Sensational Sketches In Six Simple Steps by Sandy Sandy

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Light and Dark Values

They Create Dimension, Drama, Texture and Shape

No matter what medium or technique you use to depict your subject, always try to use a full range of values. Value is the lightness or darkness of a color. You can simplify value by thinking light, medium and dark. A good drawing should have all three. A tool I use frequently in drawing and painting is a value scale. You could easily make up your own any number of ways. The first one I made out of a page from a Pantone color formula guide mounted on a piece of foam core. The second one, The Don Rankin Value and View Finder, is available through Cheap Joes’ Art Stuff. I like this one because there are holes in the card where the values are and you can hold it right over the area you’re evaluating to get a really good match.

“Value drawings are one of the artist’s best friends.” ~ Harley Brown

Homemade Value Chart

Homemade Value Chart

Don Rankin’s Value and View Finder

Value Chart

Sensational Sketches In Six Simple Steps

* STEP 1 ~ Block In Shapes

I recommend using a good quality spiral sketchbook, at least 6″ x 8″ or bigger with a medium weight drawing paper. I like the Strathmore 300 series, 9″ x 12″. You’ll also need a soft drawing pencil (2B – 4B) and a kneaded eraser.

This drawing shows you how to hold the pencil when you first start your drawing. It’s so much easier to first block in shapes this way and keeps you loose without getting caught up in details too early.

Sensational Sketches 1

* STEP 2 ~ Refine and Add Detail

Ok, now you can tighten up a little and hold the pencil like you would to write. Add some of the main details. Correct and refine your sketch, but don’t get too nit picky!

Keep in mind that this is an exercise. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece!

When out of the studio sketching, I stop with this step and add the wash later. So all you need to take out with you is a pencil, eraser and sketchbook!

“A pencil is quiet, clean, odorless, inexpensive, and lightweight. I can slip it in my pocket and take it with me everywhere – my secret friend.” ~ Sherry Camby

My motto is: “KISS ~ Keep it sensationally simple!”

Sensational Sketches 2

* STEP 3 ~ Dampen The Paper

I start this next step by generously wetting the surface of my bird with clean water. I go right up to the edge of the figure so the paint will flow to that point and the strokes will blend together.

Sensational Sketches 3

* STEP 4 ~ Flood The Wash

Here I use a thirsty, *dry brush that’s loaded with watercolor paint. I usually use a combination of Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna to make a gray, but any dark color will do. I’m more concerned with value than hue. (See the section on value below.) I start squinting a lot from this point on. This makes it easier to see big shapes and values. I float the pigment into the wet area, giving the figure shape by rendering values and a few details.

*dry brush ~ The brush is damp, yet dryer than the paper. This is done by loading the brush with thick paint and then using a tissue at the ferrule of the brush to squeeze out excess water. The brush then becomes “dry”, but there’s still lots of pigment on the bristles. See “PARTS OF AN ARTIST’S BRUSH” here.

Hue ~ another word for color

Value ~ the lightness or darkness of any color, the three main values being:

Light, medium, dark

Sensational Sketches 4

* STEP 5 ~ Add Calligraphy

When the area is damp or dry, I add a few more calligraphic strokes. You can soften some hard lines by quickly moistening some strokes with a little clean water and a *dry brush.

Sensational Sketches 5

* STEP 6 ~ Add Background Value

Sensational Sketches ~ Drawing Lesson

All I’ve done here is add a background wash after the bird is dry. I do the same thing as in step three. I quickly wet the entire surface where I want my wash to be with clean water, again being careful to stay in the lines. Then squinting, I float in my pigment with a *dry brush.

Some wrinkling of the drawing paper will occur.

Remember, it’s only a sketch!

Sensational Sketches 6

About Sandy Sandy

The Singular Artist with a Double Name

Sandy holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from Moore College of Art and also attended The Art Institute in Philadelphia. At Moore, Sandy studied watercolor independently with nationally known watercolorist, Ranulph Bye, whose legacy is the Brandywine and New Hope Schools. More recently, Sandy has been drawn to the teachings of Edgar A. Whitney, and has studied with many modern day masters who once were Whitney’s students. For over seventeen years, Sandy was the owner and art director of Alpha1 Studio, an advertising, illustration and sign company. Since 1996, she has been painting full time and operates her studio from her NJ Pine Barrens home. Collectors of her original paintings can be found throughout North America.

Sandy’s Website Address: http://www.sandysandy.comSandy Sandy Spiritartist


  1. Lynn Marlowe says

    Wow it looks so simple. I do need to work on my values. Thank you for the insight. Great artwork.

  2. says

    Hi!, thanks for that tutorial,it is great and clear and i was looking something like that for a long time.May the Lord bless you for the great work your are doing for us .
    Thanks .Armand.

  3. says

    GREAT article, I am printing this out, stuffing into my sketchbook.

    Thank you for taking the time to share this with the world, Sandy Sandy.

    Cindy Davis

  4. says

    Thanks for your comment Lynn. This really IS SIMPLE! And it is so much quicker than other ways of rendering with pencil like hatching or shading. Give it a try. Do your own hummingbird sketch from mine, step by step. AND HAVE FUN!! Best Wishes, Sandy Sandy

  5. Nzo-Nguty Etahoben says

    Sandy’s six steps are truely simple to follow, and inspirational to beginners like me.
    I do hope she comes up with more steps like these.
    Thumbs up.

  6. Angie says

    I followed your sketch and did pretty good! You’re a great instructor and I’d love to see tutorials like this!! Thanks!

  7. Fredrick Samuel Rudran says

    I thank you very much for those six simple steps..! They’re really simple and they’re quite easier to follow. Please keep giving such ideas.

  8. Marleen says

    I loved your 6 simple steps…so important to do your homework before you start to paint and yet I skip it b/c I’m not sure how to do a thumbnail…I, too, am going to print it out and keep it in my sketchbook…More of the same, please! Thanks

  9. Revathi says

    Thank you for 6 simple steps…Its really very easy to follow and it will help me as a art teacher to teach the students.

  10. kenneth muir says

    I was indeed happy to come across your ‘six simple steps’. It gave me that feeling..I can do that! (maybe, I never will, but at least I got the ‘feel good’ spirit) Having said that, it is my next assignment.

    I thank you for sharing your talent with the wider world. It is so uplifting to know that there are still good and generous human beings like yourself around.

  11. Paul says

    Fantastic. You make it all look so easy. I like breaking things down into segments, it doesn’t seem so daunting.

  12. Deepa says

    i would like to take art class in drawing and sketching, will you please be able to help me where i could begin..


  13. jake says

    That’s a brilliant picture. I love to draw (far better at that than at painting) but I think I can see why my drawings have no texture. I tend to avoid shading as I’m not very good at it but without the range of medium, dark and light my drawings do end up looking quite flat.

  14. Blair Capwell says

    Hello there I am so thrilled I found your blog page. A good read. Thanks for your blog and keep the posts coming.

  15. Jason says

    This is very handy. Thanks for sharing this steps to us. Being an artist, we should have to be open with ideas that could improve us. This one really helps a lot.

  16. Aaron says

    Impressed with your exceptional drawing skills and above all for your generosity in sharing your talent. Looking forward for more of your artworks.

  17. Anonymous says

    You are a really talented person. I am trying really hard to learn how to draw like that but it seems that I need much more practice until I reach your level. Keep up the good work and post more drawings for us to study and admire. Thank you!

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