OCAD Studio: Rendering Smaller Forms on Figures


Consider How Small Forms Fit Within the ‘Fall of Light’

Following on from last week’s lesson – Blocking in Halftones – you should make sure that the smaller forms fit with the general ‘fall of light’ across the figure.  This means that forms nearer the light source should be generally lighter than equivalent forms further from the light.

Forms that turn towards the shadow will still need to get sufficiently dark as the turn into the bedbug line but subtle forms that sit in areas of light (protruding bones or muscles in the upper back or chest for example) should be much lighter if they are near a light source.


Treat Each Form With Care

As you find and render the smaller forms, treat each one with equal care and attention. The human figure is made up of numerous complex forms that fit together in an elaborate and elegant manner. As a figurative artist, it is your job to observe the specific nature of these forms and their relationship to one another in order to express them in an artistic manner.

At times, this will mean playing down certain forms and embellishing others. For instance, if you want to draw attention to a shoulder, the forms in this area should be more detailed, textured and higher contrast than the other parts of your figure. This will ensure that the viewer’s eye is most attracted to the shoulder rather than any other portion of the figure.

These considerations are compositional and affect how the viewer will interact with your drawing. At this stage of a drawing you will be working with subtler details and changes in order to make something more considered and artistic.


Think About Texture

Once you begin rendering smaller forms you can start thinking about texture. Different parts of the figure will have different textures. An obvious example is chest hair on a male figure, the hair will make the form more patchy and scratchy than smoother areas of skin. In order to achieve this texture you will need to alter your marks. Making the tone even and gradual will make for a smooth texture, whereas applying a more varied and patchy tone will give the impression of a rougher texture.

The texture is most apparent at the halftones because the light is raking across (perpendicular to) the forms before they turn to light. So it is best to make textures rougher in the darkest halftones and leaves the texture more even in the lighter portions of the drawing.

Finally, take a look at how shiny the surface of the figure is: places where the skin is more taut (stretched over bone) or oily (the face, particularly the nose and forehead) tend to be shinier. To give the impression of shininess, you will need to add a highlight. On white paper, this requires a light tone overall the figure with specific point (or highlights) erased to white. Highlights tend to more apparent on figures with darker skin tones.


Task 13: Learning from an Artist

Learning from an artist is a practice we should engage in early on when learning to draw and paint. Not only for technical reasons, but to see their practice as a process of conceptual enquiry and of making meaning.

Seeing the practice of an artist is not just to see which media they use, but more about the approaches that they take; it is about learning about the methods of investigation. The kinds of questions you can find yourself asking are then about what you want to find out when starting an art project.

Interrogating the concerns that preoccupy you, rather than simply becoming a maker of images is important for the development of an artist. You may not identify yourself later on exclusively with a particular medium or technique, but see how you can engage in creative investigation and problem solving, a process that culminates in artwork. Whilst you may be proficient at ceramics or digital photography, you will learn to utilise your skills in order to articulate ideas.

Skills and expertise of an artist includes active questioning and enquiry.  Playfulness and risk-taking are central and this has been explored in our previous tasks, but also now become increasingly mindful of accommodating the unexpected. Many artists value curiosity, imaginative response, open-mindedness and the freedom to explore concurrent strands of interest. They see that productive failure occupies an important place in their practice and the spontaneity of what they do, and also using intuition, are important. Looking, reflecting and critical thinking are equally significant.

I tell my students often to slow down. Not pushing forwards just to consume and move on, but to notice and reflect on what they see and feel and begin to process it. Art develops over time, and students of art need to adopt an approach to artworks which allows them to move from recognition to analysis. This will encourage visual and intellectual interpretive processes to happen as you are working. This task is going to support you with learning how to do this even more.

So to tackle this task, multiple ideas are going to be brought together to build your skills, confidence and knowledge to interpret art for yourselves. Looking at an artist’s work enables you as learners to draw on your own personal experiences, gain understanding, develop new knowledge and articulate your individual ideas.

Think about the different ways you may approach your art. Students doing an art history degree vs somebody who was doing a fine art degree.

