The Dark Side

Monday, 14th March 2005
Wild West Yorkshire nature diary

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RichardContrary to what you might think from the expression on my face, I enjoyed painting this black and white self-portrait. It's such a change for me to draw with a brush; such a change to paint shapes directly instead of mapping them with line.

sable brush


This is another of those Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain exercises. In this you set up a strong light on your subject, in this case me, and, using a number 7 sable with black ink (I used FW Acrylic Artists Ink) paint the shape of each shadow. Always wait until you can see the shape.

Without the reassuring presence of a pencil outline this seems like a hit-and-miss affair but, if you take your time over it and take care to relate one abstract patch shadow to the others, the face will appear out of what at first looks like the pattern on a Friesian cow.

My studio has white walls so there was a lot of reflective light on the shadowed side of my face and I wanted to include some of that reflected light so this isn't strictly a 50/50 division of light and dark.

Which of us consists of a 50% pure light and 50% dark anyway?


Realising how difficult this mode of drawing is likely to be, Betty Edwards, author of Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, suggests that you start by copying a this self portrait by Rembrandt.

I prefer to use the technique on a real subject, rather than on the copying exercise because, while doing that - translating a tonal image into pure black and white - I felt I was at a disadvantage; I felt as if I was trying to second-guess what Rembrandt was actually seeing. Next Page

Richard Bell,

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