OCAD Studio: Negative Space

Negative space drawing is a way of working that will help you to ignore preconceptions about what you’re drawing, and see things more visually.

It is a very simple concept; you just draw all the space around your subject rather than the subject itself. This approach can be used when drawing anything.

As we have seen in previous lessons, one of the most common mistakes made by people learning to draw is that they draw what they expect an object looks like. We expect a chair will look a certain way, so we draw our expectations rather than what is visually there. By focusing on the empty spaces that surround and fill the chair shape, we can ignore these preconceptions entirely and just focus on the abstract negative spaces.

In essence, we’re trying to fool our brains into letting go of the desire to draw a chair. As a consequence, you will get much better at drawing what is actually there, rather than what you think is there.

Once you’ve understood how negative space drawing works, you can use it as a method to make finished pieces of art (see the clever designs that make use of negative space on the right) or use it as a way to check shapes in your other drawings and paintings. The most important thing to remember, is that it teaches you another way of seeing your subject, or to be more accurate, not seeing it 😉

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: Thumbnail Sketching

You can use thumbnail sketches as a way to quickly note down ideas for drawings and paintings. They can be used for both abstract and representational work.

You can quickly test out lots of different compositions and proportions, just by placing the major features (such as the horizon and large objects or masses).

  • Thumbnail sketches are very small (usually just a few inches wide and tall). Make your thumbnails a variety of different proportions, this allows you to test your compositions in lots of different possible formats.
  • Imagine that your image is seen through squinted eyes, so all that remains are the major shapes and lines. Draw a few major lines and shade in darker values or add dominant colours.
  • Feel free to be as loose as you like, it isn’t necessary to add lots of details, it’s more important to make a lot of different thumbnails so that you can test out lots of different compositions and value/colour combinations.
  • Once you’re done, you can write down notes about individual thumbnails or the group as a whole and then pick a thumbnail to use as the starting point for your painting or drawing. Before starting the final artwork you can also produce a larger drawing or colour sketch to test out the basic composition with more details and a greater variety of values and colours.


See the pages below for a range of different sketchbook pages with landscape thumbnails produced on location.

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

Task 9: Colour Values and Still Life

This task is broken down into 2 parts so that you can explore colour further before you take on your full colour still life art work.

If a painting is going to be successful, you must get your tones right, otherwise, it’s just going to be visual noise. The first step to doing this is to remove colour from the equation, to create a range of tone using only black. We did this in an earlier task and it is the main reason for beginning this series with tonal drawings, in black and white.

It’s now possible to create a value scale with every colour in your palette. Once you’ve painted a grey scale, it’s well worth the time painting a series of value scales with every colour you use frequently. Then if you’re struggling to get the right tone in a painting, you can easily consult your value scale.

You can use a range of media too and this will alter your tonal scale and how the colours work:

For watercolour, one way to make it lighter is to gradually add a little more water to the colour each time. You can also try using glazes, creating a series of values by painting a series of blocks, each glazed over once more than the previous block.

With oils or acrylics, the easiest way to lighten a colour is to add white. Remember from our previous discussion that this reduces the intensity of the colour, and therefore may not be ideal. Instead, think about lightening a colour by adding another colour of a lighter value. For example, to lighten a dark red, you can add a little yellow.

We have spoken about complementary colours in our previous lessons and with this exercise you can now explore more in depth your colour wheel. To lighten or darken a colour look at its position on the colour wheel–what is directly opposite? This is its complementary colour. We can use these to create value and it makes for a more interesting painting 🙂

Also consider the harmonious colours to get a range of value. To get a lighter tone of green, try adding yellow, not white. To get a darker tone green, try adding blue, not black. Harmonious, or analogous, colours are next to each other on the colour wheel.

Explore with many value scales, as that way, you can choose the right colour schemes for your art work. You need to understand exactly what colours do when mixed together and this takes practice and experimentation, but it’s time well spent.


Some painters start a painting with the highlights, some with the extreme darker tone. Doing this will make it easier than starting with mid-tones.

When your painting is ‘finished’, check whether you’ve still got your “darkest darks” and “lightest lights”. If you haven’t, the painting isn’t finished yet and you need to adjust the tones.

When painting, get into the habit of squinting your eyes at your subject, which reduces the level of detail you see and emphasises the light and dark areas.

