- Lesson details
The New Masters Academy Beginner Series helps aspiring artists start their artistic journey on the right foot. Your expert instructors will gently guide you to an understanding of drawing fundamentals. In this final lesson of the series, Bill Perkins will demonstrate various landscape drawing exercises. Bill will start by planning his composition with matrices, and will show you how you can use your knowledge of value control, notan and chiaroscuro, and to combine everything you have learned in this series to successfully draw your own landscape composition.
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start their artistic journey on the right foot.
Your expert instructors will gently guide you to an understanding of drawing fundamentals.
In this final lesson in the series, Bill Perkins will
demonstrate various landscape drawing exercises.
He will start by planning his composition with matrices and will show you how you can
use your knowledge of value control, notan, and chiaroscuro, and how to combine everything
you have learned in this series to successfully draw your own landscape composition.
And I’m Heather Lenefsky.
This lesson is all about landscape exercises.
Bill Perkins is going to show us how to do thumbnails and how to plan your drawings so
you create beautiful landscape compositions.
If you’re ready to begin, let’s get started.
We’re going to talk about landscape.
Now, as we talk about landscape.
When you get ready to do a landscape and you want to go outside and sketch, if you’re
going to go outside and sketch or sketch from a photograph.
Maybe you can’t get outside and you’re using a photograph to work from, or you are
going outside and drawing and painting, what you want to do first before you just sit down
and start drawing, of course you’re going to look at something, whether it’s an image
or you sit down in front of something to draw.
You’re going to say, well, I like that.
You’re going to find something that interests you.
What I’m going to do here is I’m going to do a little cliff with a house above the
ocean in Laguna.
I’m going to say, okay, something of interest, well, this shape and the house out the edge
with the palm trees.
It’s the variety of shapes that I like, and it’s a real simple pattern that I want
to work with.
That’s my starting point.
It could be, well, it’s my neighbor’s house or whatever.
It’s not, but if you wanted to do your neighbor’s house, or if you have any attachment to what
you’re drawing, make sure that you check that.
What I mean by check that is if you have a personal interest in something other than
the visual design of it, I want you to pause for a minute before you start drawing.
I want you to start looking at that image and determining what is it in that image that
is interesting to you?
Okay, so this might be a subject with something of interest.
I want you to look at an image or draw something that has a visual interest.
Okay, why do you like it?
You need to answer this for yourself.
As we begin a landscape drawing, you’re going to be starting moving into, instead
of just drawing objects, you’re going to start composing your image and breaking up
the scene and determining elements and shapes that are dominant and subordinate.
And so you have to really start with a point of view.
You really have to develop that point of view.
If you see something interesting, go ahead, stop, pause, look at that and then you can
start framing it.
What I mean by framing, you can go like this and look through a viewer.
You can go like this.
You can compose horizontal, vertical.
You know, you can work with that kind of a thing.
You can do this.
Any way you want, but create a boundary around what it is you want to draw, in particular
if you’re outside.
See, when you’re outside drawing you can see in 360.
You can see all the way around you.
It’s really hard if you see a house or a cliff in this case.
Where is the boundary?
Where is the edge of your frame.
If you look at something and create the frame like this or like this, or if you have a cut-out
card or something, or what I like to think of it as two L’s because then you’re freed
up to do either vertical or horizontal or square.
If you have a couple L’s like this with a paper clip you can actually put these together
and create any kind of rectangle that you want.
You aren’t always stuck with the same proportion.
But first and foremost, you need to know why you like it.
What is it that interests you about that?
It could be the color.
It could be the shape of the mountain.
It could be anything that has to do with your visual characteristics of what you’re drawing.
That’s going to be the important element.
That’s what you want.
That’s what you want to work with.
You need to define that for yourself.
It can’t be just the subject.
You can’t just say, well, I like cats; here’s a cat.
You have to find the visual interest and the visual reason for why you’re doing it.
Then what you need to do is after you find and understand or state the visual interest,
then you’re going to break it down into the type of composition you want.
Do you want a vertical composition?
Do you want a horizontal composition?
Where is the subject of your composition?
Okay, so in this case, what I’ll do is I’ll draw a rectangle.
I’ve just grabbed this one image.
It’s a pretty simple image.
I’m going to go ahead and do a landscape canvas.
This horizontal format is considered a landscape.
There are a couple things I want to mention as we begin.
Now, I selected this image because of the way it’s broken up.
I’m going to use pretty much the proportions that are there.
You can see that my actual image goes down about here, but I’m making the choice to
crop that off.
As I lay in my composition, I know that in this case I’m going to also crop off a little
bit of the side over here so that it puts my house more in the picture.
If I drew just what’s here I can see that my cliff side
is going to be something like this.
This is going to be my silhouette.
It’s going to be something
What’s going to happen with this image?
I’ll point out with this image what it is.
There is something that happens when we look at a composition.
When we first a composition there is—one thing that I want to point out is a lot of
times people will talk about, and you’ll hear this.
Maybe you’ve looked into it.
They might talk about a rule of thirds.
I don't call it a rule. I’ll just say thirds.
Here is why I don’t call it a rule.
It’s because in this idea of thirds in a composition, if we divide this into even thirds,
both vertical and horizontal, the idea here with the idea of thirds is that you have things
that line up on these lines.
Your image will be more balanced.
For instance we had the rocks coming out here like this, and the bluff coming up here and
then possibly the trees coming up here, maybe the house here and this over here, you’re
going to see that all of this, it looks pretty simple and harmonized.
Now, what ends up happening—this is a classic approach.
This doesn’t mean that it’s a rule.
This is where I want to create the distinction.
This is just a classic case.
Some of the Greek architecture, artists were looking at this perfect division of space,
and the idea of a perfect division of space, I don’t think that there is a perfect division
Each story, each subject, each image is going to mean that you’re going to balance things
in different ways.
You don’t necessarily want to create something that’s so balanced all the time.
