Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Value of Values

This week I began to add white chalk to my cast drawing. I've decided I absolutely love working on toned paper, because it really allows for a look of softness that can be difficult to achieve when working on white paper. 
The focal lesson of this project is how to work with Values. Simply defined, a Value is a degree of brightness or darkness. A form is made up of many values, brighter ones on planes that catch the light, and darker ones of planes which turn away from the direction of the light. 
Here is an example of a value-scale. It is helpful to make a scale like this before starting a drawing, to see how light and dark you can get with the particular medium you are using. When drawn seamlessly, a range of values give the illusion of form.
 When one sets out to do a drawing, they must organize their range of tone (light to darkness) based on the value of the paper and on the degree of darkness attainable with their pencil or charcoal. Rarely is it possible to achieve the level of darkness or brightness one observes in nature; but to achieve a look of form, the artist doesn't have to replicate the precise shade of tone seen in the model; all that is necessary is to maintain the correct relationships between the values you have at hand.
When working on white paper, the brightest parts of the subject are assigned to the tone of the paper; but when working on toned paper, as I am with this cast drawing, the value of the paper is assigned to what is called the halftones: the intermediary tone-value which is found somewhere between the shadow shapes and the light forms.
The goal of my Cast drawing, with the added challenge of working on a mid-tone paper, is to learn how to organize the values in my mind and apply them with the proper relationships. If done correctly, I should be able to finish the drawing without mixing white-chalk and charcoal together, by using the tone of the paper as a halftone to bridge the lights and darks.
I am adding white chalk to set the value scale, then cautiously modeling it to achieve form, still adjusting shapes as I go.
This week I also began another school project, a portrait. Here is the block-in:
 I am very happy with the model for this portrait. She is a sweet Italian girl with luminous eyes, and is an excellent, tranquil, sitter. This is definitely the kind of work I live for; after staring at a plaster cast all week it is so wonderful to work with a living, breathing person and try to capture that sense of life.

Unfortunately, I did not get much work done on my long-pose figure drawing, as I had to spend two mornings at the immigration office for my Permesso di Soggiorno; however, here are two more sketches I did during evening figure-drawing sessions:

  Once again, when doing these small unfinished sketches, the importance of line quality becomes increasingly evident. In a quick drawing, there is no time to add the varying degrees of value that I am carefully studying in Cast drawing; the next best way to describe form, then, is by utilizing different levels of softness and sharpness on the edges, as this conveys the type of plane-change on the form.

Italian word of the day: Tonalità, "tone, shade"


  1. You forgot your word of the day!!!!!

    1. Ah! thanks for reminding me, I have added it now. And it's a really lovely sounding one too!

  2. All this is so interesting--please keep sharing!