The art historian may want to collect meaning and take it to the work whereas the fine art student may want to go to the work and unlock what was there standing in front of them.

It is this understanding of art which enables us to go through the process of an art project.

So, choosing your artist to learn from! There are just so many! One of the first articles I posted was of the many artists that could give you a starting point:

Inspiring Artists

Another idea could be to write to and meet a living artist from your area. Ask them questions about their process and techniques. This kind of first hand research will teach you so much about how art can be approached.

Look at these very famous artists to get some basic understanding of what they do:


Vetheuil in the Fog (1879)

Claude Monet

His Vetheuil in the Fog is among his finest works, offering a subtle, albeit distinct impression of a figural form. As was characteristic of many of Monet’s paintings, he applied his brush rather quickly to the canvas in order to capture the exact image he wanted before the sunlight shifted or faded away altogether.


The Scream (1893)

Edvard Munch

Expressionist artists often employed swirling, swaying, and exaggeratedly executed brushstrokes in the depiction of their subjects. These techniques were meant to convey the turgid emotional state of the artist reacting to the anxieties of the modern world.


Starry night, 1889

Van Gogh

The iconic tortured artist strove to convey his emotional and spiritual state in each of his artworks. Each painting provides a direct sense of how the artist viewed each scene, interpreted through his eyes, mind and heart.


Now I want to take Van Gogh further as an example of how to truly begin to gain inspiration, and to further your skills, by looking at his art. Before engaging in painting, read up online about his works, where he got his inspirations and why he used the technique he did. In learning about the artist, we truly can appreciate the artworks that have become so famous.


If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.

Vincent Van Gogh



Here is a starting point with some facts on the artist Van Gogh:

Click on the link below

Van Gogh


Getting the Style:

It seems the individual artists now labelled as Expressionists largely made it up as they went along, following their instincts as to what colour to use, when and where.

The ‘breakthrough’ was that colour didn’t have to be realistic. While reference is made to colours having symbolic value, again it seems to me that this symbolism was largely determined by individual artists, and not governed by a rigid set of pre-existing rules.


This detail from Van Gogh’s Self-Portrait With a Straw Hat and Artist’s Smock clearly shows how he used pure colour with very defined, directional brush strokes.

When you view the painting from close up, you see the individual brush strokes and colours; when you step back they blend visually. The ‘trick’ as a painter is to be familiar enough with your colours and tones for this to be effective.


To build up to producing an artwork/portrait in this style, first replicate and learn from what you see in front of you. Here are some close-ups of Van Gogh’s work to draw ideas from. You will expand on your knowledge of the style, Van Gogh’s technique and also understand the process of creating your own artwork as a result of investigation.


When this experimentation is complete, take on a full scale artwork or portrait of your own, utilising what was learned throughout this process. It doesn’t matter which artist you use, the process is always the same!

The final job will be to anlayse and compare your own works to that of the artist you have investigated. This is a big task here, but it is worth the time as this process is one you will return to again and again in your own artistic development.


So TASK 13:

  1. Find an artist and learn about them and their style – get into their head!
  2. Do some experimental trials of their style. Learn their technique and approach to an artwork
  3. Complete a final artwork which is influenced by what you have investigated
  4. Analyse and compare your artworks.  Reflect on the process you have been through to see how your own individuality and spontaneity is progressing


Have fun!


Join our Facebook Group for LIVE lessons and friendly art community – see you there 🙂

Why not have a go at this and post your artwork for me to see. Maybe I or the community can offer support, encouragement and helpful feedback.  – share your work on TWITTER and INSTAGRAM – POST  using our hashtag #ONLINECOLLEGEART

OCAD Studio: Blocking in Halftones on Figures



Look for the Fall of Light

When working with a single primary light source, you will notice that there tends to be a graduating fall of light across the figure – with the parts of the figure closer to the light source being generally brighter than the forms further away from the light. Even if this isn’t too apparent in your reference or in real life, I recommend emphasising the effect in your drawing, as it lends a sense of unity to the whole figure and will make your drawing more luminous.

