Rendering in the Shadows and deciding on Background Relationships
As mentioned before, in deciding where to begin I usually look for an area that is both of central importance and contains the full value range of the pose. The torso area in this pose functioned as such. Starting in the shadows, I first established the Darkest Dark in order to judge how dark to render in the shadows. It’s also a good idea to consider a plan for background relationships at this stage or before. Deciding on no background and leaving the tone of the paper is a plan itself. In this case I decided that I wanted some background rendering to diminish the would-be high contrast edge between the shadow side of the figure and the paper tone. Diminishing this contrast allows the eye to focus on the lights and halftones (where I’d like it to be), rather then be drawn out the that edge. Recall the ‘3 part approach’ described in the block-in section of this tutorial, “Solve the problems that are compromising your vision”.
Using the brown,red, and black pencils, I established the darkest dark and worked in the shadows surrounding the most ‘central’ aspect of the pose.
Direction of Hatching
In terms of the direction of strokes/hatching, there’s a lot of room for ‘play’. There are a few things to avoid however: When working in the shadows, try to avoid rendering perpendicular to the light as your more dominant strokes. Optically it is more effective to have your shadows read more flat and atmospheric (think of a Rembrandt portrait). Rendering primarily perpendicular to the light (against the direction of it), tends to draw unwanted attention to this area. However, when working in the dark half-tones and halftones where you want to ‘turn the form’*, this is exactly what you want to do (hatch more dominantly perpendicular to the light). As mentioned above though, there is a lot of room for play/experimentation in this territory. I often look for rhythmic and abstract themes about the pose and in the block-in, and try to enhance them through the directional patterns of pencil strokes.
Rendering out of the Core-Shadow into the Half-Tones
After working in the shadows of the torso and right shoulder (his left), I began turning the form in the dark half-tones in the torso region that I ‘trapped’ between the shadows.‘Turning the form’ describes the rendering of light gradation as it moves over the topography of the form. Having the shadows placed on both sides gave a comparative means to judge how dark to render in the half-tones . Whenever possible, take advantage of first rendering shadows that ‘trap’ any half-tones between them, rather then simply rendering from left to right or similar.
Rendering the dark half-tones is probably the most critical part in the entire rendering process. You can afford to simplify in the lights and shadows without compromising much of the 3-dimensionality of the image. However, not adequately describing this particular gradation will flatten your drawing. This area is of prime importance in achieving 3-dimensional believability.
Keying in the Lightest Light
Before moving into the half-tones from the dark half-tones, I used the white pencil to place the lightest light in order to provide an ‘ending point’ to reach in rendering.
Using the White Pencil
When using the white pencil, its important to evaluate how light a given area is compared to the lightest light of the whole figure. For example, say the model is lit closer to the top/head and we’re rendering the legs. There will often be highlights that appear very bright against the surrounding areas. It can be very tempting to see a highlight and ‘blast’ it with the white pencil. However, often these light areas are not as bright as the highlights closer to the source of light (such as on the head or shoulders), and shouldn’t be rendered as if they are. Attacking all light/highlight areas like this will result in a drawing that looks like a squadron of pigeons flew over and performed a bombing raid. It’s important while rendering to continually check whatever area you’re working in against the Global Value Relationships of the figure/setup. Establishing the Darkest Darks and Lightest Lights is a strategy to help avoid this. The tutorial ‘6 Value Monochromatic Paint Study’ covers the topic of Global Value Relationships in further depth. This is an exercise specifically geared to strengthen one’s ability to observe broad value relationships.
Next, I continued to render the shoulder and neck area.
I then began to render in the head. Take notice that I didn’t go straight up the neck into the head. I first rendered in the shadow shapes of the face and ear in order to ‘trap’ the values between for the next step of working in the half-tones.
Having the shadows established, I continued rendering into the half-tones and lights in the head. The cooler temperature in the ‘grey’ of the hair was accomplished by deliberately mixing the black and white pencils. The extra warmth in the ear was done with using almost pure red.
After finishing the head I moved out from the other side of the ‘core area’ of the drawing (torso in this case) into the leg. As with the other areas, I began by first working in the shadow shapes.
Next, I finished the upper legs and began into the shadow shapes of the lower legs and feet.
When rendering areas such as the hands and feet, pay special attention to the ‘planar’ qualities of these areas. Try to emphasize them; its amazing how quickly hands can turn into sausage-like fingers and feet like swollen balloons. Accenting these plane changes when rendering can offset this tendency. Below is an illustration by George Bridgeman in Constructive Anatomy exemplifying plane changes in the hand.
Developing the rendering in the feet.
After finishing rendering in the feet I moved to the arms and hands.
Finishing a Work
After finishing to render all areas planned for the drawing, its time to step back, look at the drawing as a whole, and bring it together. Even in cases where areas are left intentionally or unintentionally ‘unfinished’, it’s usually a good idea to strengthen the ties between your visual elements. Scan again for rhythmic and abstract themes and find ways to accent them. Scan for edges that are close in value, and if you find them, push that relationship a little farther to achieve a lost edge. Take another look at your Global Values now that you have a complete ‘information set’ and ask yourself, ‘Are my darkest darks still dark enough?Do I need to punch them a little further? Is the lightest area light enough comparatively?’. At this stage take a step back with every decision/accent, and evaluate if it improves or detracts from the drawing. If it doesn’t improve the drawing, don’t keep pulling the ‘loose string on the sweater’. Its easy to get caught on a runaway train and unravel your entire drawing. Calmly restore any negative changes made rather then panic and flail.
When you’ve hit those final notes, and you step back and get a feeling of ‘Heck Yeah! Nailed it!’, the drawing/painting is done. In about 5 minutes time the ‘OCD demons’ will try to pull you back in. Ignore them. The drawing is done, leave and go celebrate. If you come back the following day with fresh eyes and calm, and still see something you know would improve the piece, go ahead and make the adjustment.
* (I was introduced to this term by artist Juliette Aristides)
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