Techniques for Drawing on Toned Paper

Artist Scott Burdick

The following is an excerpt from our Winter Artist eNewsletter written by artist Scott Burdick.

I really enjoy drawing on toned paper since I can let much of the paper show through and simply add a few accents of white chalk for highlights. For this drawing I’ve selected the tan Strathmore® 400 Series Toned Sketch paper that features one of my drawings on the cover.

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1. I tend to start with the nose when doing a profile, since it gives me a lot of good landmarks to measure from for other features. When doing a straight-on portrait, I usually begin with the eyes.


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2. At this point, I just map out the proportions correctly and do not put much thought into modeling or shading. I really like the sweep of the design from the woman’s face, down the front of her cloak to the chicken she’s holding. With that as my focus, I plan to leave a lot out that would take away from this area of interest. I often find that the most important part of a drawing or painting is what you decide to leave out and how you simplify what you render.


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3. Once I map out the proportions, I start blocking in some of the large dark shapes of the face. Notice that I treat the entire eye-socket as a single, dark shape. Always start with large, simple masses of dark and light, and then go into the details on top of that. As you approach each area, continuously compare it to the lightest lights and darkest darks of the subject and ask yourself where it falls in relation to those extremes. It is very difficult to identify a particular value in isolation. Always compare it!


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4. Use white chalk to define a few of the light areas. Use your white chalk sparingly, because if it starts to bleed too much into the charcoal you will get a muddiness that you might not want.


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5. Whatever you are drawing, think in terms of abstract lines and shapes. You are not drawing a nose or lips or a tree, but only the light and dark shapes and patterns that make up this object. The longer I paint, the more I embrace this lesson.


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This is a relatively quick drawing that took me about three hours total. You can see in the final drawing how I only include the parts that interest me and help create a strong design. If I render her entire figure and everything in the background, it will have a lot less impact, in my opinion.

To read the entire article and find out more about Scott, download our Winter 2013 Artist eNewsletter.

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