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Drawing in the Dark

Raha Raissnia, Main Drag, 2015, Image transfer and mixed media on paper laid down on canvas, 51 x 80 inches, Courtesy Miguel Abreu Gallery
Raha Raissnia, Main Drag, 2015, Image transfer and mixed media on paper laid down on canvas, 51 x 80 inches, Courtesy Miguel Abreu Gallery

Part 1. For this drawing, take 3 large pieces of paper, turn off the lights, and make drawings in your room, at night, in the dark.  Begin by toning your paper with a middle grey by rubbing an even amount of charcoal all over your paper; push it into the surface. Use your eraser to reveal the light you see and more charcoal to darken areas. Experiment with each paper and try different approaches. Start in a new location, move from large areas of light and dark to more detailed, nuanced spaces.

Part 2. Take 2 pieces of paper, charcoal, and an eraser. Set up an easel outdoors with a view of a fairly deep, complex space. Draw this space during the day, under natural light. Next, in the evening, draw the same space from the same viewpoint, now only illuminated only by artificial light. How has the space changed? How do you represent the differences in light? Hang these works as a diptych.

 Thoughts to Consider:

If you have windows, the light will be coming from an outside, artificial source. Let your eyes adjust to the darkness, and really look at and feel the space. How does the lack of light affect the space and objects?  Does the space feel the same, larger, smaller?  What textures do you see? Begin intuitively, and feel your way through the drawing.

What structures emerge in this drawing? How are the lights and darks you see different, nuanced? Does the light change over time? How? Why?

Any number of artists have explored drawings and paintings of darkness.  For inspiration, look at Seurat, Whistler, Raha Raissnia, Alex Katz, Hiroshige, and a number of the Mogul Indian and Persian miniature artists. See a few examples below:

Raha Raissnia, Main Drag, 2015, Image transfer and mixed media on paper laid down on canvas, 51 x 80 inches, Courtesy Miguel Abreu Gallery

James Abbott McNeill Whistler
The Thames, 1872-1875, chalk and pastel on brown paper, 7 x 10¾. Collection Indiana University Art Museum, Bloomington, Indiana

Alex Katz, Lincolnville Harbor 1994

Georges Seurat, Courbevoie: Factories by Moonlight, 1882-83, conte on paper, courtesy the METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART

Utagawa Hiroshige:
No 90,Saruwaka-cho yoru no kei / Meisho Edo Hyakkei, 1857