Later this month (on the 29th) I'll be wrapping up the series of workshops I'm doing for the Fort Worth Central Library with one of my favorite sketching materials: toned paper. So, I thought it might be a good time to visit the subject I first addressed back in August of 2012 -- this time with more of a focus on the techniques of working on toned paper.
For those of you who are new to toned paper, or who haven't worked with it for awhile, a little review might be in order. First, you may recall that the majority of most tonal (i.e., volumetric) drawings is middle tone. Second, if you are working on white paper (as most of us do) you spend most of your time in any given tonal drawing getting rid of (covering up) the white of the paper. Third, if you begin with a middle toned paper most of your "toning" is already done for you. (That is, drawing on toned paper is faster than drawing on white and involves less "drudge" work.)
But, if the majority (or all) of your drawing experience has been on white paper it is easy to overwork a drawing on toned paper. So, here's a step-by-step demo in colored pencil, and a few sketching suggestions, that you might find useful.
First, if you usually sketch in graphite feel free to do your preliminary sketch in the same. (Just make certain that you use a light pressure.)
Once you have blocked in your subject lightly define the shapes with a colored pencil. (Here I'm using a Prismacolor Verithin to avoid excess pressure, which would result in getting too bold too soon.)
When the shapes have been established with outlines, you depart from the working practice you normally use when working on white paper. On white paper we are working from the white of the paper toward our darkest dark, passing through middle tone along the way. When working on middle tone paper we work from the tone of the paper (middle) toward BOTH our darkest darks AND our lightest lights.
So, as a "visual reminder" that the paper is middle tone, begin to identify and lightly build up those areas that are lighter than the tone of the paper. (Beginning with light pressure will allow you the luxury of making errors in color pencil that can easily be corrected with an eraser. Bold areas of white or black will usually be far more difficult to erase.)
Next, begin to identify those ares that are darker than the tone of the paper and, again, begin to build them up with lightly applied color pencil.
Once you have established your three tonal areas (and begin to become more familiar with the tonal details of your subject) you can also begin to identify and apply your boldest highlights.
Identify and apply your boldest core shadows (the shadows within the shadows.)
October 20 Update: (Oops! Sorry folks, I seem to have left out the final stage when I posted yesterday. My apologies for the oversight. Cheers!)
Finally, to maximize volume in the drawing we want to eliminate (or at least downplay) the outlines*. The easiest way to eliminate outline is to simply take the tone of the line and blend it out into the neighboring dark area. (Outlines almost always define the border between a darker and a lighter area.) Alternately (if, for example, the "darker area" is merely a middle tone and the lighter area is white) erase as much of the outline as is practical and then apply additional white to the highlighted area.
... And you're done! (See, I told you it was a faster way to sketch tonally.)
*Outlines define shape and are generally an invention of our creative imaginations. (If you don't agree, look for the actual line painted on your subject before you begin that next sketch.) Outlines are excellent at conveying 2D shape and are the fastest tool for that job. However, a dominating outline is like an exclamation point that will often compete with -- if not cancel out -- your efforts to convey 3D volume. By integrating the "tone" of the outline into your volume-building value patterns you move the exclamation point from Shape to Volume.
A few "rules" you may find useful --
- Never blend your light and dark pencil together when drawing on middle-toned paper; this would only create a middle tone and THAT is the job of the paper. (Don't overwork your drawing.)
- Light and dark are only found next to one another when one form overlaps another, or when one plain meets another at a sharply defined edge. In rounded forms lights and darks are separated by middle tone (i.e., the tone of the paper.)
- Avoid placing your strongest highlights and your strongest (core) shadows at the outer edge of rounded forms; doing so will flatten out the volume.
- Look for, and include, secondary highlights in your shadows. (Secondary highlights are ares where light is reflected of nearby surfaces and soften shadows. This, in turn, adds a sense of curving form and spacial allusion to a drawing.)
- Light/dark contrasts will generally be weaker in the background and stronger in the foreground.
- If you tend to be "heavy handed" or want to straighten out the lines in your hatching, try holding your pencil farther back and "underhanded" (as opposed to the way you hold it when you're writing.) This will result in less downward pressure on the pencil and a longer, straighter stroke.
New from Strathmore!
Strathmore Artist Papers has recently added three softbound artists journals to their outstanding line of Series 400 sketchbooks. Two are toned paper (one gray, one tan) and one is 140 lb. watercolor paper. All are archival, pH neutral, and acid free.
The Toned Tan paper has a warm color that is flecked with darker red and blue fibers rather like a very up-scale version of the brown paper bags we use to wrap our school books in (although those bags never had such a seductively smooth surface to draw on!)
The paper is heavily sized and handles repeated erasures with ease. It is also receptive to a wide range of media and techniques, and even handles modestly wet watercolor washes with a minimum of buckling and no "show-through."
Best of all, every registered participant in my workshop at Log Cabin Village on October 29th will receive one of these new journals to "test drive" themselves!