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Pushing Values and Detail

The joint forum of JD Hillberry and Mike Sibley. Tap into over 50 years of combined professional experience and join in.

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Pushing Values and Detail

Postby Sirrah » Sun Mar 12, 2017 6:44 am

Hi everyone.

I'm new here but for the moment at least I'll skip the intros and get down to the nitty gritty.

I've got a few problems that I'm currently working on. my biggest currently is working out what details to include and which ones to ignore, my Instructor has us currently working from photographs so that we are ready to go for life studies once the weather warms up and the snow FINALLY goes away.

The next is working out how dark to push a value, since I can't seem to adjust one without all of the others suddenly looking out of place, and having to be adjusted in turn, and we've all been down this road before. Is there a way to get the value right the first time, so I don't have to always worry about constantly adjusting things and generally working myself into a anxiety ridden and frustrated mess.

I'll post a few of my drawings so you can see what I'm talking about since they all share the same problems. I'll also provide the source image that were working from for the drawing where the detail issue is becoming more apparent as time goes on.

Thanks for your time
Ant and water - source.jpg
Here is the source image for the ant and water drop, hopefully you can see all of the subtle value shifts that are slowly driving me to madness
Ant and water drop - Resize.jpg
This one is still very much in progress but yet again the value problems arise, although with this particular drawing, I'm running into the detail problem as described in the above post.
Ladybird - Edited resize.jpg
You can see the value shift issue when you look at the back of the outer shell, and a little when looking at the shadows.
Bird - Edited resize.jpg
you can sort of see the value problems when you look at the eye, the shift between the darker center and the lighter outer is particularly harsh

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Re: Pushing Values and Detail

Postby john c » Wed Apr 05, 2017 7:47 am

Draw what you think are the important detail. but dont try to capture every little detail. capture movement space dark light

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Re: Pushing Values and Detail

Postby KenBrown » Sun Apr 09, 2017 12:12 am

The range of values is critical for a highly realistic result. If you work on white paper then the paper sets the lightest light you have available ... and you are responsible for setting the entire range of values by how dark you make the darkest area in the drawing. Generally the darkest dark is the pupil of the eye because nothing reflects. Fortunately the highlight in the eye is also usually the lightest value in the drawing so they are quite close together - sometimes they overlap. But that gives you the range available. It's important to utilize that range effectively by your shading for a realistic effect - all values are relative so it looks wrong if you make glasses, for instance, a very dark, heavy black and the cheeks right next to them nearly white.

Most artists work up their values slowly starting from light to getting darker and darker. I do not but my way is fraught with problems. I do a small section nearly to completion and then move on. From the beginning to the end I will spend time at the beginning of every session making value and shape adjustments of things already drawn before moving to new areas. It is quite time consuming and mistakes can be catastrophic but it's how I learned and in my comfort zone. I don't recommend it but it is an option.

I work in layers from light grade pencils to softer in a very controlled sequence. I start skin with 6H and cover an area entirely. No pressure on the pencil - just letting the graphite transfer until no more value changes. Then go 2 grades darker (6H-4H for instance) and repeat the process. I use the side of the pencil until I get to HB when I change to a writing grip but still no downward pressure. The values to use are again based on what I said earlier.



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Re: Pushing Values and Detail

Postby KenBrown » Sun Apr 09, 2017 12:15 am

I also meant to say that the level of detail is your choice. Pick the most important things you see like a mole or scar for skin. You are under no obligation to duplicate every little thing if you don't want to . I don't think anyone can tell you what exactly to include and what not to .... that is up to you and will determine the level of realism and the amount of time required.

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Re: Pushing Values and Detail

Postby Kenneth Reaume » Sun Apr 09, 2017 5:10 pm

Hey Ken Brown, I like your input. I didn't want to use more than four or five pencils on a piece, but given your work is so dynamic I may have to try out your method. I've been going soft graphite to hard, so essentially I've been doing the exact opposite. Great work!

