The Moody Squirrel

Light and shadow gives definition to a subject and used well can create that three-dimensional illusion on a flat surface that I strive for in my artwork.

The concept of value is worthy of further exploration.

Using the book “Pastel Innovations” by Dawn Emerson as my inspiration I explored her innovative definition of the meaning of value:

Traditional: Degrees of lightness and darkness that are used to describe an image

Innovative: Value is the architect that builds the structure with light and shadow

squirrel-1 strip

Using the side of a piece of charcoal I sketched out a vague shape of a squirrel. Additional layers were added to the obvious places where the shadows were, as in where the tail meets the body and under and between the legs.

To make something dark you need to have something lighter in value next to it and vice versa. So, to create a gradation of value and give definition to the curve of the shoulders, I used the charcoal corner to add more value where needed and a paper stump and an eraser to remove pigment where there was too much.

This was continued until the volume and structure of the shape resembled a more 3-dimensional looking squirrel. Not my best squirrel, but it illustrates a point!

Dawn suggests; “Focusing on values makes you work from the inside of your subject to the outside.

I would agree with that. The exercise did get me considering value a bit more with regard to developing the form in my drawing.  It is too easy to start with a thin line and then to color in the value!


Another experiment was to see how color affected my squirrel. A second squirrel was drawn with a similar approach using charcoal on a blue background. This gave it an obvious cold look particularly as the blue appeared through the image of the squirrel.

A red color was added to the background of my original squirrel giving a warmer look. Another improvement but it just stands out a little bit too much from the background. The whites were too white. To remedy this more color was used to tone it down. In my view a further improvement!

The experiments are definitely food for thought!

Now time to draw a proper squirrel but this time using pan pastel to create the value.