It is most evident when a standing figure is lit from above. As the upward facing planes on the top of the shoulder will be much lighter than the upward facing planes on the feet. Despite facing the light source at the exact same angle as the foot, the closer proximity of the shoulder to the light source will make it much lighter.

To ensure that the drawing is luminous, this principle should apply to all the halftones that are the same distance from the light source. So halftones on the shoulder and chest will be generally lighter than equivalent halftones in the lower leg.


Add Darkest Halftone Masses First

Begin by blocking in the darkest halftones as large planes, don’t worry about trying to add gradiated shading at the beginning. It’s best to start with large masses of halftone first and then work within them as you add detail.


Be Careful Near the Lightest Parts of the Drawing!

In order to ensure that the fall of light/luminosity is maintained, I recommend that you are careful to avoid adding tone to the lightest parts of the drawing until all the other half tones have been added. The lightest areas should only need very light and subtle halftones to turn the forms. Adding too much tone to the lightest areas will make your drawing at best over-modelled and at worst like the figure is covered in a dirty grey colour. Even when working with darker skinned figures, this is still important, as the fall of light will still occur even if the tones in the lights are generally darker. However the highlights on darker figures become more important because the difference between the lightest areas and the highlights is more pronounced.

Task 12: Painting a Self Portrait

Painting your own portrait is an exercise in truthfulness. It will force you to examine yourself in a way you normally wouldn’t. Creating a painting of your photos, explored in Task 11, is a great opportunity to think beyond the paint, and to represent another dimension to your art..

As the artist in charge, you DO get the unique opportunity of painting yourself into a situation or setting of your choice, exactly as you would like to be remembered.

And whether you see yourself as strong, wise, youthful, happy, sad, fulfilled (or anything else) art is a powerful medium for spreading that message both to others AND ourselves.

A self-portrait can be so much more than just a reflection of your physical appearance—and the more you put into it, the better it will be.


Here is our latest FB live video showcasing some ideas for this task:


Technically, what you are trialling here is how to use your paints. To mix skin tones, and to work with observation of your chosen photograph, will stretch and challenge your painting skills.

It is bringing into practice our lessons on colour theory and the colour scales you were working with in Task 8 & 9.

As I say in the video, painting is a handwriting so let you style come through.

Observe your photo. Produce colour scales to identify which colours you will use for the highlights and the shadows, and then go for it 🙂


A quick recap on ‘meaning’ to add a new dimension to your work:

Here are some inspirational ideas of how artists have completed a half self portrait and added their own personal meanings to how they see themselves…

Naomi Fry SALA artist self portrait for The City adelaide. Illustration by Naomi Fry. AN emerging illustrator with a passion for creating intricate artwork using mixed mediums including paint, pen, coloured pencil and watercolour.

“I don’t paint self portraits often so the portrait is an expression of my warm, colourful and vibrant personality,” she says. “It shows how I want people to see me, in a warm happy light, and to show my love of colour, details, animals and nature. The monkey is there because I’ve always loved animals, in particular unusual exotic animals from different countries.  I’m also very inspired by the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo and her life story. Many of her self portraits contain animals such as monkeys, birds and wildlife. I guess I have painted myself as a modern Frida but different, more myself and my style! I have used my eyes as a special feature as I believe they are the windows to one’s soul, expression and personality.”


SALA artist project for The City. Photo of Elaine Cheng by Mike Burton, art by Elaine Cheng.  “I think blue has always been a colour that has been close to my personality — very emotional, very calm, deep and thoughtful — so I worked with that,” she says. “It’s always a challenge to draw my own face because I find most of the time it doesn’t look like me because of the way I see things or the way I hear things, or say things … it changes the way I want myself to look. It’s why I’ve placed those hands in those three places. “


Amanda Radomi and Henry Jock Walker’s creation. Photo taken by Dean Martin.

Walker: “We were playing around with a collage of the photos and also with one of Amanda’s paintings, which we used for the hair. I used a mini garden blower for the paint at the bottom. It also says ‘lifestyle’ (to the left of the tongue) which is a recurring motif we have in our show at Tandanya.”

