The second part of my Foundation course covers tonal values, how to get them and how to use them. As the lesson mentions, Georges Seurat's drawings are a brilliant example of using gradation to show shape, depth, as well as emotion.
Among all of them while researching, I felt most drawn to his drawing of his mother doing embroidery. Perhaps because I myself used to draw my mother knitting, and perhaps there isn't a more intimate portrait that one of one's mother?
He also worked with conté sticks, his favourite medium reportedly. While I try, I can't seem to find one clear line in his work, it's like he used tone from the start of the drawing. I like trust he puts on the paper texture and together it all come out as a memory, no outline, no harsh shapes, just fuzzy mental screen.
I've set out to replicate this one in A4 and quickly got in trouble. Seemingly simple, and with only so many tonal values, Seurat's drawing is hiding more work than anticipated. In comparison, my take is only at 50% of being finished towards those values. My lines are showing, and I was afraid to go too dark.
After this exercise, I found a lovely portrait photo on Unsplash with enough dramatic light and did my own take on conté tones. I was hesitant to smudge anything, but not out fo the same fear that kept my fingers off charcoal, but rather because I loved the texture the paper was creating for me. With such contrasted light, it didn't take much for the portrait to become interesting.
The lessons I'm taking with me here are to be both gentle and unafraid to use pressure when the tone asks for deeper value. I'm also starting to enjoy conté more as I use it, despite learning curve coming in sharp jumps for myself.