So when I squint down at the black and white image it simplifies in front of my eyes. I can see a region of darkest dark, which extends down the side of her body to her lower belly.
This region of the body is turning away from the light, so it is our darkest dark. I also see a region, this is again is like a map, I'm just visualizing, I see this region of lightest light, which is turned towards the light. And it contains some of our lightest values. And then I also see down in the leg area here an area that I might call my midtone area, which is somewhere in between my lightest light and darkest dark in terms of a value range.
That's an area of the body where the light isn't hitting it directly or it also isn't turning away from the light, it's receiving raking light, light sort of passing over the form creating a midtone. So realizing this variety and mapping it is really the first step. This pair of drawings shows a simple line drawing and the same image with the addition of tonal rendering. Look at how the added light and shadow amplifies the figure's dimensionality.
And notice what happens when we wrap cross-contour lines. So it's as if we're wrapping a ribbon around the body, these are cross-contour lines. These cross-contour lines ultimately relate to the figure when we start to add tonal marks and these tonal marks, their direction mimic the cross-contour lines that we've realized before.
And we'll be practicing this. Let's compare two drawings with low and high contrast by Prud'hon. He made very different choices in illuminating the body in these drawings. In this drawing here on the left you see how the light is coming more from the front and creating more of sort of an overall sort of flat quality of light to the body. However, in this drawing on the right you see that the light's coming in, hitting the body, and raking across the form.
When there's a plane change, like on the thigh here, the angle of the body that's angling away from the light becomes really dark and we get a really sculptural sense of what the body's doing. So how you decide to light your subject can really create different effects. The lighting on the seated figure here certainly shows off the three-dimensionality of the body. I love this drawing by Anthony Abez. In this drawing you can see that the figure doesn't exist in isolation, but relates to its environment in some way.
So a shift in value across a ground plane or a background, we can call that a gradient. It can create a more dramatic sense of space and really highlight the figure. So in this drawing you can see how he's coming from this side, it's lighter, it gets darker, darker, darker, the wall slips behind the body, pops out on the other side, and gets really velvety dark. So this gradient moves from light to dark.
A similar thing happens if we look high coming down low. It goes from light to dark on that part of the wall as well. And so what happens is that as this sort of darker midtone slips behind the body it swallows up any kind of need for an outer contour and really creates a dramatic sense of space. Look at the atmosphere around the hand. It's like we could take our eye and move all the way around it.
There's a sense of space and atmosphere created by this tonal gradient on the wall. Even the cast shadow coming off the figure onto the bed is darker near the body and gets lighter as it moves away. This gives a sense of space and also creates almost a sense of movement. So the rhythm of light and dark shapes that depict the body, they really dance against the background and reinforce the notion that it's all about tonal relationships versus some kind of graphic outline.
So how do artists convey what they love about their subject? Proper lighting and concentrated detail can help guide the viewer's eye to the focal point or what we might call the emphasis of the drawing. This helps communicate what the artist is most inspired by. So in this 1483 da Vinci drawing you can feel the attention he gives to the light falling across her face. Look at the eyelid, look at the cheekbone.
He really brings us to look at the face based on how he's manipulated the light and the mark making. This is what we can call the emphasis of the drawing. As we move away from this nucleus in a way we're coming out further and further out away from the emphasis and you can notice how his marks get really sketchy and really loose. So he's not bringing our attention to the hair or the shoulder, but he's really getting us to look into the face. And this is the type of thing you can do with your drawings as well.
So he guides us to look at her face through his conscious manipulation of light and mark making. And this is something that you'll be practicing. So as you continue to look at master drawings ask yourself the following questions. What materials are being used? What's the lightest light and the darkest dark? How is atmosphere and emphasis created? Is there high or low contrast? We can learn so much from looking at drawings. You can even try copying a few and you'll have an even deeper understanding of how to create beautiful tonal work.
- Creating a five-part tonal gradient
- Flat vs. dramatic light
- Rendering light and shadow
- Lighting your model
- Adding tonality
- Simplifying figures into basic volumes
- Silhouette and camouflage