Radomi: “It’s fun, I think. It’s supposed to be representative of two artists working together who have very different practices, and I think it does that.”

See the website for more info and ideas;



We will learn from more artists next time, but hopefully this will build your confidence further with mixing colours and giving a story to your art 🙂



Join our Facebook Group for LIVE lessons and friendly art community – see you there 🙂

Why not have a go at this and post your artwork for me to see. Maybe I or the community can offer support, encouragement and helpful feedback.  – share your work on TWITTER and INSTAGRAM – POST  using our hashtag #ONLINECOLLEGEART

OCAD Studio: Adding Variations in the Shadows on Figures



Finding the Darkest Darks

Begin by looking for the darkest parts of the shadows, these parts will usually be found where forms meet and make a crease or crevice. Such areas receive no direct light and very little reflected light which makes them nearly black. They are called occlusion shadows.

Reinforcing the Bedbug Line

Another part of the drawing which will tend to be very dark is the bedbug line (sometimes referred to as the terminator) – the dividing line between the lights and the shadows. This part is dark because (much like the occlusion shadow) it doesn’t receive any direct light and it usually curves away from the reflected light as well.

Lightening Reflected Lights

Next, you should lighten the areas within the shadows that are receiving the most reflected light. This will depend on the direction of the light source and the forms surrounding the figure. However, the light is usually above the figure so most reflected light comes from the floor and wall (if the figure is next to one). Light can also be reflected between forms within the figure – so for instance, an arm might reflect light onto the torso if it’s hanging down next to the body.

You should use a kneadable eraser lightly to remove tone; either as a flat pad, to remove large areas of tone or made into a point by rolling it with your fingers, to remove precise points of tone.

Evening the Shading as You Work

I recommend using the process of adding and subtracting tone to the shadows as an opportunity to even out your shading or introduce hatching that appeals to you aesthetically. Ideally this will be the last time you need to work on the shadows, so go for a finish you’re happy with.

Form and Planes Within the Shadows

You should also think about the forms within the shadows, as depending on the direction of reflected light, different planes will be lighter or darker. This is the same as forms lit by the light source directly, except the transitions between planes in the shadows are usually softer because the reflected light will bounce in lots of different direction, creating a more scattered, and subsequently softer illumination.


OCAD Studio: Blocking in Shadow Shapes on Figures



Separating shadow shapes from light shapes on your figure is the first step towards making it into a 3D drawing with complex forms. If you’ve made an accurate line drawing, it shouldn’t be too hard to block in the shapes by eye, the tricky part is figuring out where the dark halftones end and the shadows begin.


Tips for finding the shadow shapes


  1. Look at the Relationship Between the External Contour and Internal Forms

The shape of the outside contour (the line drawing) will always relate to the shapes and forms within the figure. So, for instance, you will notice that the lines bulging out where the bicep is will relate to a shadow on the arm that creates the foundation for a rounded form.

There are also shadows cast by one part of the body onto another part of the body. In the video tutorial (link above) you can see a strong shadow cast across the legs from one of the figure’s arms.


  1. Find Negative Shapes and Positive Shapes

If you’re having trouble with a particular shape, it can also help to avoid thinking about exactly what you’re looking at when blocking in. Try to abstract the shapes and focus on them individually rather than thinking about what they connect to on the body. Each shape has a unique character and is likely surrounded by other light or dark shapes, try to focus on how these light and dark shapes interlock. If you find a light shape within a dark shape, then you can think of it as a negative space, it can be easier to draw shapes accurately if you are able to separate shapes from the whole in this manner.


  1. Spot the Bedbug Line and Follow It

The ‘bedbug line’ is the line that separates light from dark (supposedly ‘bedbugs’ run along the line between the light and dark to avoid being spotted). This line is usually the darkest part of a shadow because it does not receive light directly from the light source and it also receives the least reflected light as well. Try to find the bedbug line at a point where it’s prominent and then follow it to find the shape it describes.