Light and Shadow – With An Eraser

This drawing exercise from Drawing from the Right Side of The Brain serves two purposes. First it demonstrates the power of light and shadow. Second, it shows that the brain of an audience is able to pick up light and shadow to form a whole and understand what the picture is about. So we should not worry unduly and over-correct our work (a common habit for beginners).

My task is to copy this picture upside down, and using only an eraser for most parts of the work.


Self-portrait by Gustave Courbet (1897)

These are the steps for the exercise.

I prepare the paper by toning it. First, shading with a graphite stick.

Then rub with tissue in circular motion. This forms the background for most of the mid-tones of this piece.

Looking at the original picture upside down, I begin to rub out the highlights with an eraser.


The completed exercise with some additional fine-tuning of darker areas right-side-up.

Wow, no need skill one. Just follow. This exercise reinforces the book’s main learning point – draw what you see and not what you think you see.

9 thoughts on “Light and Shadow – With An Eraser

  1. Excellent… you definitely have a lot of talent hun, wouldnt it be nice if you say wrote a little story and did a little illustration to help tell the story? Its a lot of fun… I don’t know if you have children but they have great imaginiations and unwittingly give away lots of ideas so you could make a joint project. I did with my granddaughter and she got pretty bossy about how she wanted it lol! its a thought..:) some of the illustrations are on my wordpress site.

  2. Good idea! Did your granddaughter help with the cartoon stories on your website? I will certainly consider putting the story-teller and painter on the same page in future : )

    • yes totally she did, she wanted Polly to be called Polly, she wanted spotty clothes, stuff like that but it was lead by her imagination i just did the drawings and led her round the story just coaxed her out a bit but if she didnt like an idea then it was out no negoiating lol… she was almost 4 at the time but is very advanced for her years…. since she was a baby shes been drawing, her dad is quite arty and her mum is keen for her to experiment … I must admit they are very clever with ideas they come up with, she paints, draws, sculptures… that can be anything from cotton wool, play dough or paper mashe
      I have the book Drawing from the Right side of the brain and the work book that goes with it. i havent had the time they want you to commit to it every day for 5 days but I will take a week off from everything else this summer and get it done I am really keen to work through it. I have read some of it. Have you done it?

      • Doing something creative with a child can be an eye opener. I must do that sometime, to remember the child in me. Yes I have read and done most of the exercises in Drawing from the Right Side. It’s what I started with when I decided to learn how to draw and I find it just wonderful. It have me confidence that I too can draw.: )

      • And I’ve got to get that book done and dusted its just I seem to be so busy with drawings and paintings at the moment that are all backed up needing my attention like yesterday! lol, so I need to get some finished and take nothing else on until I am up to date with everything, However will always have to deal with my tutorial site, my art group, my wordpress blog and (life of course!)

      • In the process of learning to draw and paint, I also learn that it is ok to go with th flow and not plan too much or have a too structured approach. I am rather left brain and even before attending my first painting class I was reading up – afraid I would look really ignorant in class. But then I realize that the reason I am attending class is because I am ignorant about painting and that I was here to learn. So I decided to just go with the flow. And it helps that the style of the teacher is also “go with the flow” – an ongoing class that is not very structured. Students come and go as they like. So we can all learn at our own pace and discover things slowly, and don’t feel compiled to complete a course in say, 10 weeks. So my recent foray into painting has taught me this, sometime we need to let go a little- and simply enjoy the processes. Same for life. So if you don’t have time for Drawing from The Right side of the Brain at the moment, it’s ok. Just take your time : )

  3. I like how you’re always exploring new techniques! We are trying drawing in classes, but very few people are really interested in learning how to draw for real, I mean, not re-drawing pictures or copying them. It’s a fairly slow process, and one shouldn’t be discouraged if the first drawings are not perfect. You have a lot of patience and persistence, I can see how much you have progressed already, and this drawing is great. Good results are inevitable if one is willing to work. I would love to draw more because that is something which comes to me naturally. It’s just always something: acrylic demos, watercolor demos, some images need to be finished, and I don’t get to drawing again. Good luck with your painting and drawing in the New Year, you’re doing so well!

    • Thanks so much for your encouragement Inese. I really want to spend more time practising this year. Last 2 years have been hectic and I hardly had any time for myself. So I can can understand what you meant when you said time just seems to travel so much faster now then when we were younger. We just have to find some ways to capture the moments for ourselves. : )

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