Sketchbook No.4: Ribbon Drawing

Essential Question(s):

1. What are the Elements of Art?

2. How can I create a range of value with the shading technique, blending (neatly creating value to show a gradient without VISIBLE directional pencil lines.

3. How do artists produce the illusion of 3-D objects on a 2-D surface?


Mastery Objective(s): The student will…

1. demonstrate his/her understanding of value, mastery of the shading technique, blending, and observational drawing by creating a sketchbook drawing of curled paper or ribbons focusing on gradient value and contrast.

contour line

STEP No.1:

Set-up curled strips of paper or ribbons on a flat surface with a strong light source to create interesting shadows.

STEP No.2:

Sketch in the paper or ribbons. Focus on placement of the paper/ribbons and outside edges. Sketch in the shadows of the paper/ribbon. And the horizon line if it is present. Draw the whole scene together…not as if they are separate pieces. In observational drawing, you need to look at the relationship and connection of all the objects!!!

How far away is one piece of ribbon from another?  Where does the curl intersect the main part of the paper/ribbon?

STEP No.3:

Begin to use blending to render the medium and dark values. Pay attention to where the highlights are! Leave them the whitest white!!! Then begin to work in the blackest blacks!

STEP No.4:




a. must use the whole sketchbook page (8×11), if your sketchbook is a different size…smaller: do a 2 page spread with the spirals running in the middle, it looks cool…larger: draw an inset of approximately 8×11 and draw in it with a nice white border around your sketch.

b. must have at least a range of 5-7 values, including the whitest whites and blackest blacks = CONTRAST

c. must use graphite and ebony pencil!

d. must include shadows!

e. must show a STRONG LIGHT SOURCE!

If you need a challenge, try something like this:

ribbon name

If you would like to earn EXTRA CREDIT:

You can do another page with a ribbon(s) using oil pastel to

Samples with color:

Samples of artists that have taken this skill and used it in their work:

3 thoughts on “Sketchbook No.4: Ribbon Drawing

  1. I am an art student studying the movement of ribbons and I’d love to hear about your inspirations and ideas when it comes to drawing them. Would you mind answering a few questions I have about this work to use for a project?


      1. What made you chose Ribbons as a subject? I would’ve never thought of painting them without seeing them before on a canvas so I wondered why you would chose this way of displaying them.
        Was there a particular artist that encouraged you to pick this topic? Perhaps a favorite artist in general who focuses on ordinary, inanimate objects.
        Finally, the work done with paper at a side angle is extremely interesting. Where did that idea come from and how would you describe the importance of shadows when creating the ‘temperature’ of a piece?

        Thank You so much for your time, I really appreciate it. I’m taking my final exam this year and its a grueling 10 hours of fear and nerves. What advice do you give to your students when it comes to time pressure?


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