Exercise 3 – Lines and marks

Exercise 3 – Creating shadow using lines and marks

What did I do?

I experimented with lines and marks to see what effect a charcoal pencil and sketching pencil had on using this technique for shadows.


How did I feel about it?

I enjoyed using the pencil for sketchbook work but found it too small for anything over A4.  I enjoyed the charcoal pencil because I knew I could replace this with a larger piece and achieve the same results on a larger page.  Working bigger feels better, the sketchbook is a little small now.  Firstly I sketched out the lines and marks that I wanted to make and then I created an image and tried to use the lines and marks for shadow.

While watching Portrait Artist of the Year, one of the artists was working in charcoal.  I liked the way he prepared the canvas and the reason he gave for it.  He also gave pointers on how to work with the charcoal for light and shadow.  That was interesting, and although I applied it briefly in the sketchbook I reckon larger paper would be better for that.

The charcoal in a pounce bag was also new to me and that was really interesting how much it helped the artist to block out the shape of the portrait.


This was a guy I sketched while watching Millers Crossing.  The character had a strong face which I liked so I quickly tried to capture his look and then bring some drama in with the shadow.  The cross hatching was okay here but because I did it so strong again (exercise 2 I had done the same thing) it kinda overpowers and doesn’t act like a background effect enough.  If it was white or paler it would not stand out so much.

How well did it go?

The charcoal pencil was lovely to work with in a sketchbook.  It had a soft quality to it but the control was still in the pencil shape.  Using these lines to create shadow was lovely as I could smudge it too for extra effect.


The pencil could create some lovely lines and marks too but it didn’t have the same capacity for smudging that the charcoal had.  When filling in shadows and backgrounds the charcoal was better.  I could see the pencil being useful in smaller pieces of work but for larger than A4 then the charcoal

wins for coverage.  The pencil is just too much effort to cover the expanse of area.  I like the sweep of the charcoal while the pencil is more deliberate and definite.  I then drew a round object to see if shorter strokes would work or sweeping strokes or messy lines for shadows.

The lines and marks definitely add a layer to the image that just doesn’t happen if you have a smooth finish.  Charcoal is great to provide a dramatic shock of dark and shadow, but the lighter strokes add a lovely texture to that shadow.  For a forest and maybe somewhere that needs to evoke a feeling or some interest, the lines and marks created for shadows feels best.


I went back to a sketchbook I had been working in last year and put in an image of shadow studies I had done for a comparison.  This was using pencil only, and there is definitely more definition in the shadows here but I don’t fancy using pencil on a huge page that way.  I don’t know that I’d achieve the same thing.

In these studies I was focused on short pencil strokes and it worked on the paper and the smaller boxes within that page.  I was also studying the tonal value of the pencil and trying to control how much pressure was needed for a particular tonal value.

This activity was interesting for the different forms of reflection that occur.  I still need to go back and review this more.  The studies done here were with the intention of using them in life drawings, but I would like to see how to apply them to objects.

What did I learn?

  • For smaller shadow studies in A5 or A4 sketchbooks a pencil would be great, but the charcoal would give a fairer representation from the thumbnail and sketches in A5 and A4 books to larger pieces.
  • Different line marks can give a texture to the shadow, causing it to be strong and very dark and sharp or creating a soft, diffused and hazy shadow without a strong line to it.
  • Using lines and marks for background shadow is good but don’t let it overpower too much.