An exercise in seeing light & dark & everything in between

If you've followed Joachim's journey into the art world or DRAWING, you'll be interested to find out that he hasn't given up. PRAISE THE LORD!! 

(If you did miss it, just scroll through the other blogposts to read a non-artist's attempt to learn how to draw even with a busy schedule!)

When you create art, you find out that most of the time you need some guidance to get where you want to go. So I asked Joachim where he wants to go with drawing. Surprisingly, his dream isn't to draw or paint flowers really well.

One day, he would like to make a drawing of his model train landscape. I never knew this.

You probably have something in mind as well...something you would love to be able to do one day!

Joachim understands that figuring out the shape at the beginning is really important. Even though he doesn't have a lot of time to draw, he knows that more practice will make him better.


It's all about training your eye to see. To really see what's in front of you.

So, we tried out a little exercise tonight so that his eyes opens up to the world of values - or the ranges of lights and darks around us. (You can download the exercise in the ACTION STEP part of this post.)

Since he didn't have much time, he decided to do the 5-value scale. He kept the very right square white and made the very left as dark as he could with his pencil. Then he tackled the third square and made a gray that was in the middle of the very dark and very light.

How do you think he did?


Ok so what if you know how to do a value scale?

How will that help your drawings? I had Joachim implement Joachim's fresh knowledge right away by having draw a box that was lit on side. When my son saw him drawing, he decided to join as well!!

Joachim's takeaways:

  • "The value scale really forces you to create the right shade. You can't fake that!"
  • "In order to create a uniform shadow, it helped me when my pencil did not leave the paper as I shaded in one direction."
  • "The box exercise: the darkest dark is obvious - it's the front side. But when I shaded in the left side, it was very similar to the top. I later found out that everything on top HAS to be lighter than the left side."
  • "Comparing values is key to creating a hierarchy of shadows. It helps make the drawing even more realistic."
  • "Squinting helps see the right values."



Values are a big deal in drawing. Not as big as shapes, but still a big deal. So get comfy with seeing the darkest darks and the lightest light and everything in between. Ok, you won't see everything in between - there's just too much to take in, but if I can see darks, mids and lights you can figure out the rest. Focus on those 3 first.



Try it out: See if you can create different values on a scale. Let me know how it goes!!


Drawing makes you see things clearer, and clearer and clearer still, until your eyes ache.
— David Hockney