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Re: Pushing Values and Detail

Postby KenBrown » Mon Apr 10, 2017 9:36 am

Thanks Kenneth - great name BTW. :lol:

Going hard to soft is very time consuming so be prepared for that ... and it is also very slippery from near the start due to graphite being a dry lubricant. Oddly I find I do not actually like drawing on fresh paper but far prefer my pencil slipping around on a layer(s) of graphite. The one exception to my layering process are pupils in eyes. Those I start with 4B and once I am sure of the edges/shape I will push really hard to crush the tooth. It's hard to get them dark enough any other way. Once upon a time I used carbon for the pupils but people have always commented that those eyes are spooky because they are SO black and non-reflective that they jump out at you. So I stopped using carbon although I suppose I could easily go over the carbon with graphite ... just never tried that.

Addendum to the original question ... The method of application and the paper chosen can go a long way to determining the level of detail. JD uses various things for blending but I've just never been able to get any decent results doing that so my methods were developed along different lines using only pencils. Most realistic drawers use a smooth paper - I buy (or bought) mellotex from Mike and had it shipped to me. I haven't bought any of the new brand he's found but he says it might actually be better. I have also used Strathmore Bristol Smooth Series 300 along with a few others in the past. Using circulism certain skin textures just begin to appear due to the paper. In this example, I did do a fair amount of detailing, but most of the crackling skin texture just happened .. .the directional stuff was intentional.


Hope that was useful ...

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Re: Pushing Values and Detail

Postby Bev » Mon Apr 24, 2017 12:30 pm

A very quick and simple way to judge your values is to have a small piece of card with a hole punched in it (or have two cards for comparison). You can then put this over the area you are working on in the reference photo and do the same with the other card over the same area on your drawing. This serves to cut out the distracting surrounding tones and details. You will be surprised at how this this helps to isolate a tone and will help you decide just how dark to go.
As for what to include, you need to decide what is your point of interest or focul point is and concentrate on that, everything else can take a back seat.

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Re: Pushing Values and Detail

Postby Mike Sibley » Tue May 16, 2017 12:22 pm

First, I believe everyone has to go through the "Detail is King" stage before they learn what detail can be omitted for the overall good of the drawing. Obviously recession plays a part - don't provide detail in the distance if we wouldn't naturally see it. Then use sharp detail where it's important to telling your story, and decrease the amount of sharpness of the detail elsewhere - which has the added benefit of making the important detail look sharper.

The next is working out how dark to push a value, since I can't seem to adjust one without all of the others suddenly looking out of place, and having to be adjusted in turn

This one is close to my heart :) Ken's covered most of it but, in some respects, I work the reverse way.

I've never understood the common practice of starting light and building up to the darks.

First, it means everything needs to be constantly reworked, which loses sharpness, clarity, and the liveliness of fresh drawing.

Second, it means working without having any reference to how dark the darkest value is going to be.

So I, like Ken, would ideally place the darkest value in the drawing first. Now I have reference - my darkest value and lightest (the white of the paper) and every other value has to fall in between those two. Those values almost automatically fall into place. When I was drawing dog portraits I'd begin with the pupil in one eye. That has the added advantage of being adjacent to the eye's key highlight, which will be the area of maximum contrast within the drawing. Now I can complete the eye using the pupil and highlight values as references. The rest of the dog is balanced to the eye.

Where I differ from Ken is that I work hard over soft. I warn artists at my workshops that filling the tooth with the fine clay of a hard grade will probably prevent a soft grade from layering on top of it. Ken does that but I've no idea how he makes it work :)

And to produce the darkest values I use use burnishing with a harder grade - usually two grades harder. So, for example, I'll layer 2B with HB, or HB with 2H. The harder grade spreads the softer grade and fills all the tiny white holes that visually dilute the strength of the intended value. The result is a smooth and intense dark. Try it on your bird's eye and you'll see it darken immediately once those light pits are filled.

I'm not certain it's relevant but the softest grade I use is 2B. I find anything softer is too grainy. I do have to use my 2B with some pressure but the Mellotex I worked on with withstand a great deal of punishment, as does the Conqueror Diamond White I use now.

Finally, do consider using a smooth plate-finish paper. I'm looking at your ant with the water drop and I find the texture of your paper a distraction. Personally, I prefer a smooth surface that doesn't impose itself onto whatever texture I'm intending. The same applies to your Ladybird, which would look much smoother and glossier if the paper didn't impose its velvet texture on the result.
Mike Sibley
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Re: Pushing Values and Detail

Postby kennyc » Thu Jul 06, 2017 1:03 pm

Thanks for the Thread and Thanks Mike for a great post!
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