Discover how to render diffused or ambient light and immerse your figure art in soft and subtle shadows. Chris Legaspi passes on his expert knowledge
Ambient lighting feels more natural and realistic because it produces soft and subtle shadows. This subtlety is beautiful to see, yet it takes skill and patience to draw well.
First, I observe the light and the shadow patterns. I block in the darkest areas such as the eye sockets, under the neck and any dark-coloured objects – hair or clothing, for example. My edges are extra soft and I apply a medium-to-dark value tone using big, broad strokes. Then I simplify the head into an oval shape and add gradients of tone in two directions: bottom to top (vertical) and left to right (horizontal). I simplify the neck into a cylinder and add gradients of tone. This helps to set the stage for the rendering and creates subtle half-tones.
I then render and model smaller forms and features. I simplify these elements into flat, geometric planes, which enables me to add tone as planes that turn away from the light. To model features, I focus on either the topography or the surface of the form, instead of trying to match the values. Finally, I add straights and hard edges. I’ll also apply a rough technique, which adds contrast to the soft, rendered areas. Because ambient light drawings are so soft and subtle, edge and technique variation makes the drawing more interesting, life-like and believable.