Nature: exercise 2: tone


Tone is what gives the drawing volume, makes it solid and gives it weight.  Volume can be created with a light source emphasizing the darkest and lightest areas.

Q Ruskin made many studies of rocks, often in great detail. Why?

A. His interest was to capture in scientific detail a ‘Truth to Nature’, and also to express his own sense of wonder in the face of the natural world.

Here are two studies Ruskin used on his drawing course.
(For information on images mentioned, see the image gallery at the end of this section.)

Example 1. Study of a rock at Glenfinlas in Scotland. 

While on a summer holiday with his wife and friend Millais, Ruskin spent an afternoon making this study of a rock formation.

He notes the way the rock strata are formed and rounded by the flowing stream and the types of plants which grow nearby.  Ruskin uses tone to great effect to draw out these qualities.

He’s used pen and ink, a wash and highlights in Indian ink or gouache, he also scratched the paper with a knife to create highlights.



Example: 2 Rock study

In this drawing Ruskin used strong light and shadow to emphasize the solidity, weight and monumentality of this rock, however he didn’t sacrifice its fine details.

Materials: coloured paper, pen and ink, china white and a knife for scraffito.


Exercise: Rock forms.

Take an interesting rock form, lighted from a single source and arrange the study on coloured paper in such a way as to convey its structure and weight.  First make a light pencil drawing, then build up layers of wash to pick out the shadow, use a dark background against the lightest section for emphasis. Next work in the details using a pen and ink, and finally use the knife to scratch away the ink and indicate texture.