Sunday, 19 January 2014

Keys to Drawing – Chapter 6

Keys to Drawing - Exercise 6F
60 Minutes
16 January 2014
Graphite Pencil on Paper
21.5cm x 39.5cm (8.5" x 15.5")

Christmas, the New Year and working away from home have hindered my progress, but finally I’ve finished Chapter 6 of Keys to Drawing by Bert Dodson.

Chapter 6 concerns The Illusion of Texture. It begins with some general guidelines for drawing texture and then provides more detailed advice for a few familiar surfaces:

  • Hair
  • Foliage
  • Drapery
  • Reflective surfaces

One of the main themes is articulate and suggest – combine areas of carefully rendered texture (articulate) with areas in which texture is depicted in a more stylised way (suggest).

Dodson recommends the best way to draw texture is to start by articulating it until you develop a technique for describing the surface, which you then use in a more abstract way in the areas of suggestion. He calls this concept “sensing the stroke” and suggests you imagine feeling the texture of the object with your pencil. This is the same as the imaginary touch used in contour drawing and modelling in The Natural Way to Draw by Kimon Nicoladides

There are 6 exercises.

6A - Contrasting Textures. My drawing contains the contrasting textures of the skin, stone and flesh of an avocado.

Keys to Drawing - Exercise 6A
90 Minutes
26 November 2013
Graphite Pencil on Paper
38cm x 21.5cm (15" x 8.5")

6B - Unifying With Texture. The little crosses are derived from the texture of the weave in the baskets on the windowsill - they don’t really work as a unifying device. Most of the unifying with texture examples in the book use a more scribbled mark. I should have used a similar approach. This is another exercise that is supposed to be drawn outside, but I drew it inside because of the weather and limited hours of daylight.

Keys to Drawing - Exercise 6B
60 Minutes
2 January 2014
Ink on Paper
30.5cm x 23cm (12.5" x 9")

6C – Hair. Sometime I wonder why Elaine poses for me. I was pleased the hair came out quite well, but Elaine was less thrilled with the extra weight and years the picture gives her.

Keys to Drawing - Exercise 6C
30 Minutes
3 January 2014
Graphite Pencil on Paper
28cm x 30.5cm (11" x 12")

6D – Foliage. I finally braved the weather. This strangely shaped conifer is the only thing in our garden with much foliage. It gave me a chance to try some fingerless gloves, which Elaine gave me as a Christmas present. They worked well, but the rest of me ended up frozen by the end of the exercise.

Keys to Drawing - Exercise 6D
45 Minutes
14 January 2014
Graphite Pencil on Paper
24cm x 37cm (9.5" x 14.5")

6E – Drapery. I focused too much on the light and shade on the folds in the cloth. I should have put some description of texture into the large white area. The only white in the picture should be the highlights on the top of the folds.

Keys to Drawing - Exercise 6E
60 Minutes
15 January 2014
Graphite Pencil on Paper
21.5cm x 35.5cm (8.5" x 14")

6F - Reflective Surface. Why did I choose a spoon? I considered drawing a metal serving bowl, but rejected it as being too complicated and then I picked a spoon. Where is the logic in that?

The time limit for exercises 6C, D, E and F had an unexpected result. I started each of the exercises by following the instruction to map out the areas of light, shade and different directions in the texture. In each exercise, I abandoned the mapping because it was taking too long and there was a danger of running out of time before drawing any texture. The experience of rendering the texture without a completed map is similar to the experience of modelling from the Natural Way to Draw. The results are more spontaneous and less thought out than in some of my drawings.


  1. I love Bert Dodson's Key's to Drawing - I think it is the only art instruction book that I managed to do all the exercises in. I'm planning to re-read it and spend a bit more time doing the exercises, so it is very interesting to see what you've done and learned from them.

    1. Hi Zoya,

      I agree - Key's to Drawing is a great book. I am learning more from the exercises than when I first tried them in 2009.

      All the best,