Tonal Cylinders and Blocks


Drawing Fundamentals: Tonality and Shadows


Lesson Info

Tonal Cylinders and Blocks

I'm gonna show you a progression of a few animations, showing you the progression of a tonal cylinder and then a little bit about blocks. And then we're gonna move into our draw-by-numbers at the end which is like the crescendo of the lesson and how we can really map tonality. And this is something that I do with my students a lot and they find it very, very helpful. So I'll do that with you and then we'll, then it'll be time for you to practice. And again all of these ideas are elaborated in some of our practice pages. So I really encourage you to get in there and download some of those to help you as a guide. Okay, so tonal cylinder. Let's um, let's move on to that. So the cylindrical shape is something that you find in a lot of places. Like wine bottles and pepper mills and trees. And this is something really important to learn how to draw and again learning how to draw in different angles and positions is important and then also practicing tonality on that. So let's just take a loo...

k at this animation and talk a little bit about cross-contours wrapping around it and then how that can relay into mark making. You can see these marks on this tonal cylinder are clearly wrapped around it right? There's a curvature to them which is really about the actual shape of the cylinder and then the marks that come away from the cylinder on the ground plane, you can see how they have a straight quality because the ground plane isn't curved. The ground plane is flat, so this is something again you can continue to practice. Let's just take a look at the steps briefly. So moving from a cylinder, practicing drawing a cylinder with cross-contour lines around it. And you can practice this also. I'll have a prop out here for you to look at. With, you can wrap tape around a cylinder and you can use that as a motif. And then coming around with more cross-contour lines to be a, like a prototype or a map for your ultimate marks. Starting to work more feathery marks around it, you can see them feathering out and wrapping around. Keeping in mind the fact that if you wrapped a rubber band or a hair tie around that or tape around it, there'd be a direction for the marks. And then ultimately arriving at something like this, which is you know pretty easy to achieve if you keep these ideas in mind. And switching the lighting and switching the position. If we look at this Prud'hon drawing, which is really beautiful, you might think well how does we just talked about apply to something like this? But if you took her thigh and reduced it and shifted it into a cylinder, check it out right? I mean that's some definitely a cylinder, with dark on one side and the light wraps around. So you can absolutely apply this to more sophisticated drawings and it makes it more simple and it makes it more fun because it's less intimidating that way. Alright so let's, so that's a cylinder. But I want to get into the block because we've done some curve lines and I wanna talk a little bit about the tonal block and then a little bit of draw-by-numbers. So here's our tonal block. Animation. So how do we arrive at that? Like how do we map that out? And it seems like a pretty sophisticated drawing but it just takes a little bit of mapping in a way similar to what we did in the kitchen with a smaller study. So let's just take a look at how this was built. Starting first with positioning the blocks in space and making a strong linear drawing. Without a strong linear drawing first there's no point in rendering, in my eyes. Like you want to make sure that your forms are well drawn. Unless you spent the time really making sure your forms are well draw, you could put hours into cross hatching and tonal rendering but it's just gonna fall flat because you're rendering on something that doesn't have a strong foundation. You wanna make sure, it's like building a house. You don't wanna like put the shingles on until the rafters are in and the walls are up right? So you wanna make sure that you don't frost the cake before it's baked. You wanna get it to be solid and you want it to feel believable. So a first step might be this. A second step might be mapping some of the shadow shapes. Like mapping the shadow shapes so that they, not too darkly but just mapping them so you can see where they fall. And then here's the data, right. These numbers relate to a five-part tonal gradient which I'm gonna show you in a moment, but I'm mapping my ones, are my brightest brights. My fives are my darkest darks. So in the end if I map it this way, I can take the blocks away and I could just do this almost from memory because I've mapped it out, I know my tonal gradient and I can start to build it towards this. Fives being the darkest darks, one being the lightest lights. Step one in the tonal gradient, look at the direction of the lines. All of them are up and down, straight up and down. The objects are rectilinear, there's no curves so why would I make a curved line? And then ultimately building to this where the cross hatching, subtle cross hatching and mark making starts to come into play. How do we apply this? Here's a castle, this beautiful sort of ink drawing of a castle by John Sell Cotman. It's very blocky, it's very rectilinear. But how do we distill that down into a basic shape? There it is, there's our block.

Class Description

This beginner-friendly class will teach you essential techniques for drawing realistically. Learn how to create light and shadow in your drawings by applying techniques such as tonal scales, cross hatching and mark making. Instructor Amy Wynne teaches at the Rhode Island School of Design and exhibits her work nationally, winning numerous grants and awards.

This class covers:

  • Tonal gradations, hatching, cross hatching
  • Creating a dramatic value range
  • Working with core and cast shadow

A series of practice pages will be provided to get you started.



The package of four drawing basics courses by Amy Wynne are very well organized. Each section builds on the other. By the end, she has given us a technical understanding of how to use marks and tonality and shadows and highlights to develop a beautiful drawing of anything. The illustrations of important points were very helpful. HIGHLY recommend.

Ariana Graf

Amy teaches a straight-forward approach to tonal rendering and mark-making that builds on her previous courses on building basic line drawings. She makes beautiful and believable tonal shading attainable. Loved it!