For instance, if you want to create a little bit of tension, okay, let’s just take a
look at it through history.
In this period of classic architecture where we have things grouped in these thirds or
things that make these mathematical alignments, you will get a certain type of harmony in there.
But, let’s just say that you wanted to create a little bit more tension.
Maybe what you would do is if your thirds were like this, maybe what you would do is
create a little bit more tension by not having them on the thirds, creating a higher line
up in here.
Maybe bringing the palm trees off of that a little bit.
Bring this up a little bit higher.
Putting the building off here and down here.
Make the bush a little bit bigger.
I’ll make the house a little bit bigger this way.
Then move the—I’m not putting anything on these thirds.
Is it balanced?
Does it feels the same as this one?
This one will feel more rigid.
It will feel more harmonized.
It will feel more stable.
This one, on the other hand, will also have some dynamic quality to it.
Now when we go just barely off these thirds or what we call this classic approach, if
it’s barely off it can actually create a little bit more tension.
Tension isn’t a bad thing.
It’s not always bad.
The type of tension that’s bad is the type that you don’t design.
Those things that kind of creep up.
Sometimes tangents as well.
People will look at tangents and say never make tangents.
My philosophy on landscape imagery and composition in general is there are no rules.
But, if you understand the consequence of your marks that’s when you’ll start growing.
You can be freed up to do just about anything, but you have to be aware of the consequence
of your marks.
If something is tangent you need to recognize that.
You can then ask yourself is that something you want or not.
Let me do another composition.
This is off thirds.
I’m going to do another one that is really extreme.
And on this one I might put the horizon way up here.
Maybe I’ll put the trees along coming down here, and I’ll make this—let’s see,
oh, let me try this one more time as an example.
It might make a clearer example.
Okay, this is our horizon out here.
Let me put the building here.
Way over here on the side.
Then I’m going to make the rest of the building here come down here.
Then I’ll put the trees back behind the house.
Maybe even have one go out of the frame.
I have this foreground cliff coming down in here.
Okay, so now I put even more extreme up here, and I’m getting a lot of difference now.
Now the more extreme that I go with some of these compositions, you’re going to find
that there is a point where it starts to fall apart, or maybe it’s more exciting, maybe
I’ve got this.
I did put those close to the thirds.
I’ll go ahead and leave that there like that.
Maybe what I’ll do is I’ll just crop that in to get that off of the thirds.
Okay, so this is a little bit off of center.
This is an extreme up a the top of the frame.
This happens down here.
But I want to make sure that this distance right here and this distance and this distance
are all different.
In this case this is the largest and then this one and then this one.
And then this one.
The fact that you have different breakup along these horizontals like this, that’s going
to be important.
And also your verticals.
We have these strong divisions here.
You want to make sure that you get a difference in those.
Now, it may sound like I’m getting a little bit abstract and getting away from my subject
of interest, and that’s on purpose.
I’m doing that on purpose.
You have to look at it pictorially.
When you’re going to do a landscape or draw something or compose a picture, you have to
think about it as what is it that you like about it, and what do you want to say about it?
Now, you might look at this and say, well, what do I want to say about it?
I just like it.
That’s fine to begin with, but if you build a story—I’ll go off with the old saying
that a picture is worth a thousand words.
If you create the thousand words you actually make a better picture.
The other reason that I’m weighing into these two things so heavily is just this.
I know down the road—let’s just start off slow here, but down the road once you
start doing a composition the questions are going to come in, when are you finished?
When is your composition finished?
The answer to that question isn’t when you run out of time, and the answer is not when
you finish rendering everything wall to wall, top to bottom, side to side.
The answer to the question is when you’ve said what you want to say.
It’s really important to answer what is it that you want to say about this subject?
You can say—I’m doing this landscape in here, and I can say, okay, it’s an overcast day.
The sky is more active than the ground.
Well, that’s going to tell me that I’m going to have a little bit more going on up
here than I am down here.
It’s just a literal translation.
Stormy sky, calm water.
If I said thundering waves then I would make a passive sky.
If this is—excuse me, if this is active then this is passive.
On the other hand, if this is going to be active then this is going to be passive.
You have to balance these things.
The other thing is since these are both close in value, and my hillside there is a little
bit more contrast but not a whole lot of contrast in here, they silhouette very clearly.
That being the case, I’m going to want to look at the difference of the contrast here
and the difference of contrast here.
The first thing that I want to do and want to think about it is that division of space.
How is everything lining up?
Is it lining up even, basic on thirds and having kind of a classical approach to it,
or am I pushing extremes a little bit and want a little bit more Gothic arrangement
to it or create a little more tension or drama.
You don’t want to make every picture you make the same passive, stable, lining up on
thirds and stuff like that.
From working on movies, I realize that you can’t do this from shot to shot.
Pick your moments.
You want to pick the moment when you want a stable composition, and you want to pick
the moments when you create tension in your composition.
That’ll only come after you ask yourself what do you like about this image, and what
do you want to say about it?
here is your matrix.
I’ll just draw this down here.
And your matrix is the division of your canvas that’s going to be the strongest pattern
of light and dark.
Okay, this is where I want to clarify something.
Your matrix is the strongest pattern of light and dark.
This is not light and shadow.
This is light and dark.
It’s a different thing.
So, in this case, this is an overcast day.
There is not a strong directional sunlight.
My matrix is divided up between the sky and water versus everything else.
This isn’t—I’m not going to enhance or put a light pattern on the ground if there
isn’t a light pattern on the ground because this tonal contrast is what makes this feel
like an overcast day.
So, if I try to render more light and shadow or change my matrix to be a light and shadow
pattern, what’s going to end up happening is if I’m not clear it’s going to not
look like light and shadow, and it won’t look overcast.
It’s going to be something in the middle, and that’s going to fail.
I’m looking for a clear matrix, so I’m looking for the area or pattern of strongest
light and dark.
