Create Depth with Dark and Light Patterns

Dark and Light Patterns
One of the most dramatic and useful ways of expressing the planes in space them is by seeing them as alternating in darkness and lightness. Visualize shadows being cast from outside of the picture, throwing these planes alternately in shadow and light. This is one of the most useful and traditional means of creating depth in your picture. Look at the examples and compare the drawings with shadows added to those without shadows.

Dark and Light Patterns 1
Dark and Light Patterns

In the first two examples (Drawing 2 and 3), you will notice that I changed the order of the light and dark pattern. Instead of going from dark to light, I went from light to dark and then light again. Remember, “There are no rules, just tools.” The point is to create a sense of depth by separating the planes in space by the use of shadows. Be careful, and don’t confuse dark shaped objects with shadows.


Dark and Light Patterns 2
Dark and Light Patterns

Drawings 4 and 5 are another set of examples where I have used different patterns to separate the planes. You don’t have to accept the way the light is on the subject; you can make the light come from any direction you wish. These drawings, as well as the ones in figure 2 and 3, were done in line only, with the wash added later.

Dark and Light Patterns 2
Dark and Light Patterns

When I did the drawing in figure 6 and 7, I was giving a lecture to explain the use of planes and shadows which create a more dramatic and spatial picture. Compare these drawings to see how the tone adds depth and gives a more complete feeling. This is one of the most practical and useful tools an artist can have to give the illusion of space.

By Glenn Vilppu

This article first appeared in Animation World Magazine December 01, 2000. This article was taken from the fourth in a series of articles about sketching on location. The articles are based on my Sketching on Location Manual. The manual was developed as a series of lessons that I use on my guided sketching tours of Europe, and that I use as material in my regular drawing classes. As such the lessons can be part of a regular course or can be used by individual students as a practical learning guide. If you have not seen the previous lessons starting in the June 2000 issue of Animation World Magazine, it is recommended that you do. The lessons are progressive and expand on basic ideas. It is suggested that you start from the beginning for a better understanding of my approach. If you really want to start at the beginning open with the lessons based on the Vilppu Drawing Manual.

Each lesson in the Sketching on Location Manual is a practical approach that will help you get more enjoyment out of your sketching, improve your skills, and give you more of an understanding and appreciation of artists of the past. The lessons are not only “how-to” instruction, but are actually a series of visual tools that help you organize what you see in ways that create drawings that are interesting to look at and express your feelings for the subject at hand.

These twelve lessons are organized so that each lesson builds upon the skills of the previous one. Initially, these lessons were developed for the students that accompany me on my sketching tours and regular classes of twelve weeks that I teach. I also have in mind the many students around the world that have asked not only for material related to sketching figures, but landscapes as well.

You will see a variety of materials and techniques used. There is no one correct way to sketch, as there is no one correct kind of individual. There are no rules, just many tools that can be used in as many ways as there are artists using them. As a professional artist, the approaches that I develop in this series of lessons are the same as those that I use in drawing from imagination, only the first lesson on drawing point to point being the exception. The quick and rough indications, the use of ink and wash, the contrasting of textures, and all of the other elements that I discuss here are methods that have been used by artists for centuries.

Glenn Vilppu teaches life drawing at the American Animation Institute, the Masters program of the UCLA Animation Dept., Walt Disney Feature Animation, Warner Bros. Feature Animation, Dreamworks and Rhythm & Hues Studios. Vilppu has also worked in the Animation industry for 18 years as a layout, storyboard and presentation artist, most of this time was spent working at Disney. His drawing manual and video tapes are being used worldwide as course materials for animation students. Glenn Vilppu has, in effect, either through teaching them directly or teaching their teachers, trained an entire generation of professional animators.