Section 14. Light and Shade

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


Section 14. Light and Shade


Half Hour Ex. 2: Gesture (25 drawings) Ex. 2: Gesture (25 drawings) Ex. 2: Gesture (25 drawings) Ex. 2: Gesture (25 drawings) Ex. 2: Gesture (25 drawings)
One Hour * Ex. 32: The Sustained Study, Nude (one study composed of three drawings) Ex. 16 and 31: Right-Angle Study (one)
Quarter Hour Rest Rest Rest Rest Rest
Quarter Hour Ex. 2: Gesture (25 drawings) Ex. 2: Gesture (25 drawings) Ex. 2: Gesture (25 drawings) Ex. 2: Gesture (25 drawings) Ex. 2: Gesture (25 drawings)
One Hour * Ex. 32: The Sustained Study (one study composed of three drawings) Ex. 19 and 31: The Head in Pencil (one drawing)

* Hereafter, you may sometimes substitute Exercises 8-12, 18, 20, or 23 for Exercise 2 at your convenience, if you so desire. The same pose is to be used for the sustained study, nude and clothed.

** The contour drawing may be sometimes omitted.

Remember the Daily Composition (Ex. 14 or 30) every day.

An Approach to Light and Shade

There is no such thing as shadow. This, of course, is not literally true, but, while it is sometimes advisable to think of a shadow as a positive thing with a positive power, for you at this time it is much better to think of shadow as it actually is — merely the absence of light. Even the expression, a ‘cast shadow,’ means that one thing is blocking the light from another and the place where the light does not get through is called a shadow. In drawing the part on which less light falls, you should have no consciousness of the shadow, but should be aware only of the form and its surfaces.

With this clearly understood we may go on to observe some of the facts of light and shade. It is my object to borrow from these facts only those points which can be utilized in giving the drawing a more convincing expression of your comprehension of the form. There are any number of books that deal most completely — more completely than this book is planned to — with the physics of light, but if you go into the subject too closely and too scientifically you are apt to become somewhat confused for our purpose. Primarily you are concerned with the shape of things, not with the shape of lights or shadows.

Rectification for the Sake of Form

Light and shadow can be a very real help to you in seeing and understanding the form. Across the room you might not distinguish a ball from a disk were it not for the different way in which the light falls on the two objects. The folds in a distant range of mountains may be distinguished most clearly when the shadows appear. If you are drawing a fat man, the lights and shadows that fall on him will form shapes that are very descriptive of the model. It is also true, however, that shadows can misrepresent the form on which they fall and, when they do, they must be rectified or modified in relation to the facts as you know them. If you ever must choose between representing a shadow truthfully and representing the form truthfully, unquestionably ignore the shadow and draw the form. One of my students remarked that I make light and shade out to be the villain of the piece, viciously hiding the real truth from us.

Shadows can be a helpful element only when you make the integrity of the form your first consideration. Suppose a playing card interrupts a light falling on an egg so as to make a cast shadow on the egg. It would be possible for one line of the shadow to be absolutely straight. If you make the line straight in your drawing, it will give the impression that the egg is a flat instead of a rounded object. In that case it is up to you to change the line of the shadow so that it follows the contour of the egg. This is true of many cast shadows that fall on the body and tend to destroy the form on which they exist. There are times when the light destroys the sense of the position of some part of the body. For example, look at the back view of a model who has stepped forward on his left foot, having the left knee bent and the right leg straight. The calf of the left leg, which is bent, receives more light than that of the right leg, which is really closer to you. Here you should remember the modelled drawing, in which you pushed back as the leg moved away from you. In pushing, because you had a crayon in your hand, you made the part which went back darker. Utilize some of that knowledge and make the bent leg darker than it looks. Similarly, in a front view of the head an ear may catch more light than the forehead because of its shape or angle. You should make that ear darker than it seems. If you think of the whole form as a sort of cylinder, the whole of the light side is nearer to the light than any part of the dark side. For that reason, the shadows on the light side are sometimes made lighter and the lights on the dark side darker.

It is always necessary to remember the whole in the way you became aware of it when building the form outward from its core (Exercise 6). A reflected light generally appears stronger than it actually is because you see it in immediate contrast to a dark shadow. If you make it as bright as it looks, it has a tendency to pull toward you a section of the form that is actually moving away. Therefore, you often darken it. Metal or anything hard and polished is likely to have a strong and isolated highlight. To the eye the highlight may not appear to exist on the surface at all, any more than the beam from a searchlight exists within the searchlight. If you draw that highlight as bright as it seems, you will lift that part of the surface out beyond the rest of the surface, thus destroying the continuity of the form. It is surprising how much less intense the highlight can be made and still seem quite bright enough.