Again, it may be light versus shadow or maybe light versus dark.
In this case, it’s light versus dark or notan.
The other thing is, sometimes people get confused between a matrix and notan.
This drawing is a matrix.
This drawing right here is our matrix.
This drawing—I’m going to be looking at my pattern of lights.
I’m going to bend my palm trees out here just a little bit.
Maybe I’ll bend them like this.
Okay, put the building out here.
Maybe even make the building feel a little bit longer, a little bigger in here, and then
maybe I’ll make a little bit more out of the deck.
I want to get something delicate, a little bit delicate in here compared to the bold,
big cliff shapes.
And my cliff is coming down here.
I’m going to go even lower.
I’m lowering this down here because I want to get a little bit more interest in here.
I’m going to make a couple more rocks breaking into the frame over here.
I’m adding these things.
Because I want to get a little bit more directional movement.
It’s all good.
It’s all okay to do.
Now I’m going to put in this medium value overall.
I’m not going to the darkest dark.
I want to go to this medium value because I’m going to have two values in the shadow.
But my basic matrix is just this.
This is my matrix.
I’ll start each drawing with a matrix.
Now, when you’re sketching, when you go out to do a landscape and you’re sketching
your landscape, what I don’t want you to do is this.
Don’t half observe.
Don’t look at your landscape and go, well, it’s something like this.
Here’s these sketchy lines.
I’m creating this thing and the horizon is over here.
Little waves going on to here like this.
And I’ve got this part of a cliff coming down here, and this comes up.
I’ve got a house up in here, and some bushes in here and some palm trees kind of like this.
Okay, now there is bushes in here.
There are tops of this.
Now what’s happening is you’re starting to make decisions about the subject, but you’re
not looking at things pictorially.
If you’re half observing you may not get this right at all.
If you want to make a strong composition what you want to do is edit.
You might have a whole lot of detail in the image that you’re going to paint, but you
need to edit first.
In drawing a matrix, look how clear and simple this is.
Will we get all the nuances?
Yes, we will.
But, if you’re going to edit the world, to edit it down to the simple strongest pattern
of light and dark and be deliberate about your shapes, you’re going to be very clear
about your next steps.
Okay, now, so when you’re sketching, sketch matrixes.
Just a black and white pattern.
And the black and white pattern, it’s really like this.
Your black and white pattern should weave into one another like this.
Your darks go into your lights and your lights go into your darks.
It needs to intermingle like that.
That’s what we need to do throughout our image.
We’re looking at variety.
Here is the dark.
Here is the light.
We have—I’ll make this just a little bit more of a bush or a tree shape.
Look at this.
I’m getting variety in this shape.
I’m getting this strong architectural shape here.
I’m getting a little bit more variety in here in kind of a little bit
of a bush shape up here.
Long and narrow.
A little wider.
This probably hasn’t been trimmed in a while.
Then I get another little bit of architecture, just little delicate bits.
Then I get this kind of simpler breakup along here.
Then I get broken shapes.
Maybe even a couple little ones in here.
These all fracture where dark over light, and then light goes into dark, you see.
I want this interweaving.
The more interweaving that I have, the more interest that you’ll have.
Now, I could do a composition where like this, if my matrix is screwed up then what I’m
going to end up with is something that’s more fragmented.
This is more chaotic.
Can you do a composition?
Sure you can do a composition like this, but it’s going to end up more chaotic
and not harmonized.
You’re going to be doing things and trying to render things, and your value structure
is not going to work out so well.
So when things start to break apart in your pattern, you’re going to create chaos.
You want to stay with a strong pattern.
I’m going to draw this one more time.
Once I know my matrix, I’m going to show you the next little step.
Now, what I want you to do is draw the matrix from this image, but I want you to keep it
really simple just like I’ve done in this image.
I want you to do your own image here, but I want you to really look at how the shape
and that pattern works in your composition.
Now, feel free to move the shape around if you want.
If you want to have more ground in here, okay, and let’s just say the ocean and these rocks—I’m
going to redesign this a little bit.
Maybe the rocks out here, maybe this is a bigger rock coming in here.
And this is more coastline that breaks into here.
Maybe I’m creating a matrix that is more like this.
Again, this is the pattern of more dominant light versus dark.
And then maybe I want to create, push this way over to here.
You can play with the shapes, and you can create these different situations if you want.
Maybe even with a roofline, maybe I’m going to turn this house a little bit so it’s
straight all the way over to here.
Maybe the fence is up on top here.
Maybe I even put the palm trees on here.
I don’t like the way it is.
Let me make a little bit more space over here.
I didn’t want to make it that close to the edge.
What I want you to do is you can work with this image.
If you want to work with another image you can, but I’m just using this one as an example.
Before you—if you select an image or use this one, I want you to change up your composition.
Change up your matrix.
But I want it just black and white.
Maybe the horizon is down here.
I want you to mix it up and do a number of matrixes.
See how they look differently.
Maybe I’ll make the roofline like this.
Okay, so you can see, if I change things around I get a different dynamic in my image, but
it’s not broken up.
I want you to make a clear matrix just like this.
Make a few of them and design them a little differently.
Design the pattern a little differently.
This one, I have this light and this dark, and they almost fit like a yin-yang.
This one I pushed up a little bit, as you can see in here, and there is a little less
light than there is dark.
Look at your light and dark patterns and adjust for those light and dark patterns.
If it’s even—you don’t want it necessarily symmetrical like this
because that will flatten out.
If you have more dark than light or more light than dark—either one can work—maybe even
if I did this an said, okay, well, there is a ship out here.
Or maybe I’ll make an island out here.
Maybe this is Catalina out here from his view, and I put a little island out here.
That could be something that I’ll also use that’ll move the viewer’s eye back around.
Everything you do in your composition within your little matrix is moving your eye around
Take one image.
I want you to draw six matrices.
I want you do about six of them, and vary them up.
Change them up.
