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Pocketmags Digital Magazines

Reductive drawing techniques

In the second of this two-part series Adele Wagstaffshows how the head can be described by using techniques that focus on tone

As we observe the head or figure we will see gradations of tone moving from light to dark as light touches the surface of our subject. An expressive technique that has great immediacy and can help us to understand tonal relationships within a composition is reductive drawing.

Reductive means to remove or to reduce tone; the process is about the removal and addition of tone from beginning to end. Drawing begins with the placing of tone over the entire surface of the paper. A dusting of willow charcoal may be used, or compressed charcoal will give more dramatic contrasts of light and dark; graphite will allow for many subtleties of tone within a drawing, from very dark to softer, delicate areas of grey.

When working with this technique, we can examine how shapes of light and dark work together to describe a surface. The planes and facets that move around a head can be explored by laying down adjacent shapes of light and dark. The edges of tone are used to describe the internal structures and junctions found within the head or face, and rather than drawing an outline and then working inwards, the drawing begins internally while working out to the edges.

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About The Artist

Take your drawing and painting to the next level with inspiration, guidance and advice from this month's top contributing artists and tutors. Cover artist, David Parfitt, shares how it's possible to work through a non-productive period to paint your best painting yet. Haidee-Jo Summers invites you to paint everyday, unarranged objects to discover more about design and composition. We also include demonstrations showing how to apply the one-stroke watercolour method, use a variety of techniques to enliven your watercolours, paint silver objects and reflections in acrylics, achieve the texture of rocky landscapes in pastels, use photographs as a memory aid, bring a portrait to life in oils, capture animals' expressions, and much more. Whatever your subject matter or preferred medium, there's something for everyone, and when you've created your best work, enter our 2019 open competition for a chance to see your work exhibited, published in The Artist, and win one of 40 prizes worth over £17,000!