Mid-tones are harder to judge. Compare them to the adjacent tones in the subject and to the lightest or darkest tone. If you struggle with this, a monochrome filter will help you to distinguish tones or value in a subject. Which is what we have been looking at in earlier tasks.

If you struggle with tone or value, doing your value study will be invaluable before painting with colour. Also, painting entirely in monochrome until you’re more comfortable with tone or value is recommended, so keep returning to earlier tasks to ensure you progress. Post your work for feedback and get some expert advice to keep moving forward 🙂

Here is a PDF resource to support you further:

Colour Scale and Colour Still LIfe

…and another quick reference to support this task 🙂

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: How to Make a Value Scale

A value scale will teach you how to organise and understand the limits of values. It consists of nine boxes ranging from white to black. I recommend trying a number of different mediums to see how the value range changes depending on the nature of the medium (oil paint can go a lot darker than graphite for example).

You will learn to recognise the subtle differences between values, which will help you to control the sense of light, form and mood in your artwork.


  1. Using a ruler, draw nine identical squares next to one another on your paper or canvas.
  2. Number the squares from 1-9.
  3. Leave square ‘1’ blank (if working in pencil) or paint it white (if working in paint).
  4. Fill square ‘9’ in with the darkest possible value. If working in pencil this means using your softest lead (6B or 2B for example). If working in paint this will mean using pure black.
  5. You now have the two extremes of your value range; from lightest and darkest.
  6. Now try to guess an in-between value and put it in the ‘5’ square. It should be half way between the value of white and black (don’t worry if it’s not perfect, you will alter it later on).
  7. Now fill in the ‘8’ square with another intermediate value. You should try to make sure that each value only changes slightly from the preceding one. It might help if you blur your eyes when comparing the values of neighbouring squares.
  8. Continue filling in the ‘7’ and ‘6’ squares with progressively lighter values until it reaches the value of the ‘5’ square.
  9. Repeat the process from square ‘2’, working towards the middle value again.
  10. Once all the values are in, you can go back and correct them
    1. If you’re working in pencil this will mean softly erasing a square if it’s too dark or shading it more if it’s too light.
    2. If you’re working in paint this will mean adding lighter paint or darker paint to the square to alter it.
    3. Keep going until you’re happy that the transition from white to black is even and consistent.

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: Charcoal, Graphite and Associated Tools

Graphite and charcoal are the two most commonly used dry media, they can be used together but they have slightly different properties, so I recommend using one or the other until you’re confident with both mediums.

Graphite is less messy than charcoal and tends to stick to the surface of paper more effectively, which makes it ideal for sketching and working on the move. However it is less dark which results in a narrower value range. It also tends towards shininess when applied heavily, which further reduces the impact of the darker values. So I’d recommend using charcoal for more sustained drawings as it can be used on a larger scale and provides you with a greater value range.


Types of Graphite

Wooden pencil:

The most commonly used type of graphite is a lead encased in wood, the leads are made from graphite powder mixed with clay powder (this acts as a binder). The ratio of graphite to clay determines the softness of the pencil lead, with more clay resulting in a softer pencil. Pencil grades go from 4H (hardest) to 2H, H HB to B, 2B, 3B etc. as they get softer. It is possible to sharpen a wooden pencil with a metal sharpener or using a stanley knife and sanding block (for more info about sanding blacks see the bottom of this guide).

Wooden pencils are a good all round drawing tool as they are common and equally effective for precise line drawing and mass drawing.


Mechanical pencil:

A mechanical pencil uses a thinner lead (usually between 0.5mm and 0.7mm) than a wooden pencil. This thin lead is fitted into a chamber the shape of a regular pencil. You can expose more or less of the lead by clicking the base of mechanical pencil.

Mechanical pencils are great for precise line drawing or light mass drawing but not a great choice if you need to lay down a lot of tone quickly.


Clutch pencil:

A clutch pencil is a mixture of a wooden pencil and a mechanical pencil. Like a wooden pencil it uses a fairly thick lead but this isn’t encased in wood. Instead the leads are held in a chamber like a mechanical pencil. This means that you don’t need to spend as much time sharpening, you can get a fine point using just a sanding block. As a result, clutch pencils are extremely versatile and would be my recommendation for the best all round graphite tool.

Graphite stick:

A graphite stick looks like a regular pencil but it is made entirely from graphite, making it very useful for laying down tone but less useful for fine line drawing.