The main thing I want you to do with this is once you change them up, I want you to
look at the consequence of the choices you’ve made.
In the beginning, there are no wrong decisions.
Just put them down.
Now, once you put them down, you’re going to see that some images work better than others,
or they feel more right.
I don’t want to go just on feeling, but if you work intuitively first that’s perfectly
fine then just do about six versions at least.
Once you do those, then you’re going to be a little bit more open to moving things
around and trying different things.
But then I want you to line them up, look at all six, and determine which one helps
you say what you want to say about the image.
Out of all six matrices, I want you to select the one that’s most appropriate to what
you want to say.
We’re going to start again with a simple composition.
And I’ve selected this image of some divers.
The one thing that I want to point out—I’ll just start out with my matrix first.
This is going to be, again, this is the grouping of shapes that are predominately dark against
This is another overcast day.
We’re really dealing with a notan situation.
Notan is where the contrast between light and dark is greater.
And it’s greater than contrast of light and shadow.
This is notan, and this is chiaroscuro.
Before, I said one of the things that you need to do before you really start drawing
in your matrix is determine what it is that you want to say about your composition, how
you want to break it up or divide it on your frame.
What do you want to say about that image.
That’s going to be really important because that’s where you start leaning into determining
whether your shapes or your edges, all of those things, patterning, grouping of shapes,
where all of those things are going to be important or whether you’re doing it correctly.
And by correctly, I mean not a right or wrong way universally, but in a way that is most
telling of what you want to say.
Always draw with a goal of completing a statement.
Determining what it is you want to say about an image and then execute on that.
Don’t think you’re going to drop in a few symbols and say my impression of this
is blah, blah, blah, and expect the viewers to respond all nodding, yes, aha, I get it.
You need to provide all those things.
You need to show them without a shadow of a doubt.
You need to prove your case using your shapes, your values, your patterns.
This is what you want to say about it.
I know that sounds like a lot, but let’s just begin with this one.
Again, this is an image where there is more contrast between light and dark.
I’m going to place my horizon out here.
It’s just kind of a marker in this case where I can see, you know, for what I’m
doing here it’s kind of a demarcation and breakup.
I also see there is a little bit of a waterline and it’s above the third.
It’s right in here where there is a waterline.
There is a little bit of shadowing going down in this.
These are all directional forces dividing up my space.
This one is a little bit below the third.
This is a little bit above the third.
It’s a little bit on an angle.
Then we have these going in.
This is going to determine this kind of a ground plane immediately, these intersecting
Then, in silhouette, pretty much along this we have the beach going in here, and then
the bluff that’s coming in here.
I’m actually, I’m going to move this.
I’m going to change it just a little bit.
I’ll tell you why.
Take a look at your image.
I’m going to move it a little bit over to this side.
Now, the reason that I’m going to do that is just this.
Within my matrix, if I move this bluff over this way a little bit, I’m going to look
for an alignment now.
This is a strong vertical line.
It’s the strongest vertical line in the image right now.
Once I put the divers in, they’re going to be strong vertical lines, and the palm
trees are going to be strong vertical lines.
But if I move it from over here to over here, now I want my eye movement to move this way
around the picture.
What I’m going to do is I might see that I’ve got one guy here, and then I’ve got
another guy over here, and then another guy over here that I’m going to then—do you
see these different shapes that I’m creating.
I’m looking at the reflection shape in here of him.
I’m looking at his shape in here like this.
I’m looking at this guy’s shape, his reflection down in here.
These are going to be important.
If I have this up in here.
What I want to do is I want to move this over here so it moves your eye down here.
I can then take something like this and redirect your eye from this area to this area.
These shapes are important.
I’m kind of playing with these shapes.
It’s going to move your eye around.
From there his arm is going to come down.
We don’t see much of his head here.
The tank comes up.
When I get this directional shape from his fins or whatever he’s holding there.
So you see, I’m going to start moving my eye this way.
I’m also going to take this—he’s holding a spear gun, but instead of holding it up
this way, I’m going to have him hold it down this way.
The reason I’m going to do that is because, again, I want to move your eye around this way.
So, his head is up above these guys because he’s higher up and he’s closer to us.
So, I’ll move this.
His pack, his tank.
And then his reflection here.
I’m going to crop the reflection down here like this.
His reflection is like this.
Again, this is dark part of my matrix.
And I see some breakup, the water is breaking this up, so I’m going to go ahead and put
that breakup in.
It’s a nice transition that I’m going to use.
Same thing here.
Maybe there is another little bit in here that I can start breaking that up.
He’s standing in the water a little bit, so there is a little bit of a break in there,
so we’ll go ahead and leave that.
That’s where the light can do into the dark.
Dark goes into light.
Light goes into dark.
They weave in and out of there.
These other values in here.
I’m going to use three values here.
But the three values that I’m using, again, this design is based on notan.
The value that I’m going to add in here is a medium value.
It’s not supporting the form.
It’s a condition of the reflection.
It’s the water reflection that’s broken up in this kind of a pattern.
It’s not a shadow.
It’s the refraction of the water where the water is actually aimed away from the sky
towards us, we see through it and we see the sand through it.
That’s why it has the color that it has.
Then, this is the same thing here.
These would be these trees on the horizon or on the top of the cliffside there.
Again, I’m making this kind of a midvalue.
I see the sand back over here at kind of a midvalue too.
This is going to get the same middle value.
There is even a little building here that I’m going to go, and I like this little
building in here because it adds a vertical, another little vertical.
The rest of this is really dark.
You can see it adds a medium value, a subtle vertical in there, which, again, that’s
going to help move your eye up back into the frame.
This is a marker paper with a charcoal pencil, so it’s a smoother surface.
It’ll smudge more, but it’s a smoother surface.
Okay, so then I’m going to look at there is another building up here that’s this
medium value, more of this kind of a shape.
Then a tree that is going to be like this.
I’m going to make sure the marks in this tree are different than
the other marks that I made.
