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Light And Shade In Drawing

( Originally Published 1920 )



A proper disposition of light and shade gives to drawing and painting the expression of form, and thus the eye receives nearly the same impression in looking upon the flat canvas or papers as upon the natural objects. So Ruskin remarks, in speaking of color and shading: "Everything that you can see, in the world around you, presents itself to your eyes only as an arrangement of patches of different colors variously shaded; . . . and the first thing to be learned is, how to produce extents of smooth color, without texture." To acquire proficiency in effecting a true light and shade, the pupil or learner must cultivate the eye to aid in giving true representations of the objects to be painted or drawn.

The variety of form and direction in nature can only be imitated by a corresponding variety in the lines and touches used in their delineation, expressing as nearly as possible the exact form and character of the original. For instance, an even, smooth surface requires an evenness and regularity in the lines, approaching as nearly as possible to an unbroken surface; and if it is desired to imitate a broken or uneven surface, recourse must be had to broken, curved or uneven lines, such as will best represent the object. It will readily be perceived by the learner that the lines (if the shading partakes of the linear character) must vary according to the subject.

The representation of a, round object is managed by a careful disposition of the light upon the convex part, and the shade attending it. It is this difference in the shading which gives objects drawn on a plain surface their proper relief, and expresses space and distance. India ink or sepia is useful for this purpose. Prepare two, three or more shades of either in small cups, lay on the shades with camel's hair or sable brushes, putting on the Iighter shades first, and work gradually darker until the required depth of color is secured. It is better to have the shades too light than too dark, as it is very easy to strengthen shades, but difficult to lighten them. As a general rule, it must be observed that the different tones are to be so blended together as to form a gradual shade, becoming fainter as it approaches the light.

In the disposal of the shades, the following directions may be studied with benefit:

All the shades of objects in the same piece must fall the same way; that is, farthest from the light. For instance, if the light comes from the right side of the piece, the shades must fall toward the left, and vice versa.

The part of an object nearest the light must have the faintest shades. This rule is observable in the folds of drapery, where the projecting folds appear light, and the inner folds dark. Titian observed that "the best rule for the distribution of light and shadows may be drawn from an observation of a bunch of grapes."

[After gaining some skill in shading with the pencil, begin using a "crowquill" pen, first filling in small squares with lightly crossed lines until this makes even tints, from gray to black. Practice with the pen for accuracy, which is reached in drawing only by using the "hard point."]

Some substances have the property of reflecting the light strongly, as satin, silk and all polished metals. In these there must be very strong light, and consequently a deep shade. All bright lights must be contrasted with strong shades, and fainter lights with weaker shades. The examination of busts and statues is of great assistance in establishing these principles in the mind; and a critical attention to the effect of light and shade in the world around us, in the open air, or when the sun-light pours through the windows or door, or where the rays of the moon light up the evening landscape, and steal in through the opening curtains; indeed, the opportunities for studying the various phenomena of light and shade are ever present with us, and the observing pupil will in this way learn more than by pages of directions.

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