Step by Step: Rhythm and shadows
1 Start by exploring
This is just a loose exploration of shapes and rhythm. I’m usually looking for pleasing shapes and interesting negative space. It’s easy for me to get lost in finding details at any stage, and depending on my intentions for the piece I often just let go and explore in whatever direction the drawing seems to favour.
2 Sculpting with shadows
Now I find the shadows that will sculpt the form, image or composition. This can change the design and direction, and is a stage where you must be unafraid to use your eraser. Unless you have specific reference to draw from, you may have to chase the form until you find it. Once you find it, however, it may alter the form’s hierarchy.
3 Pushing the values
Now I push the render and look for values that need to be coaxed into place. Often this is the most fun stage of my drawing process, but significant changes can still happen within the piece. I try to stay open to the possibility that large areas might need to be erased and then redrawn at any stage.
8 Lost and found edges
It’s very important to understand how edges create depth, resolve elements and imply dimensionality. With concept work, lost edges aren’t always an issue. A clearly defined silhouette is often what’s required but in illustration, personal work and so on, it tends to make an impression.
9 Add matte fixative
After a graphite piece reaches a certain point and everything is in place, I’ll spray it with a matte fixative. When it’s dry I use a broad soft brush and apply ultra-matte medium mixed with a bit of water (use a thick paper for this to work without buckling). This kills the graphite gloss but it also lightens the values a bit. You can now punch the value range if you tweak your image with a darker drawing tool, such as Nero black extra soft pencil or even Prismacolor black. The image will also scan better because it’s all matte.
10 Don’t be afraid to get dirty
As long as you clearly understand what your lightest value in a piece will be, light smudges and erased values that leave a grey ghost aren’t any cause for alarm. Very many beginner artists’ drawings are less successful because they leave too much white on the paper. In other words, there’s not enough drawing in their drawing. I’m a very pale person, but the lightest areas of my skin are still darker in value than a white or even a cream-coloured piece of drawing paper.
11 Rubbing for a reason
Draw as much with an eraser as with a pencil. It’s often much easier to find shapes and textures with the broad stroke of a kneaded eraser than with a pencil. I often discover my best accidents with the eraser.
It’s very important to understand how edges create depth, resolve elements and imply dimensionality