This critique is from one of my Artists Network University students who had just completed Lesson 4 – Values which built on Lesson 3 – The Block-In. Values is a concept that every artist is aware of but often doesn’t know how to achieve. Values are the lights and darks in a drawing or painting and contrary to many artists’ opinions, it’s not the colors that a viewer uses first to understand what he or she is seeing in a painting: it’s the shadows. Think about it: you could understand exactly what you are seeing in a black-and-white photograph. Why? There are no colors. But there are VALUES. Everything in nature is just darks and lights butted up next to each other.
- Iris is from your photograph and my block-in. I made a very elementary mistake: had the paper taped to a piece of cardboard, and was picking up the pattern of the cardboard, like a “rubbing.” I worked to correct it, but that paper itself is pretty grainy. Next time will try different paper.
- Yellow rose bouquet: from your photo and my block-in. Lots of details in here!
- Nemo is from my photograph and block-in. I was surprised at how well this turned out! Of course she’s a big dog now.
Your yellow rose bouquet was rendered sensitively and placed perfectly on the page. That’s the advantage of doing a block-in first. It saves so much time when you have sketched in frame lines and axis lines to get the placement and general shape of the object on the page before starting heavy shading. That’s hard to do but you did it! Your iris was beautiful too; also placed nicely on the page and shaded accurately. When you go really dark for the background it anchors the drawing and clarifies just how dark or light you need to go with your foreground values. It makes your foreground really pop. Your own bouquet and Nemo are both coming along great!
Did you have a chance to do your value scale? This is so you clearly understand the range of values. Correct values are actually more important than color, in my opinion. You may find that too as you progress as an artist. Also, if you squint at your subject whether you are drawing or painting, it will eliminate lots of extraneous little value changes that can bog you down. Squinting will give you the broad areas of lights and darks that you can lay down quickly with your pencil so you don’t focus on minutia. This will give your drawings or paintings, especially the larger compositions, say landscapes, more sophistication.
Did it help to break the Iris drawing up into steps with the Block-in (with faint axis lines giving you a center point and four quadrants), then learning about values? How did your block-in of the duck go? You are coming along really well! I can see a great artistic future for you.
Here’s what other students had to say about the Values lesson:
Sarah, what a fun class. I never leave home without my cell phone and my ipad. Now, I’m also adding my value scale! As an artist, you may not understand this, but I am a retired engineer and never even thought I had a right brain. So imagine the world that you’ve opened up to me: I now see and notice shapes in nature and tonal values and can even make a decent attempt at reproducing them. I know there’s lots more to learn, but even at this point — look out world! Thanks for all your help. I’m noticing tonal gradations everywhere and will be spending more time on my drawing skills. Blocking-in was an eyeopener for me and I am in love with the possibilities of cross-hatching. I’ll be practicing it all before [going on to other lessons]. Thanks for everything.
Professional critiques are so useful in improving your drawing skills. Read what one of my students wrote about the critiques I provided for her:
“Thank you so much for your course. The teaching and encouragement was great. I appreciated being able to download and print the lesson materials. I’m sure I will refer to my binders with these lessons in weeks to come. Watching the videos were very helpful in understanding the lesson. Your encouraging critiques were always inspiring and helped me continue even when I didn’t think I had done very well. I always want to do it better. You encouraged me to keep trying. I don’t know what you could do to improve this course. I learned well from your teaching style, and the content was excellent, especially the way each lesson built on the previous one. Thanks again for your excellent teaching.
— Marilyn Dueck
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