That is really important, and I’ll tell you why.
In this simple type of patterning that we’re doing here in this matrix, the variety of
marks that you put down can determine different surfaces, different elements or different
surfaces, and there is that.
Then, what I can do is I can see that I want to have a tree here.
That’s just to make sure that I have something above these reflections down here, but I can
also, so then, start looking at it and say I can have a few more.
Maybe I’ll have one here.
Maybe I’ll put a couple up in here.
I’m going to leave—I’m going to put one over here like this.
One smaller one.
I’ll tell you why I’m making these choices.
Let me get this covered in here.
Okay, now, the reason that I made these is just this.
If you notice these trees they aren’t exactly like the trees that are in the picture, but
I moved this over here, and I stopped these trees so that your eye can go in this way.
If I had this over here your eye wouldn’t go down in the frame until over here, and
then they’re covered.
I can either go around them.
If these are the guys, I can use the background to either go like this and pretty much point
down to them.
That’s one way of doing it.
Or, I can do the figure like this.
If this is the bluff up here, I can frame them.
So now they feel framed this way.
Now, you’ve seen this as I put this in here, and then I make it important that we get something
to move your eye up around in this way.
Maybe I even make this go up a little bit in the reflection to keep moving your eye
up and around.
That’s one way to do it.
The other way—I’ll go ahead and change my matrix slightly now.
Now, I’ll do this.
I’ll bring this bluff out here.
Let’s bring it beyond them a little bit.
Let me take this all the way over here.
Since you did your six matrices before, this shouldn’t be, I mean changing up and making
variation, and I have a choice here.
I have this distance here.
I can favor one.
I don’t want to end it in the middle, but I’ll go ahead and bring it a little farther like that.
Now I’ve created a situation where this vertical here frames around these guys.
So that makes a big difference in here.
That being the case, I can bring more trees out here as well.
Now, if I have one low, one higher, and one higher yet, that’s going to also reinforce
these lines. See these little?
The tree is doing down this way.
Your eye will connect the dots.
That’s called closure.
When you’re designing something you want to build a rhythm.
If I said, okay, I want to build a rhythm, and I’m going to figure out where the palms
are in-between—or where the verticals are, but I want to have this kind of a breakup.
I can make kind of an uneven breakup.
Then I can say, okay, I don’t want all my trees to be even, so I’ll put one here.
Okay, I don’t want all my trees to be even, so I’ll put one here, one here, one here,
one right next to this, one next to this.
I need to get another tree in here.
I’ll group those.
This one here.
I need to get this one different than this one.
There we go.
So, I’ve got a little bit of a gap and it’s a little bit obvious,
so why don’t a put another one here. There we go.
I want to make sure that they’re not even.
There I go.
There is my three value matrix.
I made a couple modifications and adjustments because I want your eye to move around this
image, so I moved this over.
I moved the trees over.
I determined where those will be to enhance the photograph.
The photograph is only reference for me.
Not to be a slave to it, but what I want to do is I want to use the photograph to my advantage,
and I want to make the best picture that I can.
So, when you’re composing a picture, that should be your goal.
What is you want to say and make the best picture you can.
Now, it may mean—I’ll get a little reflection of the, if I get the reflection of the hillside
over here too, it show us where the little wave is, and that’ll be nice too.
If your goal is to make a clear statement of what you like or what you want to say,
then you shouldn’t have a problem changing things up a little bit.
That’s this breakup.
What I did is I did this with three values.
Now, your matrix shouldn’t be more than three values.
That’s about it.
Now, is there more values?
Yes, there is.
That’s what I’m going to do now.
I’ll break this down into multiple values from my matrix.
It’s important to start with the matrix.
It’s the basic design of my matrix.
I’m going to see here is my value range.
And we get subtly in here.
Okay, now, you can see on your image there is about four different groups.
The sky, here is the sky.
There is a mountain back here or the distant cove or coastline, and then there is the water,
and there is like two values in the water.
The water and the more reflection of the sky.
This water that’s broken up is a little bit darker.
Then the same value or similar value to the sky, and then the reflection of the sky here.
Then where it becomes a little bit less wet sand it starts to get close to the value of
the water again.
Those are my areas in my white, in my light zone.
I’m going to draw those now.
I’m going to draw my shape.
There is the building up here.
There is my building there.
And I’m going to see that maybe I want to have this go out like that.
I’m going to have my trees.
I’m going to have my waterline like this.
Now, I’m just going to start with my lighter values, and I’m going to see that within
my three-value matrix, I’m going to start with the lightest light.
Within that three-value matrix I have the white of the sky, the clouds in shadow.
I have some of the water.
I have the background hillside, and that’s about it.
Then my midvalue that I put in here and here, I start with the reflection in the sand, and
it goes to the sand over here and these buildings back here.
Then I have my scuba divers and the mountain behind, and they all start about this value
and go to my black.
These are the ranges that I’m working with.
Those are the only values I need for this image.
What I’m going to do is I’m going to actually eliminate these midvalues.
I’ll only work within my—I’ve got to get my guys in here.
Let me just block them in.
I’m just giving a spatial indication of where they are because I just want to work
with my light values.
So, in my light values I have the sky and I have some clouds.
These are going to be really subtle.
Again, I’m going to be grouping my values.
This is what I mean by grouping my values.
This area of white that I have my original matrix, I’m only going to use these values.
You can use a stomp.
You can use your fingers.
You can get a little tone in here.
Have fun with this.
Get this shape of the shadow clouds going over here, and then a little bit darker.
Still within this range is that building in the background—or excuse me, is the mountain
in the background and the rest of the coastline in the background.
Now, the water is close to that back here, and then it’s kind of broken up.
You can see in here.
I want to be very careful that I don’t go too dark.
The main thing that you want to do is eliminate these intermediate values.
If I can eliminate the intermediate values, what’s going to happen is going to give
clarity to my image.
