Drawing and shadows – 3

By | February 2, 2014
Drawing, shadows, material, right brain, basic concepts and sight-size drawing.

Drawing, shadows, material, right brain, basic concepts and sight-size drawing.

“If you hold up my work next to a drawing done by a specialist of a weaving chair, you will find that my work will show you that it is made out of oak and has been stained by sweaty hands… Hold my work next to this drawing and you will see that mine will squeak more. “
Vincent van Gogh

Linear or painterly – Dürer or Rembrandt

Previously pictures were divided into two categories, either linear or painted. In a summary, linear can be described as seeing the contours, including the contours of the inner shapes. It is a method which is all about contour drawing where you focus on the line as a divider between two shapes.

The painted drawing concentrates more on light and shade with blended borders.

A way to see it is using 5 opposites:
1. Linear/painted
2. Surface/depth
3. Closed/open shape
4. Multitude/unit
5. Absolute/relative



Example: Linear – Dürer draws a rhino.


Example: Painterly – Rembrandt draws an elephant.

Sight-size drawing

Sometimes you can see the description “sight-size drawing” and this refers to a drawing technique which uses life sizes and you draw the objects as you see them as if you were drawing on a piece of glass.
This is a rather complicated method where you have to be very thorough with all details and ensure that during the process you do not change the view point, drawing surface or anything else.

Shadow technique

There are many shadow techniques you can use, but the things they have in common is a method. To draw randomly in the shadow areas of a picture will usually not give a good result.

Example 1 – Michelangelo


Example 2 – Leonardo Da Vinci


Example 3 – Rembrandt




Sfumato, (from Italian sfumare = to tone down, shade, disappear)
The sfumato technique is a method where you dissolve the shapes so that there are no lines or ”borders” visible.
This was one of Leonardo da Vinci’s many inventions. The best example of this technique is the Mona Lisa, and in particular the area around her mouth.



Charcoal is made of burnt wood blend the same as the stuff you use on a barbeque. In the olden days they were made out of burnt twigs of willow. When you want to erase something you use a putty eraser which is like soft clay you press against the paper to lift the paint off. You squeeze the putty in your hand so that you always have a sticky surface to use. You can also shape it to a point when you are working with detailed drawings. The hand or fingers should not be used for removing charcoal since they are always slightly greasy and you will then transfer the grease to the paper. Charcoal drawings are set using a fixative spray which you spray over the drawing thinly. Charcoal as a drawing material has been used since the days of the cavemen.


Graphite Pencil

Pencil is made out of graphite which is mixed with clay and then dried. Graphite is a very soft substance which is dug out from mines and it is a variant of charcoal. Pencils have been known to be used since the 1500s onwards.


Silverpoint has been used since the antiquity. On a primed paper the silverpoint will create a distinct, but weak line of a grey-black tint. In time the silver oxidize and become brown-black. Leonardo da Vinci often used silverpoint for his drawings.

Silver Point, Leonardo Da Vinci, detail

Red Chalk

Red chalk is made from red earth and has been used for a very long time. They are also made as pencils with red chalk instead of graphite.


Pastels are made out of pigment and a weak glue formula (made out of, for example, gum arabicum) which is then left to dry. You can make your own pastels out of artist’s pigment. Pastel drawings are usually made on special paper which has a slightly fuzzy surface. The paper is also often made in a slight shade of colour or off white. Pastel drawing needs to be set with a fixative spray once completed.

Oil Pastels

Oil pastels are made out of pigment and a mixture of oil and wax.


Indian Ink wash, Franciso de Goya 1746 – 1828, detail.

Ink Pens, Indian Ink

Indian Ink are pigment – soot or carbon black – dissolved in water and are used for drawing, tinting, and Chinese calligraphy. Indian Ink is also available as sticks which are grated on a special grater together with water. A paint brush or wire pen is often used for drawing. Ink can be diluted so that it becomes clear and then painted in layers. This is called wash or tint drawing.

To draw with your right brain

Betty Edwards who is a professor at the California State University has researched and published a number of books about creativity and the importance of the right brain in creating art.
Edwards builds on the research by the Nobel Prize winner Roger W Sperry’s on the left and right brain’s different methods in processing information.

Tricking the left brain to stay out of it
Betty Edwards’ method is to develop your drawing in a way where you trick your left brain to stay out of it, allowing your right brain to work freely. There are several ways to achieve this.

To draw upside down
If you are using an image to draw from you turn it upside down and then copy it. The more complicated the image is the better. The left brain will not be able to find anything intelligible and will therefore lose interest.

Pure contour drawing
A contour is an edge line as you see it.
In this technique you start at any spot on the paper and fix the motive with your eye. You will then follow exactly how the contours look to you with the pen. The important thing to do in this technique is to do it slowly and really focus on exactly where the contour is and follow it. It is like drawing bits of a puzzle where they are shaped according to the elements of the image.

To draw empty space
This is also a method where your left brain will give up. It is not about drawing an object but to draw the empty space, the negative shape, which surrounds it.

  • Reading tip: The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, Betty Edwards