This week I began work on Week One of Unit Two “Shading and Form” of my Complete Drawing Certificate Course. It’s a chunky module running to 24 pages which covers the outline of the course and its structure, and introduces you to the concepts of learning to see shapes in shadows, how to recognise values, and an overview of some of the important things such as how to prepare your pencils for different purposes, and how to perform the various shading techniques that are needed to complete the assignments in the module.

When reading the details about my progress below please don’t forget to click on the thumbnails by each section to see the cool drawing I created in more detail. My drawings were submitted to Cindy, my course instructor at, and her feedback (in italics) is also included below.

Unit Two: Shading and Form: Week one

The primary goal of  this module is to gain an understanding of tones and values, how to observe and recognise shapes within shaded areas, then finally how to reproduce them in graphite.

This week several new concepts were introduced to the “Artists Language” that I’ve been steadily learning, and I now have some new ways to  break down, analyse and interpret what I see. This is now helping me to ask the questions needed so that I can more easily determine the lightness or darkness within the shapes I observe. This has greatly improved my ability to see the values in objects and shapes within shadows. The “Artists Language” is a great concept, and is helping build an invaluable collection of fundamental rules that will go a long way to helping me achieve my long term goal of being able to faithfully reproduce anything I see through my art.

Exercise 1: The value scale

This exercise started with full instructions on several different ways of preparing my pencils to enable me to use a variety of different shading techniques. I then had to measure out and draw the outline of a value scale onto artist quality drawing paper and follow the instructions to create my own value scale. I began by practicing on some cheap bond paper and by the time I got to drawing the darkest tones the graphite was getting everywhere and my hands were black. I soon learned to use a sheet of paper under my hand, but even then the graphite was still smudging, it was a bit of a nightmare!

Value Scale

Click to enlarge

During my several practice attempts I stumbled across the idea of using masking tape to affix strips of clean bond paper on top of each section as it was completed so that nothing got smudged. Now I had that problem resolved I then carefully measured out the required outline onto my (very expensive) artist quality paper and created my first ever value scale. Click the image opposite to see how my value scale turned out.

Exercise 2: Shaded curves

Shaded curves drawing

Click to enlarge

The next section of the module was to copy a drawing of curves and to recognise and replicate the values of tone within the curved shapes. Again, I did several attempts on my cheap bond paper to iron out any problems before I started working on my artist quality paper. This was a little trickier to do because I couldn’t affix strips or paper to mask my previous sections so instead I used a sheet of paper under my hand, and I applied my shading by holding the very end of the pencil so that my hand didn’t go onto my previous work. It was rather unfortunate that the darkest tone happened to run right through the centre of the drawing and not in the corner, because I needed to grip the pencil much closer to the point in order to achieve it. However, a strategically placed sheet of bond paper under my hand did the trick and prevented any graphite smudges. Click the image opposite to see my shaded curves drawing.

Exercise 3: Tonal changes

Tonal changes, Gradation, Soft Edge, Hard Edge

Click to enlarge

The final part of this module introduced how to recognise ,and then blend different tonal changes by utilising different edge types, such as a gradation, a soft edge or a hard edge. Again, everything I needed was within the course notes with clear instructions on how to achieve the exercise. I spent a lot of time practicing these first, because having to lay down an even coating of graphite using your whole arm is not easy to do until you’re used to the motion and technique. The final version on artist quality paper was very easy to keep clean this time, and the strips of protective paper worked a treat. One thing I discovered however is that when shading up to a hard straight edge you can use a ruler against the edge to prevent the pencil from going outside it. Click the image opposite to see how this turned out.

The notes ended with some inspirational words of encouragement from Cindy, then I sent off my creations for her feedback.

Feedback from Cindy

These look great Ian!

The gradation, soft edge and hard edge areas all look very good and you have achieved a nice dark level of tone there. Were you using a 4B pencil?

The Shaded Curves exercise is also very successful, I can see the various tones relating to your value scale. The only thing that I can see that would need improving is the value scale, the levels 6, 5 and 4 all needed to be darker and I can see some lines in there.

We have to be really careful not to combine hatching strokes with the smooth shading otherwise we create lines in the area that are often hard to remove. We tend to choose one or the other; either the smooth shading technique or hatching lines (to be blended later). However, in this course we are not using any hatching to blend with; just the smooth shading technique. If you are having trouble with achieving a nice dark tone you can use small circular motions with the tip of your 4B pencil in smaller areas. This helps the graphite penetrate the paper a little more. you can also do this with the 2B or even the HB in very small areas. Also, during weeks 6/7 you will be shown how to use the ‘Circling’ method for shading and that will be interesting.

This is great work over all and no need to redo anything at all.

A big tip about the pencils and smudging; some brands of pencil are worse for smudging than others, some leave a lot of loose particles on the surface of the paper. The best thing to do though, is to place a sheet of scrap paper under your hand at all times. My favourite pencils are; Derwent Graphic, General pencil co., and I absolutely love using my Faber Castell technical (clutch) pencils….they are expensive but I love them.

Keep going you are doing fantastic!

Best wishes


Some highly constructive feedback from Cindy there, and I never realised that different makes of pencil would make so much difference. As I’m at the Patchings Art Festival next week I’ll check out the Derwent and Faber Castell stands to try their ranges out for myself. I’ll let you know how I get on!

Coming up

Next week I shall be learning all about basic light and shade theory which will help me make sense of all the different values that can occur around an object. This will be invaluable for drawing from life and from photographs, enabling me to create three-dimensional drawings, even from my imagination! Please follow my Drawing Journey to see how I get on 🙂

Next Steps

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You too can learn the fundamental drawing techniques that Professional Artists use. Download the course notes here> The Complete Drawing Certificate Course

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