15 PICASSO – Realism

I lived too far away to spend much lap-time with Dougie, so I wrote him these letters.


Hi Dougie,

Here is another picture Picasso painted of a harlequin. Do you see how the man looks very real, not like the Girl in Front of a Mirror? This kind of painting is called “Realism.” 

Picasso - Harlequin 3

Picasso painted so many pictures with strange faces that people thought he didn’t know how to paint a real person. But he’s very good, isn’t he?

Do you see how he started with an ink drawing with cross hatching? And how he then painted the negative spaces around the man? And how he made the negative space around the head lighter to get more contrast?

I like this picture a lot. To me it looks like Picasso when he was a young man.

Le’s do some Realism. One way of making a drawing look real is to show the shadows. Look at Picasso’s picture again. Do you see how he painted the shadows on the hat and face?

We’ll start with something simple–an egg. 

Look at this picture I took of an egg on a table near a window. I put a dark book behind it to give it more contrast. Do you see that the white egg is actually different colors?

01 Egg 01

Did you find the blue? Where the shadow starts on the curve of the egg it is actually blue! That’s because the sky is blue. It won’t do that under a light bulb, you must have skylight. Some famous artists called “Impressionists” painted blue shadows for the first time and everyone was very surprised.

Can you see where the egg is slightly yellowish-tan? It’s right at the bottom.  It helps to see it if you compare it to the whites and the blacks. That tan is the reflection of the light from the yellowish-tan table. The light bounces off the table onto the shadow side of the egg. It’s not a very strong light so it is only near the part of the egg closest to the table. Did you know a plain white egg could  have different colors and be so beautiful?

If we want to make a drawing of an egg that looks real, we’ll have to try to show the shadows.  Because we want to draw our egg in pencil, I’ll take the colors away to make it easier to see the different shades of gray.

01 Egg 02 B&W

Go back and look at the colored photograph again. Compared to the black and white photo it is easy to see the colors on the egg, isn’t it? Do you see all the different shades of gray in the black and white photo? Before we draw our egg we need to practice making different grays. Let’s start by making a white, a black, and a gray box. To make white with a pencil, leave the paper white.

Egg Drawing 03

That was easy. But be careful to keep it white, don’t get it dirty or smudgy. To make black with a pencil, press hard until you get black.

Egg Drawing 04It helps to have a drawing pencil like a “B” to get a really good black. “B” stands for black. If you don’t have a B pencil, make the blackest black you can. To get black press hard with the pencil, as hard as you can without breaking the lead.

Now for gray. Start by pressing down on your pencil only lightly and try to keep it all even, not blotchy. Start with it light, then keep adding to it until you have the gray you want. Go slowly! Egg Drawing 02 Try to make the shade of gray exactly between white and black. Do it a few times until it gets easy for you and you can do it fast.

Now we’ll do five boxes. You’ll see why in a minute. Number them from one to five. Number one is white, number five is black, and number two, three, and four are grays. Start with the black first, then number three, the middle gray, just like we did for the three boxes. Egg Drawing 00 Now do number four. Try very hard to get the shade of gray exactly between three and five. Then do number two, making the gray very light. Don’t press on your pencil at all. Let just the weight of the pencil make the marks. Try to make a light gray exactly between the white of number one and the gray of number three.

Egg Drawing 00b

There we have it, five shades of gray. Artists call those “values.” We have five values: white, light gray, medium gray, dark gray, and black. Now let’s look at our egg again. Can you see the five values?

01 Egg 02 B&W

I’ll draw some red lines to show you.

01 Egg 02 B&W Values

Do see why we made five boxes with five values? Practice drawing your own lines on pictures you find in magazines or advertisements  If you can see the values, you can make a realistic drawing.

It helps to do one more thing first. Try to make all the values from  black to white in a line without any spaces between them.  That’s how they are on the egg. Try this more than once.  Egg Drawing 01bDo you see how it goes from white to light gray, to medium gray, to dark gray, and to black. 

Let’s try to draw a real looking egg! Like Picasso, start with a careful drawing. Make a box for a frame. Make it the same shape as the photo. See where the egg is in the frame? Put it there, not on the edge or the top or the bottom. See how close or far away the egg is from the frame on all four sides? Draw it that way. Notice that the egg is a little bit more pointed on one side. Draw it that way. And don’t forget to add the book.

Egg Drawing 101c

To make an accurate drawing first draws the shapes very light. Go over them until your eye tells you it’s right.

Now try to see the five values. Use my red lines as a guide. If you draw them in, make them very light or else they will show when you are finished.

The rest is like a coloring book, except we are using pencil values instead of colors. Start with the blacks, number five. I like to leave some white flecks in the blacks. It adds sparkle. 

Egg Drawing 102

Now add the number four grays.

Egg Drawing 103

And the number three grays. Try to make them a bit darker where they meet the number fours, and a bit lighter where they will meet the number twos.

Egg Drawing 104

To make the white of the egg stand out, make the table to the right of the egg number two. That’s the Negative Space. (We won’t try to show the grain lines of the wood.)  I made the number two darker around the egg to make it stand out more.

Egg Drawing 105

Go back and fix things. Slowly blend the values some more. I colored in some of my “sparkle.” It was distracting from the egg.  And I cut some of the edges off the picture to make it more like the original photo,

Egg Drawing 105d

If you want to make your values blend even more, you can rub them with your finger. Be careful not to smudge the white part of the egg. Here’s what the rubbing does. 

Egg Drawing 105ec

Can you see the difference? I usually want to see my pencil strokes, but on something as smooth as an egg, the rubbing looks good.

Your egg doesn’t have to be exactly like the photo. You are not a camera, you are an artist making the prettiest picture you can. Sometimes that means you have to change things. A photograph can’t do that. Do a bunch of these drawings. Your third one will surprise you!

Try to see these five values in what you look at–a landscape, someone’s face, a building, or a car. Put a pine cone under a lamp. Do the same thing with a sea shell or even your pencil. Can you see all the different values? There are way more than five, aren’t there. But making them only five makes it easier to draw.

When you start seeing values in what you look at you are seeing like an artist. Like Picasso.



About majchr

Majora Christo
This entry was posted in Art, Children & Art, Drawing and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to 15 PICASSO – Realism

  1. Reblogged this on harrisc2 and commented:
    My inspiration!!

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