Studio Mysteries

August 16, 2009

Tonal Drawing with Rick Morris – 2-week pose

Filed under: Drawing, Rick Morris, Values — Tags: , , , , — Anya Galkina - Studio Mysteries @ 7:57 pm

It is said that she who knows what she is doing with values can make a successful painting, even if she is a total mess at handling colour.

With this in mind, I am studying with a teacher who really understands values and focus as a storytelling tool. This class is already helping me a lot with my actual art-project-type drawings (still at it! pictures coming soon!), and I hope the skills I am learning will also bridge me back into my painting projects with less frustration therein.


In this exercise, we toned the paper with charcoal powder first, to a middle-dark tone. Then we did a block-in with charcoal pencil, erasing the lines carefully and re-blending the powder with a bristle brush.

The actual work with values started with defining light and shadow by squinting and looking at them as 2D shapes – what I call doing the cow-pattern. (You know? Those black and white blotch cows?)

Then we started building up darker shadows with vine charcoal, blending it in some more with the brush, so it’s really worked into the paper surface, and to get rid of streaking. Texture in shadow distracts from texture in light.

At this point, Rick surprised me by coming over and sticking a big ole highlight on the lady’s forehead. I am still used to keeping the highlights for the end, reserving them as a sort of magical sword that will make the whole thing work somehow. But no, Rick sez if you are setting up the dark value range by building in the darkest areas, you should also introduce the brightest points in the composition at the same time. Then you’ll know how light or dark everything in between the extreme points of the value range should be.

We picked the forehead because I wanted the model’s face to draw the most attention.

Guess what all the male students picked as their point of dramatic interest? No, guess.

Oh, alright. It was the boobs.


  1. hey, great work on light/shadow. Isn`t it amazing how dark & light values bring a once 2D objct right to the forefront? 🙂 I know that is one aspect I’ve TRIED to be patient with. It’s one thing to have a great sketch, but a whole other to bring it to life. Keep up the great work.

    Comment by inknform — August 17, 2009 @ 4:20 pm

  2. Poor woman probably spent ages trying to remove that forehead shine with facial powder.

    You’re going to be SUCH a popular teacher, ‘cuz your funny way of describing things will stick in their memory for sure.

    Tell the male students that all that eye squinting will take its toll.

    Comment by InkSplodge! — August 19, 2009 @ 5:00 pm

  3. Thanks, inknform! Pleasure to have you here. Although for me, it’s the other way around – I find bringing the drawing to a finish a lot of fun, whereas quick sketch is a huge challenge and tires me out!

    Lol, InkSplodge, I was kind of hoping she didn’t look at my drawing, but she probably did…

    I’ve noticed that I learn and retain more in classes where the teachers use a lot of analogies and make jokes. Funny makes the medicine go down.

    It’s completely useless to try to pry male students away from their love of the boobs 😀

    Comment by Anya Galkina - Studio Mysteries — August 19, 2009 @ 7:25 pm

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