An introduction: drawing and shading with the brush.

This is a introductory tutorial that outlines some of the techniques and philosophy that I would like you to adopt in this course.

Adding water based surfaces to a drawing is an acceptable technique that artists have often included in their repertoire without having to justify it, or feel that they are "painting" instead of "drawing", please look at some drawing done by Rembrandt to get an idea of what I am talking about. In particular to the way Rembrandt used ink washes in conjunction with ink lines.

Even though the vast majority of the illustrations for these tutorials are done with pen and ink, you will be require to "wash" shadows areas by applying surfaces drawn with the brush to some or even all of your drawings. If you are taking the web version of this course you should apply water soluble material to at least five or your drawing. If you want to do better, do it to all of your drawings.

If you are used to drawing tightly in a very controlled manner, initially you will dislike working with the brush. But there are great advantages in drawing with the brush that eventually you'll learn how to appreciate it:

  • you can fill in areas quickly

  • you can obtain a greater variety of tonalities, textures, and juxtapositions more so than with any other medium

  • simply by adding water to the pigment (in your case acrylic) you can change the value of your shading much faster than shading with pencil.

At the beginning what you may see your drawing developing sloppily and with irregular features. You will experience less control than what you could have achieved with pencils, but is is exactly the quality that will give your surface depth, variety, and uniqueness.

Transparency for shadows and overlays are two qualities that are easily obtainable, more so than with pencils charcoal or any other medium. If you are thinking about about continuing in the art field into areas like illustration or painting, working with the brush at this stage is very important, not just you'll be able to do things that you cannot do with other media, but you'll develop confidence, speed and coordination that no other tools or media will teach you through their use.

Begin with a line drawing and fill the areas described by the lines with a flat washes, in other words with your acrylic paint diluted in the form of a puddle in a palette. Styrofoam tray, or serving tray will make good palette, do not use paper towel as palettes. Intensify the strength of you washes, if necessary, by dragging small amount of acrylic into the puddle. Do not get too tight, let the water find its way and pay attention to what it does (you can't fight water), do not try too hard to stay within the lines. You brush must be wet before you stir up the acrylic. Do not work with your brush completely dry. Let the paper dry and repeat the operation to ad variety depth and strength to some of the surfaces. Enjoy and read into the stains and the natural occurrences as the wet material stains the paper.

The weight of paper is somewhat important, you could apply acrylic on newspaper, or newsprint but too much water will weaken the paper, ideally watercolor paper would be the best, but for the time being because of your limited use of water soluble surfaces, you do not need to commit yourself to acquiring heavier paper.

When the paper is completely dry, you could detail your drawing with ink.

If your paper is dark in color use white acrylic as well as black to highlight light areas and edges, or to shade further.

Mt. Vernon trail, by Giulio Porta

This drawing was done as a demo for project # 4  Values or "tonal" values. The drawing was built with 5 main values, 5 acrylic washes ranging from the light distant "across the river" skyline and the darkest: the shaded area at the bottom of the tree's foliage. In reality there may be more than 5 values, keep in mind that there is nothing special about 5 values. When you work with a water soluble media you may end up with "in between value" as the brush unloads the wash the "value" of a surface may change. This is something to be expected. Shading doesn't have to be a mechanical process. The 5 values refers to the 5 passes I made with my brush the create this sketch, which took 2 or 3 minutes of my time.


The drawing here below was done on a brown paper bag cut to size, the white areas are acrylic.

This sketch was executed in less than one minute. Nothing to brag about, but if you don't put yourself through these speed exercises, because you are afraid of the outcome, you may not see any improvements in the speed department for a long time.

These exercises may yield unpredictable results. Only after several tries you may get a sense for the kind of style this fast approach may generate. Obviously you do not want to turn these exercises into trash. All of them have the potential of being reworked, no matter how crudely they are. They can be reworked most likely with a different media, like ink, if the washes are light and transparent. Or with water-soluble pencils, which they can be in turn also be wetted. The paper must be dry first.


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