Tonally awesome

Levels 3-6

Observe the qualities of light and shadow on Subodh Gupta’s artwork Cow, then make your own viewing frame and practise using tone to draw the light you can see in the world around you.

Learning objectives

  • Identify shadows, midtones and highlights in sculptures or everyday objects
  • Use shading techniques with grey lead pencils to achieve tonal effects
  • Create three or more small observational drawings of a chosen object

Workshop instructions

Resources & materials

• Scissors
• A6 card
• Sketch pad or paper
• 2b and 6B grey lead pencils
• Blu tac
• Eraser
• An object of your choice to draw


1. Make the viewing frame by folding the card in half. Cut a small square into the middle of the folded side, and then unfold it again.
2. Evenly shade three or more rectangular areas on the sketch paper, using your frame as a template.
3. Frame a view of part of an object you wish to draw. Hold the frame as still as possible or fix it to something with blue tac so your view remains fixed.
4. Choose a shaded rectangle to draw in. Find the darkest areas in your viewing frame and trace faint lines around the corresponding areas of your shaded rectangle. Smoothly and firmly shade the dark tones into these areas until they look similar to what you see through the frame.
5. Repeat the process, this time tracing faint lines around the lighter areas. Instead of shading with a pencil, use an eraser to reveal the bright white of the page underneath. Once you’ve captured the darkest and lightest tones, try blending in the mid-tones, or move on to another view.