Besides being able to read it more like the type of day that it is.
This is all very subtle in here.
So that’s the range in my light values.
Now if I go to my medium values—that would be these and the house and the sand back here—I’m
going to jump back down to this value.
I’ll go ahead and put the sand in at this little darker value.
Same with the buildings.
Same with this.
It’s important that I don’t go too dark with these.
I want to keep it separate from the other values that I put in because that’s important.
Always being conscious of the value range that I’m putting in there, so I’m keeping
it really simple, and I’m grouping these values.
And out here there’s just a couple little elements that get down there.
There we go.
This is that middle value that’s interpreted through this range.
Now I’m going to go to my darks.
I won’t go to my darkest dark just yet.
But I am going to go darker—I want to make sure that I get darker than that middle value
that I just put in, so I’m going to go ahead and make sure that get clarity between those
values, just enough to build the difference so that these buildings don’t blend into
And the sand down below, again, it doesn’t blend into the mountain, or the jetty or the
cliff or bluff here.
Lost part of my mountain back here.
I’ll get in to that value and make my mountain value here, my bluff value.
I’m going to make sure that I get my guys in here, that same darker value.
This has to really read clear in clear silhouette different than the medium value that I laid
in, so I’ve got to make sure that happens.
And this guy hanging over.
Make sure his shape is in there clear.
This guy is leaning over this way a little bit, so I’ll put this up high over his little vest.
All of this is designed to just—you know, this approach is really good for just keeping
your focused on getting your value structure and getting your design.
Making sure that all that stays in the right hierarchy.
You know what’s important, what’s lightest, what’s darkest, and how things are grouped.
It’s really important.
We’re talking about making a clear visual statement.
Now I’ve got these things set.
You can see these things aren’t quite as dark as these.
Now I can go in and identify.
I need to get my trees in here now.
Get a couple of them up in here again.
I’ll get them scattered about just a little bit.
I’ll get a couple on the end that I wanted to put out there.
There we go.
Get a little bit of a rhythm going on through there.
When I design some of these compositions, what I end up doing is looking at them very
I want to kind of lose the idea of I have to render this tree or render this hillside,
or, you know, all the details on this.
I want to look at everything in relation to the total compositional design first so that,
in this case, I get a hierarchy of what’s grouping.
I have my light groups, my medium value groups, and my dark group now.
Now I can go in and accentuate the darkness on the edge of this, the bluff, and then some
of the rocks out here.
I can go in here and emphasize anything that is—let’s see, his tank is a little bit
I’ll darken everything around it to make it appear a little lighter.
His tank is the lighter one, and so I’m going to make everything around it darker again.
I can even erase back just a little bit if I can.
I don’t want to do too much because I want to make sure that I don’t make this anything
in my darkest silhouette I don’t want to make as light as my midvalue, so you’ve
got to be very careful that you keep your values.
That goes lighter than this so I’m going to darken that down.
But, for right now I’m going to just get it, identify it.
There we go.
It’s not quite in the right place, but I’ll get over in here and then I’ll fix my shape.
Okay, so I’m going to keep this pretty dark.
Like I said, this got as light as the midvalue so I need to darken it down.
There we go.
I’ve got a little bit of range in there now.
I need to draw a little bit more distinction around these buildings, so I’m going to
make it a little bit darker right in here around the buildings and a little bit on the
tree, a little bit up here too.
Get that pretty dark.
I even have room to indicate a little bit of foliage if I want to create a pattern on
this hillside back here.
But you can see by doing it in this order, I know exactly how close in value this needs
to be because I planned it all out here first in three values: white, black, and this gray.
Then I bracketed the values.
Once I set the values so that I get clear distinction between the darkest dark and the
midrange and the midrange and the lights.
Once I establish that I can move these up and down slightly as long as they don’t
get as light as anything in here and nothing in here gets as dark as anything in here.
Or anything in my light value zone, nothing can get as dark as my middle value there.
That way I keep good clarity throughout the image.
Again, what I’d like you to do is do a couple more versions.
I want you to do a couple of images.
The more you practice this the better you’re going to get at it.
Look at an image or go out and determine is it two values or is three values?
This was a three-value situation.
Look at it in two or three values.
Squint and identify if things fall into two or three groups.
Once you put your two or three value matrix, that’s it, solid values.
If you want to use markers, that’s fine.
Make sure that they’re solid shapes and be conscious of the pattern, the arrangement,
and the intricacies.
Once you have that, the simple shapes to give the intricate shapes, the rhythms of some
things, that’s what I want you to think about in your patterning.
Once you do that, then I want you to do another one based on that, and I want you to break
it into your value range and bracket your range.
You eliminate these midvalues, and you use the range for your lights, this range for
your middle, this range for your darks.
Okay, have fun.
Again, I’m going to start off with a matrix.
I’m going to look at the rhythms of these mountains, and this is just kind of a little
saddle on the hillside here.
I’m paying attention to everything, like where this even lands.
Do I put it out here?
Do I put it in here?
These are choices made.
The reason I put it here is because I see below it and angle here.
If I move this in too much, that’s going to be here, and I’m going to get a lot of
dead space here.
I want the focal point to be around in this zone.
So, by moving this in, it would crunch it up in here.
By moving it out, it would crop it and this line wouldn’t be kind of an elegant line
that comes up here like this and then moves back in.
Same thing here, like that.
It wouldn’t allow me to do that.
So, I want to make sure that I can do that.
And then this kind of double-backs here, comes down, and then something like this.
I’m going to be looking at my values.
My most distinct groups are my light and shadow groups.
I’m going to make sure by light and shadow.
This is the shadow of a hill that’s off to the side over here, so I’m going to make
sure that I get that.
Then up the side of this, and this softly goes down into shadow here like this.
And then there is a little bit along the ridge where it’s in light along the ridge.
And then this goes into shadow up along here.
Shadow comes here and down.
Again, this is how your light and shadow patterns weave into one another in and out of one another
and make more of an interesting composition.
