tonal value

Making a Value Strip


In Classical Drawing we use a range of values to convey the volume of a form.
Here we are using 9 values, from 1 to 9, where 1 is the white of the paper, and 9 is the blackest black we can achieve with our medium. 
This means that if we use white paper, or cream coloured paper, or grey paper, that #1 value will vary.  It also means that the medium we are using will determine what our #9 value will be.  If we are using 2B pencils as our darkest pencil, our #9 value can’t get quite as dark as carbon pencil, or charcoal or paint or even computer printer ink.

It’s a very valuable exercise to make our own value strip. Some of the  benefits of making our own value strip are:
we become familiar with which pencils to use
– we learn how much pencil pressure to apply
– we understand how many passes we can employ
– we exercise our pencil dexterity and become more in control of our drawing 
Here are the steps.
1.    draw on a piece of paper a strip consisting of 9 square each of ¾”, leaving a ¼” gap between the squares.
2.    Number them 1-9
3.    First work on the #9 square. Lay down many layers of 2B with some pressure on the point.  You want this to get really black.
4.    Next we will work on the number 5 square which is exactly half-way between #1 and #9.  Please check your values against these examples or the value strips given to you in class.
5.    After this we should work on number 3, which is exactly half-way between #5 and # 1.
6.    Then we focus on square number 7, which is exactly half-way between #5 and #9.
7.    Then we fill in the remaining squares that will each be respectively between the adjoining 2 values.
If you go over the edges of the squares with laying in the tones, at the end, we can use our eraser to clean up the edges.
Lastly we should spray the finished value strip, with correct values, and cut this out to have on our drawing board for future drawings.
© Mandy Boursicot 2013

Shadow Shapes


This iconic posterized image should be familiar to most people, and is instantly recognizable as Che Guevarra, despite being a simple pattern of light and shadow.  The original picture of Che has been altered from including all the finer shapes and subtle inuendos of half-tones and details in the darks.  In other words, the infinite variety of values has been reduced to simply two values.  Such an abbreviated value image, whilst recognizable in its major statement, is also devoid of much of the beauty and delicacy that comes with a well-articulated and intelligently-refined image.
The two-value image is graphic and basic. Yet it serves an essential function.  The precise articulation of the shadows pattern on the inside of the form describe changes in the topography, and thus forms the framework on which the rest of image will be built and elaborated.

Aside from the posterized versions of photos which I have just shown, we use shadow shapes to start our drawings and paintings. 
Here are some examples of portraits and figures in their shadow shape stage:

 – Academy of Realist Art, Toronto
 – Zdenek Sychrava

© Mandy Boursicot 2013

Classical Order of Light


In addition to light and shadow to describe a three-dimensional object, we use a range of values from light to dark to describe the volume of the object as it turns towards or away from the light.  If there is more than one object, or if it is a complicated subject, such as the human form, then it’s more than likely one section will be closer to the light source than another part (a model’s chest, for instance) would be closer than his foot) and hence the light hitting the closer section would be brighter than the light hitting the further section.  We would then replicate the quality of this diminishing light in our portrayal of that model.

To this end, we use a nine-step value scale to describe different tones in the light and dark, and create the illusion of form and volume, and recession into space.
– Academy of Realist Art
In this system, the number 1 value represents the lightest of the lights, which will be the white of the paper, and the other extreme, the number 9 value, represents the darkest of the darks, which is the blackest that we can achieve with the medium we are using (this can vary depending on whether we are using oil paint, printer ink, charcoal, pencil, etc.)
In the sphere with light hitting at 45 degrees, we can render the whole volume of the sphere with different tones as follows:
– Classical Drawing Atelier, Juliette Aristides

Even though the eye can distinguish many more values than can be represented in pencil, it is enough for the artist to use nine values, as the viewer will read our smaller range of values in the same way as they would read a much greater range of values in nature.
In our nine value scale, the lightest values, 1 and 2, will represent the lightest lights.  3 and 4 will represent the middle lights.  5 and 6 will represent the darkest of the family of the lights, those halftones.  7, 8 and 9 will represent the shadows, that is, the light shadows, the middle shadows and the dark shadows respectively.
A later blog will deal with the nature of different shadows.  For now, it’s worth noting that reflected lights belong to the family of the shadows and will most likely be the lightest of the darks.

© Mandy Boursicot 2013