When a landscape is lit up by very strong sunlight, it is unwise to make the shadows as dark as they seem. This seeming darkness is due partly to the fact that the eyes are blinded by the strong light. Under no condition should a shadow be made so dark that it seems to put a hole into the surface of a thing where no hole exists. In a piece of drapery the difference in the amount of light that the top and the base receive is practically nil. In fact, especially in a white drapery, the base may seem lighter than the top if it is surrounded by shadow or turns a little so as to catch the light. You know, however, that the base is farther away and that you must make your drawing so clear that no one will be in doubt as to what part is base. Therefore, you borrow from your knowledge of form and push the base back by graying it a little.

The first truth is the form

You must put into your drawing most forcefully the facts which you know to be true rather than what you see. What you see, the impression that a thing makes on the eye, will take care of itself — in fact, most of the time it is far too insistent. You cannot truthfully portray vision without a knowledge of the facts which underlie it.

Draw for six hours as directed in Schedule 14 A and 14 B.

Light on a Cube

A box is sitting on the table. The only source of light is directly opposite and somewhat higher than the middle of the left side of the box. As the rays of light move down to the box, they strike the left side and the top somewhat evenly, making them light to about an equal degree, while the front of the box is dark or in shadow. Along those edges of the box where the light and shade come together, the shade will seem more dark because it is on those edges that the contrast is greatest. There is a contrast, not only of light and dark, but also of movement because along that edge one plane or side of the box turns directly away from the other. Even if you do not see this, or if it were not to be seen, you will accentuate the line which already indicates this change of direction in order to create the sensation of form which you know to be there. If the light actually falls equally on the left side and the top of the box (tilt the box until you see that it does) you will notice that the edge between those two sides is lighter than the sides. That is because this edge catches more light than either of the sides and its lightness emphasizes the change of movement between them.

Draw for three hours as directed in Schedule 14 C.

Light on a Sphere

Now instead of the box there is a ball resting on the table and the light is in the same relative position to the ball as it was to the box, falling from the left side halfway between the back and the front. Remembering the manner in which the light struck the box, you will expect the ball to receive the greatest amount of light at a point on the middle of the left side. However, the point which appears lightest will be somewhat between that point on the side and the point nearest you. Similarly, you might expect the darkest part to be on the right side halfway between the front and the back, whereas actually the darkest part falls somewhat nearer you. It would be simple merely to describe this, but one should try to understand the why.

The cube and the sphere are very different. In the cube there are acute and abrupt changes of direction, while the change of direction in the sphere is constantly even and unbroken. On the cube there seem to be lines. Although there are no lines actually (the apparent line being simply the place where two planes meet) we make use of lines to indicate this abrupt change. And we use a dark to emphasize it or, one could almost say, to exaggerate it, because light falls on a cube in such a way as to exaggerate this change. (Only the expert will realize that your exaggerations are really true.) As you look at the sphere there is no line on it although you might draw a contour on it at any place, just as you might draw a contour at any place on the figure. Because the movement is not acute, the change of direction is not cut through by apparent lines. Therefore, the darkest note will not be immediately next to the lightest note. Just as there is a gradual movement around the surface of the sphere there is a gradual change from light to dark. While there is still a contrast where the light and shade come together, the contrast is also gradual. The darkest area and the lightest area do not actually meet as in the cube.

Draw for three hours as directed in Schedule 14 D.

The Cast Shadows

Because the box comes between the light and the table, there will be on the table a cast shadow having the general shape of the box. The closer the light is to the box the larger the shadow will be because the box then blocks off more light from the table. The size of the light in relation to the size of the box also has its effect. If the light were much larger and were placed close to the box, the light rays around the box would succeed in lightening the cast shadow and obliterating much of it. If the light were small enough and close enough, none of its rays would succeed in getting around the box at all. When the source of light is lowered, the shadow becomes longer, just as the late afternoon shadows are longer than those at midday.

The cast shadow of the ball follows exactly the same principle as that of the box except that there is more light passing into it. The ball in theory makes contact with the table at a single point and, therefore, the light passes under some of its bottom surfaces. This light, as it strikes the table, is reflected back on the curved surface of the ball, causing that part of the ball to appear lighter than some other parts which are nearer the light. The strength of this reflected light depends on the color of the ball and the color of the table. If the ball rests on a white table, the reflected light will be very strong.

Draw for three hours as directed in Schedule 14 E.