Notes from the drawing board - subject is drawing, tonally.. 
Julie Douglas

Top Ten Tools for Today

2nd February 2014

Your top ten tools for today..! Apples. In tone, and in colour.

      Drawing by Joanna D

Recently my weekly students arrived to a small arrangement each, of just a couple of apples. Not just any apples of course, but really dark, red, shiny ones. The brief was to pay attention to all the tones, by firstly drawing the apples in pencil and then do it again in colour pencil. So one of the important factors was the Time Limit.. If you would like to try it, here are your ten tools for tackling it. Oh yes - and re- member, Size Matters, so cut your paper down to about A4 (about 21 cm x 30cm) to restrict yourself. If its too large it will take longer.

1. Be fussy at the shop and choose apples which are densely coloured and as dark as possible.

2. Place two or three on the table so they are touching each
other, making sure they aren’t sitting in a row, but that at
least one of them is behind the others. The point of the ex-
ercise is to address the very darkest tones where each apple ‘meets’ the next.

3. Using an HB or F pencil, start drawing from one of the stalks and work outwards, using the ‘cobweb’ technique. Do not leap to the outside edges, but draw your way there by including as many ‘contained shapes’ of reflections, changes in colour or shadows as you reach them.

4. Instead of using a line to draw a ‘framework’, you are going to shade as you go along. Everyone found this challenging at first, because our natural inclination veers towards line. Instead, once you have drawn the stalk (which you may do as a couple of careful lines), start shading outwards from there, leaving highlights unshaded when you reach them etc.

5. Do stick to the cobweb RATHER than enthusiastically completing one apple in its entirety and then drawing the next one. It doesn’t matter if you only get part of two apples drawn, the exercise needs the tones to do all the work.


6. In this example above left, by Sarah B, the drawing began at the stalk on the front apple, and although three apples were started, none were completed. Note that everything is ‘complete’ while the drawing progresses. This demands constant attention, and constant assessing of tones as they relate to all other tones, as you go along.

7. The time limit is ONE HOUR. If you’re really enjoying yourself, you may stretch it to one hour and fifteen minutes, but that’s it.

8. Time for a cup of tea.

9. Get your colour pencils out, and, for the total change of it, a piece of tinted paper. Working on tinted paper means you have the fun of ADDING white highlights, and it also softens the harshness which white pa- per can give. Start at the stalk once more, and remember to keep changing your pencil colours when the tone changes. This is important... every tone you drew in black and white is there in colour too. There are no less changes in tone, but this time you use the colours to portray them.

10. For darkest red areas, use navy blue and dark purple to really deepen that red - you won’t get it by using reds alone. For highlights - notice that some will be white, but most will not be just so bright, so reach for pinks and lilacs. The colours will behave differently on the tinted paper, so experiment and enjoy your discoveries. Time limit, 1 hour 15 minutes.

The examples I have shown were done within this time frame. It’s not a race, I don’t expect you to finish, I expect you to observe. Tonally. Go for it! Drawing, above, by Ciara C.


Weekend workshops in portraiture, oils and drawing. Email me for details! 


The information in this newsletter is written by Julie Douglas and is aimed at refreshing your knowledge of subjects you may have done in the past, and introducing you to new ways of working if you haven't done this subject before. It is for fun and to encourage personal creative growth. 

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