Take a look at this value scale. See how the right sides of all the values look lighter as they get nearer the darker value to the right. The opposite thing happens on the left side. Well, those values are actually solid. They just appear to be graduated because of an optical illusion. In a situation like this, do you draw what you see or do you draw what is really there? I use something I call “intuitive” drawing when I need to draw complicated values.
Intuitive drawing is a term I made up to describe drawing that is guided by sense and not by rational thought. If I drew the value scale with my rational mind, I would block off each square and make sure the entire area was the same value. If I drew the value scale by sense, I would adjust my drawing until it looked right by constant comparison and a sense of how to work with the pencil to create the effect. At this level of understanding, the pencil becomes an extension of myself. I don’t have to “think” about drawing anymore, I just draw what I see until it’s right.
I think something happens at the intuitive level of drawing that’s similar to writing poetry. A poet can take language beyond simple words and create emotion on paper. I think visual artists can do that, too, once they know their tools so well that they no longer have to think about them.