How to simplify core shadow and shading
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Malcom Tay
I am learning figure drawing on my own (have purchased Proko's figure drawing course but yet to finish). Being the impatient me, I tried to learn some doodling on my own (using Lane Brown's excellent charcoal brushes).. and did a picture recently. However, what I was hoping to achieve was more like the style like Lane Brown or Steve Huston's shading.. i.e. what I see they do is to use some dark core shadow and then lightly (or not much shading) and their figures looks really awesome.. while I had to paint and shade the entire figure for it to even look natural.. how should I simplify the shadow masses and the core shadow.. for example in the picture I painted (with the reference picture attached)? Thank in advance for anyone's advice.
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Amanda Rutledge
To simplify I think you’ll have to take a few steps back and be patient with the learning process. It looks as though you’re very focused on what you see as an outline and you aren’t thinking below the surface to define the structure.  What might help is to think of approaching a drawing as though it were a sculpture. First you start with a very large block and carve out the biggest planes possible and get a very, very basic shape. Cylinders, boxes, spheres, etc… This is where all the goofy looking blocky heads or cylinder arms/legs come in to play. They are very useful to start with for a number of reasons…like in the event you have some perspective wrong or some measurement doesn’t work, you can move that easier than moving something you spent 5 hours detailing. There are a number of ways to learn how to get better at structure, it’s not a one size fits all. For me learning via the Bargue method helped a lot, so perhaps doing Bargue copies is something you can look into, I’m pretty sure Stephen Baumann teaches this method via his patreon if you’re looking for something other than youtube.   But, in the end what I’d recommend doing is learning how to break things down to they most basic shape you can find (even hair!) and learn what is underneath (anatomy). Also, very important is learning to create the illusion of dimension without needing to shade. I’m sure you can draw a basic cube and with no shading you can understand that it is a cube, yes? Well, we want to think of a head the same way, we need to know what is beyond what we see to create that illusion. We might not necessarily draw all of that information, but it’s important to understand what is going on. Hope that helps.
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Dan B
Hi Malcom. I would suggest simplifying. If you look at Steve Huston and Lane Brown’s shadows, you’ll see they work really well because the large shadow shapes are done first. You really want to capture that separation of light and dark where the planes of the form change from light to shadow. Often they won’t even add any other shadow detail, instead just flat shading or parallel lines. It’s also easier to do with a soft lead or charcoal and newsprint if you have them available to play with. Your drawings are good, they’re just inconsistent, looking s bit more like copying than understanding the forms in space.
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Malcom Tay
Thanks for your comments. Yes, I understand I need to simplify.. I think what I am trying to ask if how to.. for example, using my picture of the archer and the face, I tried to find some core shadow.. but it still end up looking bad.. I was hoping someone could take my examples and show me how best to simplify so that I can learn from their sample.. :)
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Izak van Langevelde
How about doing some studies of simple objects, like spheres and cylinders, in a shadow box, i.e. a box painted black on the inside to rule out accidental reflections, with a single light source? Post the results here!
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Malcom Tay
Hmm… I can try that.. thanks for your comments.
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Serena Marenco
Hi Malcom, I did this a few years ago but I think one of the last lessons in the figure drawing course is on shading. However, from personal experience, I would say don't conceive of shadows as something undefined, blurring, especially if you are sketching. Unless there is a lot of diffuse light, shadows have relatively sharp divisions. To learn, when I was at school, they made us shade simple geometric solids: a bit boring but very effective. Starting immediately with a face or body can be frustrating. However, the general advice is: first simplify the shape of the object you are trying to shade as much as possible and define the shapes of the main shadows. At the point where a part of the body or face prevents the light from hitting the surface immediately next to it, you have a cast shadow, which will be very sharp. For example, the shadow of the eyebrow arch on the eye is very obvious. Start perhaps with very simplified shadows: one light and one dark tone, then move on to three, four, five. Basically, it is better to keep it simple.  5 tones (two shadows, a neutral and two highlights) are enough to make a realistic impression. Anyway, watch Stan's lesson, it's very clear.
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Malcom Tay
Thanks for your comments. I will watch the lesson.
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Steve Lenze
Hey Malcom, this kind of rendering your talking about Alla Steve Huston, is not really based on the reference you have here. It usually results from a single light source. I did a quick example of how the rendering works, and I hope it helps some. Try to find reference that uses one light source, it will make things much easier. Keep drawing :)
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Malcom Tay
Thanks for your comments. Yes, I know my rendering is far away from Steve’s. That’s why I wanted to ask the forum members how I can simplify the two examples aka to those simple core shadow look, and then I will try to learn from the examples the forum members drew.. (sometimes learning from copying is one way to go I suppose)…
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