Harding's Lessons on Drawing: A Classic Approach

Harding's Lessons on Drawing: A Classic Approach

by J. D. Harding

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John Ruskin's drawing master and sketching companion, Harding was one of 19th-century England's most respected watercolorists, art critics, and teachers. Through 127 distinct lessons, he trains both the hand and the mind in fundamental techniques of drawing lines and circles, light and shade, construction and perspective, and much more.See more details below


John Ruskin's drawing master and sketching companion, Harding was one of 19th-century England's most respected watercolorists, art critics, and teachers. Through 127 distinct lessons, he trains both the hand and the mind in fundamental techniques of drawing lines and circles, light and shade, construction and perspective, and much more.

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Harding's Lessons on Drawing

A Classic Approach


Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 2007 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-13783-4



THE Lessons in the first Section, with but few exceptions, treated of the superficies of objects, and these were always executed in outline. The Lessons in this Number will represent objects as solids, with their light and shade. The most correct outline always requires shade to convey to the mind a complete idea of the solidity of the object it represents; but the first great essential is always to obtain a correct outline, and to this your attention will be particularly called throughout "The Lessons."

In this Number, also, you will find the practical value of your earliest Lessons by witnessing their application.

I cannot too much urge your attention to drawing from memory almost every Lesson. This practice is attended by many advantages, too important to be overlooked. It at once shows you what you have actually gained from the study of each Lesson; and shows your master whether you have really learned each Lesson, or merely copied it mechanically. His examination, in addition, enables him to judge whether you should repeat the Lesson, or may be permitted to proceed.

Drawing from memory educates your mind to a correct preconception of the change in the forms, and in the combination of objects, according to the point of view from which you see them; and beyond all other kinds of practice it best cultivates in you the power to draw from nature.

It is a great object, also, that you should execute these Lessons neatly, making all the perpendicular and horizontal lines perfectly perpendicular and horizontal, and exactly parallel.

To accomplish this, you should at first use a straight and a triangular ruler, and afterwards, when you perfectly understand the mode and order of executing each Lesson, you should draw it by hand only, and lastly from memory.

In this Number, also, is given to you a more complete application of the last paragraph of Lesson 13, which will be an additional proof of its great importance.

As the shadow in all cases contributes powerfully to satisfy the eye, it is more than probable you may hurry over the outline in order to put in the shade, which you find so pleasing and effective. If so, you will indeed "give up the substance for the shadow." You must, however, remember that no shade can be effective on an incorrect outline, except to exhibit its defects more glaringly.

Drawing, and not shading, is the difficult acquirement. It is the form of a shadow, not the depth of its colour, which is of importance.


THE general remarks which you have at present to bear in mind regarding shade are,—

That it is produced by a repetition of lines either perpendicular, horizontal, or oblique; as shown in the Examples 1, 2, 3. These lines incline according to the inclination of the object whose shaded side is to be represented, subject to such modifications as varying circumstances may demand.

In all cases, shade, as seen in nature, whatever its depth, is of an even colour throughout; if it be found darker in one part than another, the increase in its depth is gradual from the lighter part—never sudden.

To produce this requisite evenness, the lines must be all of the same strength, and equally separate from each other, and the pencil must be held firmly in the hand. The distance of its point from the end of the fingers must be regulated by the depth of shade required, and should be greater or less, according as a lighter or darker shade is wanted, and should be produced from pencils having a broad point, and such as are made expressly with thick and broad lead.

Example 1 is done by perpendicular lines, which are plainly seen on the upper part, but they are not allowed to touch each other at their extremities.

Lean as equally as possible on each line, and separate them equally from each other; the whole mass of shade being thus done, though with great care, will not be perfectly even, the white and lighter spaces between the lines must afterwards be filled up by other perpendicular lines, and with a harder pencil. The shade may thus be made as even as you see it in the lower part of the example.

Example 2 is produced by a mass of sloping lines, as shown on the upper part, the light spaces being afterwards filled up, also by oblique lines, with a pencil having a finer point, until the whole of the shade becomes, like the lower part of this example, perfectly even. It is this perfect evenness which is the essential requisite.

Example 3 is produced by horizontal lines, the ends of which should not touch, or barely; but here they have been allowed to overlap, in order to show you that if by chance you should make such a mistake, the excess of colour thus produced you may nearly or quite remove by just touching the parts which are too dark with the point of a small piece of bread which has been rolled between the fingers into this form [ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]. By thus removing any parts too dark, and by filling in such as are too light, the shade may be made even.

