I draw complicated textures in layers or steps. Each layer concentrates on one part of the texture like this:
- General background value
- Large shadows
- Large highlights
- Small shadows
- Small highlights
- … and so forth
I’m using a reference photo of the field across the road from our house with our crooked mailbox in it.
What caught my eye about this scene was all the Queen Anne’s Lace (tall white wild flower – wild carrot) growing by our mailbox.
I’m going to work over value I already laid down for the field behind the flowers. It was created with loose powdered graphite, so it’ll be easy to work on top of it. Even erasing the flower shapes back to the white of the paper shouldn’t be a problem.
I’m using masks cut out of index cards so I can concentrate on one section at a time. The cut-out pieces are under two inches square.
I place one over the photograph and one over the same spot on the drawing, then I draw that area with full detail before moving on.
Here’s more about making and using masks for drawing.
This texture is drawn in simple steps. It’s all just highlights and shadows with hard and soft edges when you get right down to it.
Texture Step One – Block at the bottom left of image: I’ve filled its background to the local value. I did that with a B pencil and smooth hatching, then finished with a stiff brush to blend it. Next, I used a sharpened stick eraser to pull out the main highlights.
I’m using Arches Hotpress Watercolor paper. It’s tough paper that holds deep blacks and can take a lot of erasing. Some people don’t like the little fibers that work up from the surface sometimes, but I like the paper so much that I use tweezers to remove the little fibers if they’re in a bad spot. It’s worth the extra effort to work on such a smooth yet rugged paper.
I always think a drawing looks a little ugly at this stage. It’s looks smudgy and unformed. I’ve learned to love my ugly ducklings though, because they might grow into swans.
Texture Step Two – Shadows: I used a 2H and B pencils to hatch in and draw all the major shadow details. I used a stiff half-round brush to blend and smooth the hatching.
(I cut my brushes into the shapes I need out of stiff bristle brushes usually.)
In the next steps, I’ll be alternating drawing highlights and shadows, working smaller and more precisely with each step.
Texture Step Three: Two steps in one image. First I used a stick eraser that I’d cut into a point to lift out the smaller and more subtle light details. Then I used a sharp 2H pencil to draw the smallest dark details. I used a brush and stump afterward to smooth and blend.
Even working this small, this texture is all about shape, value, and soft and hard edges.
All I have left to do is add the brightest highlights and blend this section into the one next to it.
Texture Step Four: Finish and begin again. I finished by picking out highlights with a battery powered eraser and then fixing their shapes and values with a 2H pencil.
I moved on to the next square using the same technique. You can seen that I’ve already darkened the background and erased the main highlights.
I’m Not This Organized: I don’t draw in little organized squares all the time! I use masks for drawing really detailed areas and this scene happens to have a lot of detail. I usually jump around the drawing and bring different parts to different stages, and everything comes together in the end.
Because you can never have too many art supplies, here are the tools I’m using to draw this piece.
Arches Bright White Hotpress Watercolor Paper– My usual paper of choice for drawings that are going to work the paper hard. (A really detailed piece drawn with sharp pencils stresses-out a lot of papers, but not Arches.)
Kneaded Rubber Eraser
Cordless Electric Eraser
Mechanic Pencils with 2h, b, 2b, and 4b leads.