Two Still Life Drawings

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  03 March 2013
Two Still Life Drawings

I know that these two drawings are horrible. I have a huge problem with shading and using blending stumps to smudge the graphite and carbon pencil marks I use. What I want to know is how I can make my future ones 100 times better. Also, what would I have to do to make a drawing look something like the images below?

Concept Art Sketchbook
  03 March 2013
Stop using blending stumps. Learn to control the pencil, to create the values of grey. Use sharp pencils, and use different weights of lead to get darker values. Learn to render using cross-hatching, and solid shapes, instead of the stump. Throw the stump out, I can't stress that enough. I took a lot of figure drawing in college, and we were only allowed to use stumps once in a while.

One lesson I can give you here, that can get you started, is to take a sheet of paper, and draw (with a ruler) 10 squares, all the same size. Then, with one weight of lead, like an HB, fill each box with a value of grey, from 0 - 10. The first box will be blank, the second 10%, second 20%, etc. Your goal is to fill the box with the appropriate shade, with no pencil lines showing, and NO SMUDGING.

If you do this repeatedly with a variety of lead weights, like 3H, 2H, HB, 2B, 3B, you will learn to A. control the pencil, B. control your pencil strokes, and C. judge greyscale. Later, you can apply what you've learned to your drawings, and use it to create depth, texture, and light.

As for the images you linked, the first is a basic drawing using a soft weight of lead or charcoal, and then picking the highlights out with a kneaded eraser, which you should have. If not, buy one.

The second image is all done with very precise, practiced crosshatching, with very close attention to contrast. The technique is called "chiaroscuro" - Da Vinci and Michelangelo were masters of it. It could take years of practice to master drawing to equal your example.

The third image is looser, but again, you can see pencil strokes, and highlights have been picked out with an eraser.

Now, looking at your images: they're not bad, but obviously you're a beginner. My advice to you is to either take a figure study class, if you can, or, start at the beginning. You need to learn control of the pencil, using different weights of lead, and using better paper, I can tell from your scans that you're using cheap paper. You don't have to buy the pricey Canson parent sheets, but you should start learning paper, and using the right paper for the job. For this kind of drawing, you want a hot press, smooth paper, not a rough surface, that's more for charcoal or conte. Move on to bristol when your skills improve, for finished pieces. Yes, I know it's expensive, but trust me, using the right materials can make a huge difference, if you're fighting poor quality student materials.

You're also pressing too hard with the pencil. In the areas you smudged, we can see where you erased. You should NEVER press so hard on the paper that you dent it, and the lead should never build up to where it's shiny (that's when you should be switching to a softer lead).

You're also "cheating" at a lot of things, mostly texture. It's a common thing beginners do, and it's a habit you need to break now. These scenes may be too ambitious for you, I would recommend you keep it simple. Work on your line quality, and drawing things in outline, to learn composition and drawing what you see. Don't worry about lighting and texture, just work on contour drawing. Then, when you are more skilled, then start adding texture and such. Also, keep in mind that the examples of what you want to do are completely different kinds of drawing - the figure of the guy with the staff I can almost guarantee was done in a figure study class with charcoal, the second was probably done from live reference or photos on vellum, and the third, who knows.

Drawing is a wonderful thing to learn. I urge you to keep at it, and study more - and be patient, it takes time to develop skills in it. You are starting out okay, and I think you should slow down and do more studies, where you're learning form and technique, and not worrying about a more finished piece. Any beginning drawing class will be about starting simple, like drawing your free hand, do the exercise I gave you above, doing simple still lifes of a couple of simple objects, things like that, before moving on to more ambitious work. A figure study class is the same - you start out simple, learning the shapes and volumes of the body, capturing a pose, using broad, expressive strokes, and over time working towards more finished pieces.

I hope this helps!
  03 March 2013
You might want to consider checking out website and adding it to your resources, it's a free forum and they have a whole drawing/sketching category with a lot of tutorials and knowledgeable people.

Regarding blending stumps or blending in general, I don't know. Many say don't do it, but others say that it should if done properly or in moderation.

I think the worst thing I did was using lead pencils as my primary pencils since lead is reflective even when using the B pencils. Use Charcoal pencils or charcoal sticks, the are chalky so you need to do multiple soft layers with sharp tips. I then use a small bristle brush to soften. Then I re apply.

Do the squares exercise from 1 to 10 and use those squares when you drawing as a reference. keep them next to your drawing and compare. I even used to use a small magnifying glass. What looks crude under a magnifying glass will look good from a distance. That will improve your quality.

J.D Hillberry is a no nonsense artist, below is a book of his I learned a lot from and also a link for his videos so you get an idea what he is all about.

Drawing Realistic Textures in Pencil by J D Hillberry

BillyWJ has given you great advice as well. Just thought to add my two cents.

Last edited by FarisB : 03 March 2013 at 09:56 PM.
  03 March 2013
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