Exercise 2 – Shadow

Using blocks of tone to observe shadow

What did I do?

Created blocks of shadow on A2 newsprint to represent the objects grouped together.  Compressed charcoal was used to block out the shapes and try to build up the tone of the objects and then the tone of the shadow cast by the light.


How did I feel or think about it?

I enjoyed using the charcoal for a sweep of colour across the page and as a way to place the shape of the object on the paper quickly.  It was easier to look at a shape rather than think about the object.

The lighting for the first was just the centre light in the room.  It didn’t cast any strong shadows so there was no drama in it.  The shadows that were present were okay and strong enough but a combo of the colour of the paper and the lack of dramatic lighting left it flat and so I feel it lacked any energy.

The banana in the group of objects was put there for contrast as it was the only non reflective surface.


For the second experiment I covered the page in charcoal first and then blocked in the objects.  This gave more weight to the image somehow and so I continued to block in the objects.  The light source was a flashlight from my phone placed above the lamp base so that the light was more dramatic.

This worked much better.  I got two shadows.  A strong shadow cast in a 2pm direction and a diffuse shadow cast in an 8pm position.  It felt more interesting.  The banana acted as a nice rest between the reflective object and had a texture to it.  I think this was put in okay but further work would have rendered it better.

I used a rubber to lift off any excess charcoal and to lift off enough to give a reflective white on the pot and lamp base.  No reflections on the surface of the banana or the top of the cabinet.  The cloth was deliberate so that I would have a block of dark rather than pure white.

How well did it go?


It was more successful when I did a quick page fill of charcoal.  It gave it more depth and I felt less scared to mark the paper with a big block of colour.  Working on A2 is much better than A3 or smaller.  I hadn’t the space or table size to go bigger than A2, but I’d like to try it out in the future.

I also tried some lines and marks to give the background some texture and shadow.  It was a bit strong and not really needed.  I had done a swirling motion on the charcoal and that gave a texture for the background that would have been enough.  The texture isn’t awful but it turns it into more of a sketchy piece or something.  Maybe a lighter touch would have been better.

What did I learn?

Covering the page in charcoal works as the colour of the page is too dull.  Dramatic lighting is much more interesting and lends to a better range of shadows to play with.  Using the rubber to lift off charcoal is better for giving light reflections, unless the paper is blue or another colour.

How can this help me in future exercises?

  • Check the lighting and aim for something more dramatic
  • Check the paper, maybe try out colours and different grades of paper
  • Throw the charcoal over the page to start as it helps you get over worrying about object placement