Life Drawing: Dark and Light

I've seen "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte" in books before, but until our instructor flipped through his Seurat books to show us examples of dark and light drawings, I didn't know that its preparation involved approximately 28 drawings. For example, this one of a seated woman:

A study by George Seurat

Seurat's handling of black and white was inspiration for our lesson last week. He did not use lines to draw figures. Instead, he used the weighting of darks and lights to create the appearance of lines. Many of his drawings were executed with conte crayon, a soft black tool that smudges - but not as much as charcoal.

As warm-ups, we started with one and two minute gesture drawings using charcoal:

one-minute gestures
two-minute gestures

two-minute gesture

Next, we put our charcoal flat against the paper. I started off drawing the contour, pressing harder for the dark planes of the body:

Class ended with a twenty-minute long pose using conte crayon and charcoal. We held the conte crayon flat against the paper, similar to charcoal, and focused on capturing the dark planes. In retrospect, I would have started as light as possible, only putting color on the paper for areas where the light does not hit the figure. Like our previous exercise drawing planes, we went back and shaded in darker areas. The benefit of conte crayon is that wiping over the drawing with a paper towel or cloth creates a blended look. I went back in with an eraser after wiping the whole thing with a paper towel to erase away the negative space:

Drawing class is coming to an end soon. I've learned that drawing is not a talent, but rather a skill that can be learned and practiced by putting together concepts like negative space, planes, contour lines, and dark/light value.