Redux is not a word we hear often. To me, it’s an awkward word. It sounds funny, and exactly what does it mean anyway? Well, it means to bring something back, to re-hash something that’s already been hashed to death.
OK, so that last bit is only my interpretation of it, but that’s sort of how I was feeling recently when I sat down with Sketching and Rendering in Pencil, by Guptill.
Of course, I shouldn’t have been surprised that the drawing instructions he gives begin with basic shapes. Where better to begin?
And so I dutifully recited these very basic principles of turning shapes into forms:
- Squares become cubes
- Circles become spheres
- Triangles become cones
- Rectangles become cylinders
To my credit I am getting a little better at drawing squares and turning them into full-fledged cubes. I can also do triangle/cones and rectangle/cylinders. Of all the basic shapes and forms, circles and spheres are probably my favorite, but that’s not saying much.
Here, I used a template to draw lots of circles that I could shade and turn into spheres. As you can see, I never finished this little assignment. Yes, that first one does resemble an olive.
Note: I apologize for the poor quality picture. For some reason I haven’t yet figured out, my scanner has quit working. I’m left to take photos with my smart phone. Even with a bit of photo-editing, I can’t get drawings light enough to make a good illustration.
One of the reasons why I stopped before finishing this basic exercise was the realization that proper shading involves two different skills:
- We have to know where to shade in order to properly turn a shape into a three-dimensional form.
- We have to know how to shade, how to correctly hold the pencil and move it about to make marks.
My shading has usually been very haphazard. I scribble, I scumble, I make a lot of meaningless marks, and I’m not good at all with applying a consistent amount of pressure.
Rather than work my way through all those circles, I thought it might be more helpful for me to review basic shading techniques — to look at the how more than the where.
I browsed around and found a lot of videos on shading. Some were helpful, some weren’t. Here are a few that I enjoyed.
Topics discussed on this video include pressure control, smoothness of shading, and understanding how light works.
This video is useful for understanding different shading methods — hatching, cross-hatching, circulism (also known as scumbling), and contouring — to create realistic textures.
I really enjoyed this demonstration. Watching the artist as he worked helped me actually see the techniques he was using. He also took time to explain the different techniques he used.
Knowing what to do when shading is important, but equally important is knowing what not to do.
In case you’re curious, those mistakes are (1) trying to master shading techniques before learning basic drawing skills, (2) using poor references photos, (3) thinking in two dimensions rather than three, (4) being afraid to go too dark, and (5) creating inconsistent values.
I can certainly claim most of those mistakes as ones I’ve made, especially being afraid of getting my dark values too dark. This video points out one maxim we should always remember:
The lightest dark is darker than the darkest light.
I know I have a long way to go in improving my drawing techniques, so I’m grateful to artists who have taken the time to create these videos. You’ll find many, many more demonstrations available online. The ones I’ve listed here are ones that helped me. You might find others more suitable for your skill level.
Before closing, I also want to share one of the shading technique practice sheets I found.
I know I will be working a lot with basic shapes and forms over the next few weeks. This is one of the most important aspects of creating good drawings, and I can definitely improve in this area.
Yes, the basics are important, and that’s why we do them over and over again. So, welcome to Basics Redux. It’s a funny, awkward word, but oh, so very necessary.