Graphite powder:

Graphite powder can be bought pre-made from art shops as a dust in a container, or you can collect it when sharpening pencils with a sanding block. Graphite dust is a good way to apply a soft tone very quickly on your paper. You can spread and apply graphite dust with brushes, sponges and other tools (see the bottom of this guide for a list of tools that can be used with graphite).


Types of Charcoal

Vine charcoal:

Vine charcoal is the cheapest and most common form of charcoal. It is made by burning thin sticks of specific types of wood in a kiln. They are usually round in shape and irregular (depending on the shape of the original stick). Vine charcoal tends be quite light and harder than other forms of charcoal. So it is useful for sketching but not suitable for more sustained and detailed drawing. Vine charcoal can be used on its side to apply a tone or sharpened to draw a line.


Graded Charcoal:

If you want to produce a  more detailed charcoal drawing, then I highly recommend investing in some graded charcoal. Graded charcoal is made in a similar way to vine charcoal but with a greater level of control. This means that it is possible to buy the charcoal with different levels of hardness and softness (usually H, HB and B). Graded charcoal is usually straight and more regular than vine charcoal. It lends itself to sustained drawing because it is possible to begin laying in tone with softer B sticks before using HB and H for fine details and lines. The best brand of graded charcoal is called ‘Nitram’.


Compressed charcoal:

Compressed charcoal comes as a stick or pencil and is made from charcoal dust bound with a gum or wax. It is useful for laying down particularly dark tones but is harder to erase than vine, graded charcoal or charcoal dust so it needs to be used carefully.


Charcoal powder:

Charcoal powder is made from ground up charcoal and is used in a similar fashion to graphite powder.


Associated Tools

Stanley Knife:

A stanley knife can be used to achieve a finer point on a graphite or carbon pencil. Hold the pencil at the base before shaving the top of the pencil in a motion away from your body. Keep doing this until you have exposed the pencil lead and created a steep taper on the top of the pencil. Finish sharpening with a sanding block (see below).


Sanding Block:

A sanding block can be bought or made and consists of a small, thin piece of wood (approximately 4cm x 10cm) with strips of sandpaper stapled on top. By holding a sharpened pencil, vine or graded charcoal at an angle and lightly sanding the tip you can make a very fine point. You can also collect the graphite or charcoal dust to use with other application techniques. When the sandpaper is used up, just tear off, throw away and use the new strip below.



A stump looks like a pencil but it is made from very tightly rolled paper that makes a point at the top. It can be used to smooth, smudge and press graphite into the tooth of the paper. It is useful if you want a very smooth look to your drawing.



You can use any type of brush as a drawing implement. Stiffer brushes can be used to push graphite and charcoal into the tooth of the paper whereas softer brushes and sweep dust away and lighten the drawing. Try apply charcoal or graphite dust with a brush directly to get different effects.



A washing up sponge can be used to create dark masses of tone on a charcoal drawing. If you draw heavily on the paper with a soft stick of charcoal, you can use the sponge to shift the dust around the surface of the paper and fill in the tooth to create a smooth and filled in tone.


Paper Towel:

Paper towel can be used to wipe away charcoal from a drawing, it is not as effective as an eraser but will subtly lighten the image. If scrunched, it can also produce interesting textures when padded over a charcoal drawing.


Kneadable Eraser:

A kneadable eraser is an indispensable tool, it can be shaped into a very fine point for accurate erasing in the drawing. Whilst it is sufficient in most cases, it is not able to erase very heavily applied charcoal or graphite.


Hard Eraser:

If you need to completely remove a mark, you will need to use a hard eraser. If you need to be very precise, you can cut a small piece of hard eraser off with a stanley knife. It is important to keep your hard eraser clean as it will smudge rather than erase if it’s covered in charcoal or graphite.



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: Types of Lighting

Here are the six main types of lighting that you will use when making representational art. In this case I’ve focused on a portrait bust but the same principles apply with other subject matter.

Each direction of light creates a different effect, so I have explained them below. If you have any questions about selecting and setting up a light source, please let me know.

Frontal Lighting

Subjects lit from the front will not have many shadows so it can be more difficult to make them look 3D. If you want an image that looks like it is flooded with light this is a good choice.

Three-quarter Lighting

This is probably the most common type of lighting, particular for portraits. It provides enough shadows for you to make the subject look 3D without it being too dark. The light is generally placed at a slight angle to the front of the face, and low enough that there is some light shining on the eyes.

