Exercise 23: Getting tone and depth in detail
Select an object and build up tones using pencils and hatching/cross-hatching techniques. Use smooth A3 paper and a variety of soft pencils.
I approached this drawing with trepidation as hatching and I have a less than golden past. To warm up, I did a quick sketch of a seashell (see below). It wasn’t great, but for the first time I felt something ‘click’. The hatched tones of the background were what I found most interesting… the potential for using hatching in this way. This is something I feel I will come back to.
Moving on to my chosen subject, a pomegranate, I began by lightly marking a general outline to establish the composition on the page. As suggested, I used a variety of pencils, ranging from H to 9B (with 2B, 4B and 6B being the most useful). I started by putting in the dark-to-mid tones on the skin, to get a feel for the form. As the skin was so smooth, I chose to use directional hatching to indicate the curves. Quite early on, I decided to leave the pith section plain, as I felt it would balance the busyness of the image as a whole. As for the seeds…. Have you ever felt something would never end?
The course book had implied this might be a time consuming exercise, and it wasn’t wrong. I spent a while just studying the object, noting how the outer seeds appeared larger, with less space in between each one… graduating to narrower seeds towards the centre, set in a darker background. The seeds on the broken-off piece were lightest and largest of all. As I worked around the picture, I kept comparing tones and size relationships. Standing back from the drawing helped with this. I worked hard to get that sense of the inner seeds falling into the fruit, in an attempt to create greater depth. I think this was reasonably successful. I struggled with the feeling that the cross-hatching looked ‘messy’, and just kept working at it. I still have mixed feelings about it, but can see that it needs to be seen as part of the whole. Again, I used it directionally, to indicate form, building up layers of cross-hatching for darker areas. Around the inner edges of the pith, I used broken line with varying pressure to suggest the way the seeds sat in the skin. I sketched in the shadow below the fruit, which was minimal, but hopefully enough to set it in context.
One thing that surprised me – I had expected to find the 9B pencil the most useful for creating the deepest, darkest tones, but in fact the 6B seemed to work better for that. Curious. Both pencils were decent makes (Derwent and Rowney, respectively), so I’m not sure why that would be. I kept working away at the darkest parts, building up the contrast. I used a putty rubber to erase highlights as I went along, going back over the picture as a whole, when I came to the end. Overall, I like the way the subject sits on the page, and think I came somewhere near to achieving the roundness and voluptuousness of the fruit.