This is the second exercise in my Beginning Drawing Series. Click here for the first exercise.
Creating the Value Scale
Using a ruler, create a value scale of 9 squares, 1" each (see image above). The first square will remain white and untouched. The last square will be as close to black as you can get, and you'll use your 6B. For the rest of the squares, you want to develop different values. You'll need your H's for the shades closest to white, and then start switching to B's as you move toward the last square on the right. You can even use more than one pencil for a single square. Take your time; the one I showed you took me an hour. Use your pencils to color in each square. It's easier to bounce around from one square to another to develop your different values. Don't try to work from one side of your scale to the other, as that's harder to develop distinct, different values. When you can bounce around, you are able to see how each square is coming along in comparison to the others. (This is how you want to approach drawing in general - bouncing around so that the whole image develops evenly.) When you're coloring, only use the pencil - don't use your fingers to smudge and even things out. If you get too dark, use the kneaded eraser. It's a unique eraser that removes graphite just by pressing it down on your paper. You can knead and smoosh it into different shapes, and if it gets dirty, just pull and knead it a few times. It'll get clean again. You can also pinch it into a fine point to touch your paper and remove a speck that's too dark.
*Be sure to fill in each square neatly and evenly. There should be no stray marks outside of the boxes, nor should there be any overlapping marks from one box to the next. Each square should be filled in so that you can't see what direction your pencil moved in; in other words, no quick scribbling!
Different Pencil Grips
For the first exercise, you hold your pencil the same way you do for writing. For the second exercise, you need to practice holding your pencil a new way. Use the pads of your thumb, pointer finger, and middle finger to hold your 4H pencil close to the back end of the pencil. The end will be nestled or floating inside the palm of your hand. It feels really weird, but it's perfect for making the lightest possible marks. You'll feel like you have little to no control over mark-making, but that's what it's for - to stay loose and keep yourself from drawing hard, bold lines that are harder to correct or erase.
|Pencil Grip 1|
|Pencil Grip 2|
So give these a go and let me know how you're doing. Just let yourself play with your materials. Doodle in your sketchbook, play with your pencils, test your erasers. The Mono Zero eraser is wonderful for getting rid of tiny marks. The kneaded eraser can sometimes be used for rubbing, but I mostly use it by pressing or dabbing it on my paper. Whatever you do, always remember that I want to show you different techniques and help you find which ones work best for you, so don't feel like you have to do things the way I do. One of the best things about my students is that they all share things they discover work well for them. I do tell everyone they're not allowed to smudge because I want you to master using your pencils, getting them to do exactly what you want them to do. When you smudge, as a beginner, it's usually to correct shading issues. But when you can use your pencils to create a full range of values, you'll have more tools in your artist's toolbox to create art. Sometimes smudging works beautifully when you want to show off different textures, but we'll worry about that later.
And don't be afraid to do these more than once if you're not happy with the way it turns out the first time. Your sketchbook is your workbook. Use it for taking notes, giving yourself reminders, and experimenting. There's so much background work that goes into art that no one sees. Just like a musician practicing alone at home, this is an artist's practice. Some artists keep notebooks just for color mixing! Nothing but color swatches and notes. So give yourself permission to do these exercises with no expectation of something worth framing or showing off. There’ll be plenty of opportunity for that down the road!
Good luck! I am always here to help!