I started taking a sketching class today taught by a young local artist. I bought one of his sketches last year when I was on vacation. When I found out he was teaching a four-day sketching class this year I jumped at the chance to take it. What a great “extra” for our vacation.
Leonardo’s notebooks stress the importance of drawing as a foundational skill for painters. It contains instructions for both new and experienced artists alike. I knew this artist trained in the Old Masters techniques, so I was anxious to find out what and how he taught.
Two things happened today that I want to share.
The first is a tip I’d never seen before in any of the drawing books I’ve read. If you’re interested in improving your sketching skills, you should know this.
When I first started sketching, I wanted to learn to draw clouds. The problem with clouds is you can’t draw them on a white sketching pad. If you try, you end up with clip-art-looking clouds like these.
White clouds stand out because of the blue sky behind them.
I found this quote of Leonardo’s while researching some information for this email.
“A painter should begin every canvas with a wash of black because all things in nature are dark except where exposed by the light.”
This gives us a hint at the solution.
How do you mimic the sky when you are drawing? You do it by “toning” your paper. Our teacher told us that every drawing he creates starts with toning the paper.
Of course, that makes perfect sense because, as Bill says, “You can’t make white whiter.”
By toning your paper, you have more latitude with the values of your drawing.
Here’s how we did it.
He gave us a piece of cardstock about 4″ X 6″. We then took our softest pencil and began to fill the card with graphite. He then handed us a piece of paper towel which we folded into a square about 3″ on a side. We rubbed the 4″ X 6″ card transferring the graphite to the towel. We then rubbed the paper towel over our sketching paper until the entire surface had a slight gray tone to it.
Of course, you can buy toned paper, but that’s not the same thing. The benefit of toning the paper as we did is that you can use your eraser to create light areas in the sketch. You’d have to use a white pencil with artists’ toned paper.
In fact, we used the eraser a lot today. When sketching, your eraser is as essential as your pencil. Here’s how the clouds turned out.
He did something else I thought was interesting. We went outside on the street in front of his studio. We spent about fifteen minutes looking at various objects. We looked at parked cars and the front of some of the retail shops. We looked at windows and doors. He pointed out areas of light and shadow. We studied how the shadows were affected by the angle of the light hitting the objects.
There is another quote from Leonardo’s that is appropriate.
“Develop your senses – especially learn how to see.” — Leonardo
I’ll share more insights from the class as we learn more.
P.S. Almost forgot…don’t forget to check out Master Class. If you want to become the best artist you can be, don’t believe us. Check out what our graduates say. Click here for more information.