Tone and Color

A point about tone and color in black and white drawing. If everything were whitewashed in nature we could draw the tone that light makes when it falls on objects quite easily. However, the things around us are not painted white.

They are multicolored. And colors, too, bear a degree of lightness or darkness that is independent of the light on them at any given time. Consequently we have to take care in assessing these two different factors. You will be more concerned with this when you are painting. When we are drawing we can eliminate the tone of the color if we want to or we can use it if we wish to. Dark brown hair, or dark clothes on a figure can be made dark even though they are in full light. The thing to remember is that colors have a lightness or darkness in their own right and there is nothing wrong in giving them their full value.


I don't think it really matters if a drawing looks as finished as a painting, though some artists find this idea not at all to their liking. I, myself, take my drawings to a high degree of finish and detail. I have no firm reason for this. I just like doing them that way. I get so involved, sometimes, with a drawing that I am loath to put it aside. Samuel Palmer, a very fine British landscape artist of the last century, overworked his drawings. On the other hand an artist like Modigliani left in very little. Yet each in his way produced a fine drawing.

The bewildering variety of styles and approach is simplified by the act of drawing. When you have done some drawing and have appreciated the problems, the drawings of the masters and moderns don't seem so remote. You have an affinity with them. They speak more to you than before. They speak in the language you are now using. Consequently through your own enjoyment of drawing and painting you are able to enjoy the drawing and painting of others.

Some of the drawings you will see will be just pages of studies, like those of Watteau that can be seen in the British Museum. They are drawn in red chalk and are beautifully sensitive. They are not large and one wonders how he managed to keep his chalk sharp enough to enable him to be so delicate.

I can see that they are wonderful drawings. I can feel the limbs underneath the clothes and the poses and gestures are alive with energy. As for how he did them I haven't a clue, though sometimes when I am doing a drawing myself I can feel and understand just what he was getting at; then it seems clear to me. But when I stop drawing I cannot put it into words. I think that you will feel this too if you go on drawing long enough. It is a sense of understanding that cannot be explained but can only be felt.