As a general rule, such methods of shading as are here represented in Examples 1, 2, and 3, are employed on near objects, because, at the same time that the shade is made even, the lines assist to indicate the surface and the proximity of the object. But shade, such as may with more propriety be applied to distant objects, or in cases when it is desirable not to show any character, must then be done in the following manner, as seen in Example 4.

Take a soft pencil, and rub it on a piece of coarse paper, and charge a leather stump with the lead so obtained, with which produce the shade as here shown, by passing the stump backwards and forwards perpendicularly; then with a fine point to a harder pencil, fill up the light spaces as before. The stump must of course be charged with the lead in quantity according to the depth of shade required. When the shade is completed by filling up the light parts, it is always darker. It must, therefore, in the first instance, be laid in paler than is required, so as to allow for the additional depth obtained in making it even. The last—

Example 5, is done by the stump only when lightly charged with lead, and may be so managed as to procure evenness at once.

In attempting the various shades, besides attending to the instructions here given, you must bear in mind what is said in the first Lesson relative to the position of your arm.


HITHERTO your study has been confined to the drawing of superfices, that is, of forms which have no breadth or thickness, and therefore have no shade.

You are now entering on the study of solids, and, consequently, will require the addition of shade to express solidity. Having passed through the various examples contained in your last Lesson, you should therefore be prepared to add the shade, properly, to all your future Lessons, whatever may be the direction of the lines by which they are produced. Remember they are always regulated by the nature of the surface under shade, whether it be perpendicular, horizontal, oblique, or curved.

Several of the following Lessons you will find illustrated by wood-cuts. In these, the shades are represented by narrower and more obvious lines, than could be easily produced from the chalk or pencil; but it is not necessary that you should imitate them. All you are required to do is to take notice of the depth of the shade, and the direction of the lines; and, above all, to make the shade even, which is the only characteristic of nature you can give to it, and this is indispensable on every occasion, and to every subject.

IN this Lesson you have the cube, with three of its surfaces, or sides, seen at one time; the side A B C D being represented by a perfect square, such as in Lesson 8. Here you will remark that only the side A B C D is seen a perfect square, with every angle a right angle; the top and sides are each composed of two acute and two obtuse angles. Take a cube from the box of models, and set it before you till you see it of this form. The top and side, as here drawn, represent two figures, which in nature are actually square.

When you thus see them you are said to view them obliquely, that is, with one portion more distant than another. This figure may be very easily drawn thus:—Draw A B C D, extending D B to the left, and D C upwards, both indefinitely. Fix on the point G, at its required distance from B; then on the point H, at its required height above C; and lastly on E, observing that it must be horizontally level with H, and perpendicularly over G; then draw the lines E H and E G parallel with A C and A B. Fix on the point I and draw I C; then on F, and draw F B, and E A, and the figure will be complete.

You have just read, that when you view surfaces so that you do not see their true form, you view them obliquely. They are also said to be foreshortened; but this term is more generally applied to lines such as I C, E A, and F B; or to objects so seen that one end of them, as C, A, and B, is nearer to you than any other part; when so seen, they are never seen of their true length.

At the bottom of the page you have this object reversed, for the sake of applying your instructions to another view of it.

This, and the following two Lessons, you should first accomplish by the use of the rulers, that you may do them exactly, and afterwards by your eye, without the auxiliary lines, and of different proportions. This Lesson you may do by making a square on any line longer or shorter than B D, all other lines and spaces being in proportion.


MAY be accomplished by drawing the figure E G H D, looking well to its proportions; then iB and kC. Having found the exact places of these in relation to the other lines which have already formed A B C D, draw the slanting lines E A, F B, and iC, and the figure will be complete. Draw it both ways, as here given, and at the same time place the model before you.


Is a combination of the last Lesson, with a solid oblong, viewed like the cube in Lesson 25.