Side Lighting

Lighting from the side will split the subject into a light half and a dark half. This is dramatic but can make for a flat looking image. It is a good choice if you want a more graphic effect.

Lighting from Below

A subject lit from below will look, unnatural, dramatic and mysterious. It makes us think of ghost stories and candlelight. It looks unusual because people and objects are almost always lit from above, whether by sunlight, or artificial lights.

Lighting from Behind

A light source placed behind the subject will make it into a silhouette. There will still be some light that spills into the form from the edges though, so it pays to be observant when working from a scene that is lit in this way.

Lighting from Above

A figure lit from directly above will have deep shadows under the brow and nose. This means that it can be hard to see the eyes, which often makes it an undesirable set up for portraits. This kind of lighting is commonly seen at midday when you’re outdoors.

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

Task 8 Part 2: Colour Fruit Bowl

TASK: Make a drawing of a bowl of fruit using either colour pencils, pastels or paints.

You are at the stage to begin experimenting with your colours when producing art work in colour.  Part 1 of this task was to learn some colour theory and produce a colour wheel to aid your use of colour in future artworks. We can now put that theory to use 🙂

Begin by practicing blending together different colours. Not just those created on the colour wheel but other combinations of those hues to see what is possible. Mix from light to dark a range of hues- so for this the obvious would be adding black for shade and white for the tints. But there are so many other ways. See what effects you can get by mixing the complementary colours together. Using black for the shadows on a red apple would create a different overall effect than if you mix green into the red to create the shadows instead. It is worth the time spent doing different variations to see what effect you would like.

Look at the key terms below to help you with your experiments:

Hue: the actual colour of an object

Chroma: the purity of a hue in relation to grey. When there is no shade of grey in a colour that colour has a high chroma. Adding shades of grey to a hue reduces the chroma

Saturation: the degree of purity of a hue. Similar to chroma- pure hues are highly saturated-when grey is added the colour becomes desaturated

Intensity: the brightness or dullness of a colour. Adding white or black to a colour lowers it’s intensity. An intense and highly saturated colour has a high chroma

Value/Luminance: a measure of the amount of light reflected from a colour- ie how light or dark a hue is. Adding white to a hue makes it lighter and increases its value or luminance

Shade: the result of adding black to a hue to produce a darker hue

Tint: the result of adding white to a hue to produce a lighter hue

Tone: in between black and white we have grey. A colour tone is the result of adding grey to a hue. Shades and tints are tones at the extremes


Make notes next to the  different and interesting effects you create through your experiments.

Fruit has lots of different colour changes and textures. You should use some of your experiments from the colour wheel in your drawing to show an understanding of colour theory.


When I have found the relationship of all the tones the result must be a living harmony of all the tones, a harmony not unlike that of a music composition

Henri Matisse


Now you have more understanding of colour theory you can apply this to not only creating tonal ranges in your work, but also consider your compositions. Which fruits will you use? How will you position them together?

You can look at how the early twentieth-century group of artists called the Fauves used complementary colours in their work for example. Matisse’s second version of his painting The Dance of 1910, and Music of the same year, demonstrate how the painter used complementary colours next to one another which enhance and vibrate against each other.

Matisse and Derain, two of the Fauve painters, made pictures using vivid palettes of primary and secondary colours. The impressionists used complementary colours to great effect, in their landscapes in particular; when you next look at Impressionist landscapes consider how the yellows and purples, and the other complementary pairs, work together.

When white is mixed in we begin to see how wonderfully subtle and exciting a palette can become- think of the beautiful paintings of Gwen John and Morandi, created using a harmonious and rich variety of greys.

Gwen John The Artist in Her Room in Paris, 1907–09Morandi ‘Natura Morta (Still Life)’, 1960


Morandi deliberately limited his choice of still life objects to the unremarkable bottles, boxes, jars, jugs and vases that were commonly found in his everyday domestic environment. He would then ‘depersonalise’ these objects by removing their labels and painting them with a flat matt colour to eliminate any lettering or reflections. In this condition they provided him with an anonymous cast of ready-made forms that he could arrange and rearrange to explore their abstract qualities and relationships.

Morandi’s compositions and choice of still life objects allude to his Italian heritage. When assembled together in a still life group, his dusty bottles and boxes take on an monumental quality that evokes the architecture of medieval Italy – a style with which he seems at ease.

Think about your composition and the final effects, whilst also experimenting with your media and use of colours 🙂


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