This is a foreground bush that comes down like this and creates a shadow here.
There is another shadow here.
And then this comes up here.
I’m going to finish off this shadow shape, and then underneath these bushes there is
another one, a small one.
Now, what I’m going to do, this being my matrix, it’ll be a three-value matrix again.
What I’m going to do is I’m going to see that this hillside goes down like this, and
the shadow shape goes up here like this.
What I’m going to do is this is going to be my blackest back in my matrix.
Okay, and this shadow shape, this shadow shape.
Soft on the left side here and hard on the right.
This is the same thing here.
Hard on the right because that’s the direction of light coming over here, and it’s rolling
into the shadow softly.
Let me get this little gully in here.
There is a little bush in here that maybe I want to hang onto in the gully there, which
is in light, so I’ll keep that in light.
This is cast so it’s a hard edge in there, and then this is soft because it’s a bush
going into light there.
This is soft here because this is this hillside rolling into shadow, but all of this will
go into my dark matrix.
Again, this is my design.
This is really, really important.
This isn’t really a style of drawing, necessarily.
What it is, is it’s editing.
This is all about editing.
You’re grouping your values.
You’re creating your pattern.
This is editing your picture.
And if you can see this complex world simply by editing it down simply, you’re going
to show everybody else a view of the world that’s going to be edited in a beautiful way.
That’s why it’s important to pay attention to your design.
Take your time with it if you need.
I’m kind of racing through so that you can—and I don’t expect you to follow along with
me at this speed with me, necessarily.
I want you to take your time and think about the marks that you’re making and the moves
you’re putting down.
This is—here we go—let’s see.
I want to make sure that I get this section here the way I like it, and then this area.
Okay, there are some groupings of bushes and stuff that go in here.
Now, I know this looks kind of broken up, but I can make this a little bit stronger
I’ll just move this, make this a little bit easier.
By making this a little more rhythm I there, it can help move that.
The other thing too, this shape here is a positive shape.
If I want the shadow to be the positive shape I need to change the contour of it.
It can’t be this and be this is the positive shape.
This is the negative.
What I need to is do this somehow.
What I’ll do is I’ll bring this down, I’ll bring this over, and I’ll bring this
up like that.
Now it feels like a positive shape.
Yes, overall it goes like this, but when you take a look at it, this can be a positive
shape rather than so clear and round like that.
Okay, the next thing that I’m going to see is my middle value.
I’m going to drop in my middle value.
Again, you can use markers if you want to use markers for this.
Markers work fine.
In fact, you can even get close to your value zone, whatever it is, with the three values
Or, if you have a 10-value set you can use maybe black and a #3 and a #6 or something.
I have three distinct clear values.
This doesn’t need to be the same value as the shadow shapes.
But this is my three-value matrix.
Then, again, what I want you to do—this is just kind of a rehearsal on the same thing—is
look at your value range, and this range is going to be different than the previous image.
Overall, this one is going to be medium major key, overall medium value.
It’s going to be a high contrast.
But most of it is going to be the medium to the dark.
In looking at it, I can see that the sky in here is a broad range, something like this.
Actually, let me make it there.
I want to use this value.
Then in the midvalue it’s from here.
It’s a broad range.
It’s like this.
Let me lighten that up just a little bit so we get a little bit broader range in here.
There we go.
Then my darks are going to be down in here.
You can see the compression in here.
This is actually black right there.
There is not a lot here.
There is a big range of gray values.
This is bracketing your values again.
I’m eliminating these.
I’ll go back in.
Now that I’ve planned out my pattern, what I’ll do is I may go in and say, okay, this
is going to be my medium value.
I’ll go ahead and put in my light-medium value.
Not heavy dark, but I’m going to put in my lighter medium value.
I have a range in there to go with, but in this case, what I’m going to do is I’ve
got my lightest light, my medium, my mid-medium, and I’ll go ahead and put my darks in.
Again, I’m kind of keying off of this shape going up to the top of the mountain there.
I’m putting in not the darkest dark, but I’m putting in a pretty dark value.
I’m going to go ahead and make this just a little bit darker just so that I have more
contrast between the midvalue and this, and if I do that it’s going to give me a little
bit more latitude in my middle values, so I want to increase that gap the most that
I can just so that I have more room to play in the mid-value range there.
I’m not worried about rendering grass, rendering bushes, rendering anything other than defining
my shapes and edges.
Again, coming down here.
Here is a cast edge that’s a little bit harder on the top up here, and it’s formed
on the bottom down here so it’s a little bit softer down there.
Okay, so I have my three basic values laid in, and now I can go into my light area, and
I can say, okay, let me get some clouds in here.
I’m going to make sure that these clouds all stay within just the lightest value group.
I create a shape in here, a pattern for the clouds in shadow.
That’s going a little dark.
See, it’s starting to get a little close to my mid value range.
I’m going to lift a little bit of it out.
There we go.
Getting it back to that lightest value.
It’s really close in there.
Then what I’m going to do is—oh, I need to finish my shape down here, dog-goneit.
Here I ask you to finish one thing at a time, and
I didn’t do that myself.
In order to keep myself honest here, I’m going to have to finish this up.
Bring that up to the outside.
Actually, I see a little bit more darkness down in here.
I’m going to go ahead and add that to my matrix because I want to get a little bit
of dark on the bottom of the frame here.
That’s going to help me anchor the bottom of this to the bottom of the frame.
Okay, now I have my three basic values in here, but now what I can do is I can go in
and I can look for where is my, in my medium value there are areas that are a little bit
darker, and those darker areas are some of the bushes that kind of ride along right there.
They’re mixing into the shadow right at the transition from light into shadow.
That’s one effect.
That medium value is going to bridge there just a little bit.
And then up here we get some of those darker values that are the actual local value of
It’s a combination of local value and their position, where they sit.
This whole region in here is a little bit darker than some of the other areas.