Draw A B C D. Extend D B on the left to O. Find the places of R, M, and L, then find the place of I on A B, and the place of p perpendicularly over R, and draw the line pI parallel to the base line. Draw now the top of the box A E S C, by the method shown in Lesson 25, and make E F shorter than A I, because of its being more distant, and draw F I. Now draw the perpendiculars pR, N M, and H L. Find now the point P over O, and level with F, and draw the lines P F, and P O, and Pp. Find now the places of n and G, and place n from P at a less distance than N from p, because that end of the book is more distant, and for the same reason G must be less distant from F than H is from I. Having made these comparisons, draw nN and G H. Find now the point Q, on 0 P, and, parallel to it, the point K under G, so that G K and P Q may be equal; draw G H, Q R, and K L, when the whole subject will be complete.

You must now examine what you have done, in order, first, to ascertain whether the figures RpN M, and H L I B, are like each other, and of the proper proportions, and if the points n and G and E S are in their right places; so that Pp,nN, G H, F I, E A, and S C, have their true inclination in relation to each other, that is, that each line to the right of Pp, as nN, G H, and F I, slope gradually more and more as they are more distant from it—that Q R is longer and slopes more than Pp, because it is more below the eye, and that K L slopes more than G H, for the same reason. Compare the lines E A and S C with each other, and see that they slope less than any, because they are higher up and more nearly level with the eye. When you have performed these Lessons without the aid of auxiliary lines, then you should set up the models, or if you do not possess them, set up a book or a box in like positions, and try to draw them; you will be thus drawing from nature.

It is in this way, by going to nature, that you test your acquirements. Each step you take, you prove; and thus discover whether you have really learned your Lesson, or merely gone through it mechanically. Your ability to draw from nature such objects as you have studied in your Lessons, is a proof that you have gained real and the requisite knowledge.


In this Lesson you have, in the upright stone, a figure similar in form to the chest in your last Lesson. This must be first drawn. To ascertain the slope of the lines F B, H L, E A, G C, and I K, you must apply the means you have been taught in previous Lessons, which you ought now to be perfectly familiar with, and capable of applying readily, so as to obtain the exact obliquity of these, or of any other lines, with unerring certainty.

Having drawn the first stone correctly, you proceed to draw the other lying by its side, observing that D M is as long as B D, and that O D is one-third the height of C D, and that N O is half the height of O D. You must judge the length of N I by that of O K. These instructions should be sufficient for you.

I would have you, however, examine the example given you, when you will see either that it may be interpreted as consisting of two stones, one upright and another lying by its side on the right; or as composed of one long flat stone, and another, a cube, placed upon it to the left. You should now endeavour to accomplish it, by first drawing the long flat stone, and then placing the other upon it, taking care that whilst drawing the lines E H, A L, and C A, you observe their proportion to H F, L B, and O D.

In executing this Lesson, by either method described, you will observe that you are required to notice the proportions of one object with another, hence it matters not what size you adopt, and you should draw the example by the two different methods, that you may show yourself capable of arriving at the same results by either; like working an arithmetical question by two different methods. For this, and the two following Lessons, you should set up your models.


IN this Lesson you see in front a stone, A B C D, represented like the chest in Lesson 28, and another lying behind it. Draw this front stone, and when this is correctly done, draw the base line B D on to R, then Q L parallel to it. A perpendicular from R will decide the place of Q. Then fix on S, and take a perpendicular from this toP, observing the difference of the length of the line P S as compared with Q R; next draw P Q, and N Q, which is longer than Q R; then O P, which must be shorter thanN Q because of its distance; then draw O N. If this last line slope more than P Q, so as to leave O P longer than N Q, it is wrong; draw a line from N parallel to L Q, and then O W parallel to that. On the right of the upright stone is seen a portion of the stone behind, of which you have already drawn the greater part. Observe that you make I T level with N E, and K U with Q L; then fix on S, which should not be quite as high as W, and draw the line S T, when the whole will be complete. The lines A T and O H are auxiliary lines, by the inclination of which the length of the stone behind may be determined, as well as by comparison with the one in front,—in fact by the operation of the principles of Lessons 6, 7, 8, 9. It remains now to be completed by the shading.

In doing this, you must observe that all the perpendicular edges are made irregular, and also that the lines on the perpendicular surfaces have various inclinations, in order to characterize the irregularity of those surfaces. The unevenness of the ground also must be noticed, which adds to the irregularity of the base lines of both the stones lying on it. These observations equally apply to the following Lesson.


Excerpted from Harding's Lessons on Drawing by J. D. HARDING. Copyright © 2007 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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