Studies of Light and Shadow

Going back to basics is a useful exercise for refreshing skills and techniques to be used on later projects. 

I have often said that learning to draw or paint, is less about teaching your hands how to move and more about teaching your eyes to SEE.

Until you open your eyes to see where the light falls, you can’t expect to reproduce it with a pencil. After all, light is what gives everything form and shape.

If you want to follow along and practice your own skills, I used Derwent Academy Sketching Pencils and Layout Paper from Artway. (Materials list available at the bottom of this post).

a study of light on a cube

Taking the most basic shape and considering where the light falls sets up the building blocks for more complex work later.  Working from a reference, a basic block of wood with a simple desk lamp is the perfect set up. If you don’t have those items to hand, then looking at a photograph is just as good.

studies in light and shadow
studies in light and shadow

Extending the exercise by adding more cubes and then seeing how this might affect the light on the second and third cubes takes the ability of the eye to see, even further.

It was a good reminder to myself that perspective can be a really tricky thing to portray correctly and working on these cubes is good practice.

Time for a curveball, literally!

studies in light and shadow

What I observed during this exercise was that I was learning my mediums’ capabilities and training my eye to see the different values that I was able to produce by varying my pencil strokes and pressure.

Studies in Light and Shadow with random household objects

Taking forward what I had learned so far with regards to tone and value in reproducing light and shadow, collection of household objects was my next challenge.

studies in light and shadow

There are a few things about this picture that I can see I need to work on, but as to the things I’m pleased about, this is the first time I feel I was able to accurately reproduce a metallic finish in pencil, in the lid of the perfume bottle. I also think that my scissors are vastly improved from my first attempt (not shown) and I’m glad that I picked up on the sharp light that came through the perfume bottle onto the tip of the scissors. 

studies in light and shadow

In this altered composition, I’ve corrected the jaunty angle of the perfume bottle and I  pleased with the development of my ability to draw scissors (small victories!). The only obvious change is that I should have extended some shading in the background so that the base of the desk lamp doesn’t feel like its floating in space, but learning exercises are just that – and overall I’m really pleased with my progress.


Materials List

Image List:

All drawings by Artenesse, Pencil on Paper (2020). 

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