This is light in here but it’s got some darker bushes.
Then the shadows in between some of those.
There is the dark shape.
I’m going to correct my dark shape in here again.
But, there are some little bits of darks in here.
Just kind of break that up.
See, I’m making them really dark because they merge with the shadow shape.
Some of these are backlit bushes, so I can refine this just a little bit, making more
interest along those.
But I’m clear that these are shadow shapes, so I’m going to make sure that my darkest
darks sit in there really dark, and these, whatever shadows there are, remember this
one is about chiaroscuro.
That’s because your light and shadow here is the greatest contrast.
Okay, so there are subtle areas in here where some of these bushes are actually darker.
A few on the top up here.
A few in along the turn of some of these plains there are some darker bushes in there.
But you can see now how the value of my value patterning is really going to start to pay
In this middle range, I know I can only go so dark or so light.
Knowing that helps me keep my values all in check.
My values can get out of control if you don’t have a way to manage them.
This seems to be a really good way to manage them from your matrix on into your full value.
And when I say full value, I mean bracketed value.
I don’t mean every single value.
A full-value image can mean the full ranges, multiple ranges.
Eliminate those others.
Eliminate those others.
Now, there are some subtle shadows in here, some of the bushes.
Some of the bushes are a little darker but have some shadow in them, you see.
I can do that.
Some of them are the same, and they have a little shadow on them.
I can break into some of those, something back here.
You see, it’s starting to come together.
I’m starting to get, just by building this up and staying within my values, I can see
that some of these values or some of these bushes sit together because they have a similar
I’m starting to get a lot more dimension out of my image because my values are working
and my local values are working a little bit more clearly.
These bushes in the mid ground here are a little bit darker, so I’m going to go ahead
and darken these up just a little bit.
Then they get pretty light in here.
These values now are some of the shadow shapes.
Some darker values and some shadow shapes.
These are shadow shapes here.
These are shadow shapes back here.
They feed into these little bit darker shapes like that.
Some of these shapes of the grass that you can see offer a little bit more variety yet.
There is more in here.
Now I’m going to go in in my darkest darks, and I can see behind this mountain here that
this gets into some of my darkest darks.
Some of my darkest darks right in here in the foreground, these really sit dark.
Let me punch those up.
There we go.
And my darker darks over in here where that starts to turn.
Now, there is a lighter plane that gets aimed up toward the sunlight over here, and I see
it over here too.
I’m just going to do a little subtle tone that’s going to give me a midvalue, so it’s
going to feel like the sun is coming in this direction.
See, I laid it in there, reinforced it in there.
Here it is on this side over here, just a subtle value, but it’s enough to turn that
plane around and put a little shadow behind these things.
This area up here can blend a little bit more as it turns over into the shadow there like
There is an area in here that’s a little bit lighter.
What I’m going to do is I’m going to put a little bit darker groupings of some of the
bushes bordering this area.
Again, I’m staying within my value groups.
Some of the bushes that are sitting on the edge are wrapping around, showing a little
bit more of the form as it rolls over.
They roll over into shadow there.
I made these shadows.
Now I need to make the value of the bushes a little bit darker.
The local value is just a little bit darker.
There we go.
Into that little gully area there.
Okay, now you can see that this approach is a real, simple basic approach to going from
a simple design into something that’s far more representational without getting hung
up on all the rendering and losing track of your values.
This is an easy way.
It doesn’t matter if you’re doing something, a simple still life or a simple landscape
or a complex figure, complex landscape, complex still life.
It doesn’t matter if you approach this the same way by identifying your dominant valued
shapes, keeping them distinctly different, look at the value ranges that represent them
or are represented in those areas, and then go back in and stay true to those value groups
or those value ranges here.
Keep everything within those ranges.
You can get this whole thing locked down pretty good.
It’s not a case of how much rendering you’ve got in.
It’s how you’ve managed those values.
The design, the shape, the patterns.
Then maintaining the range of values in there and staying true to those.
You can get a nice composition and a nice lay-in.
That’s the important thing.
You can try this on this image.
This isn’t an easy one because these middle values are so close.
I would suggest if you want to try something to get a simple still life, take a landscape,
or go outside and look at a landscape.
If you have a picture that clearly breaks into three values, that’s critical.
So, just to recap, you want to select an image, select a location, or if it’s a photo, image
that two, three, or possibly four values only.
So, if you squint at an image, a landscape or whatever, see if you can’t break it into
two, three, or four values.
That will become either two values or three values is going to be your matrix.
It’s possible that you’d see a fourth, but what I want you to do is I want you to
do your best to determine is this closer to the light group, the medium group, or the
It might be a subgroup.
But, try to keep it to two or three values.
Then do your more finished piece as a value study.
You want to make sure that you’ve separated and bracket, okay, bracket your values.
Make sure that you have a gap in between these so that you have distinct value ranges.
And value ranges.
Okay, so that’s how to break this down from a simple matrix, and that’s why your matrix
You break it down simply there.
Then you stay true to these value groups, and you can come up with any kind of a design
and even strengthen it.
I want you to do some of these and do a handful of them.
Don’t just stop with one or two.
The more of these you do the better.
The more you’re going to understand the better you’re going to do this.
I had read once that Howard Pyle had his students doing these almost daily.
They had to turn these in all the time, these scholarship students.
They were always looking at breaking the image down into just a couple values and be clear,
and the clearer you can be with that image the more that you’re going to be able to
express whatever it is you want to say.
If you stay on track with that, it’ll keep you focused on saying what you want to say
about the piece rather than just render the heck out of it until you run out of time.
You’ll know when it’s complete.
You’ll get those distinct value groups and the simple pattern of the design.
If your design is breaking down, reinforce the shapes and make clearer distinction between
the shapes, meaning, make sure there is a gap.
When you don’t have a gap and everything smudges together.
That’s when it all starts to fall apart.
Take one step at a time and have fun with this.