Tag: Graphite


Yesterday was a meeting of the Pencil Portraits in the Park group, but drawing people held little appeal for me. So, I decided to try something I had briefly seen somewhere and thought interesting: during their travels in the 19th century, many people sketched in pencil (graphite) and then colored the drawings with watercolor. These days most people sketch with waterproof ink and then color things in, but I rather liked this idea. A sycamore tree in our park, dressed out in autumn finery made a nice portrait, methinks.

9×12, hot press 140# Arches. Graphite and watercolor.

21-24 / 30

I am getting burnt out on these drawings! I decided to take a few days off and will pick up again tomorrow. Since I have committed to 30, I only 6 more to go by 4/17. I think I can handle that!

Day 21

Cannon Beach, Oregon. Figure is too big, some foot prints too dark and too big in the distance.

Day 22

Initially I had drawn this shack so that the beach and waves in the distance were parallel to the edge of the paper. After scanning it, I realized it looked better with a bit of an angle to it. Interestingly, a comment said it made no sense because the ocean is out there, straight ahead. Obviously, too realistic of a person, or someone who hasn’t taken a photo. Really, to me, a very interesting and odd comment and viewpoint!

Day 23

Here is a scene of looking down onto a beach. The distant cliffs look okay, but the descent to the shore in the midground is definitely confusing.

Day 24

During last Saturday’s zoom meeting, Ian talked about cross hatching. I use it a lot in ink drawing, but not in pencil since the idea for a lot of this 30-day challenge is to limit marks to horizontal and vertical. The idea is to create value studies, not finished drawings. Interesting lines do not make for good value studies of light, medium, dark. However, a simple use of lines, cross hatching, vertical, diagonal, horizontal, helps delineate shapes, such as curves. I based this drawing off a study of 3 pears by Cezanne.


These studies are making more sense and getting easier to execute so that shapes have shape, even if not always understandable.

17-20 / 30

Somewhere, a corner turned. It is becoming easier to simplify a picture, throw out unnecessary things and perhaps adding something else to make it more interesting or work more than a photo can.

Day 17

I’ve been wanting to draw a cloudburst and finally did. After looking at lot of pictures, I realized that the drama comes from the soft rain blurring what is behind it. However, there is also contrast – light and dark. To achieve this, I drew everything in with graphite and then used a grey rubber eraser to create the streaks, lifting the graphite. From there, I smudged it in. Values remain but the messy nature of graphite sometimes defeats itself for value studies!

Day 18

I am pretty pleased with this study. There are nice, subtle areas in a photo that was basically very high contrast in the tree and vegetation in the foreground. The ocean is in the middle right and extending into a misty sky.

Day 19

I took a picture of a tulip years ago – pale pink and backlit. The blurry quality of my drawing is just a value study, not a drawing to show what a tulip looks like. This idea is really challenging at times because I have done portraits in pencil and details abound then! It is important to remember this is to be a simple reference, not a finished work of art.

Day 20

As I progress in this 30 day challenge, I find I am running out of subject matter! So, it is time to work with other things. The flower was one. This one is perspective.

I actually got out a ruler and for the sketch created a grid, and then worked hard to put things in both perspective and in proportion to each other. As well, I wanted to create a nocturne.


So, the days are rolling by, little shifts are occurring, and as my confidence in value studies grows, so is, it seems, my patience for doing preliminary work before trying to execute a painting. Not easy for me at all!d

14-16 / 30

Day 14

I am beginning to lose track of the days since I began this project since some days I do nothing, and other days I do a few.

Above is Day 14. Continuing to simplify shapes and masses into values, the above should represent a mountain in the distance. From there, mid-ground is a dark ridge before the mountain, and another to the right of the mountain, behind the mountain itself. The white blobs in the foreground area with sticks is supposed to represent structures. To me, they look like felled timber. Ideally, I think the mountain itself should be lighter to represent atmospheric perspective.

Day 15

This is an attempt at a nocturne – a night time value study to see if I could catch the light of the full moon. The bush-like thing in the middle needs some lightening at the top. Overall, I like this as a start to something even though it is so vague – but that is how night is!

Day 16

This is a view upward to the hill at the center of the local botanical garden. The white swath in the right foreground is the sand trail which winds around downward (behind the viewer) into the riparian woodland below.

I am not quite sure if I like the values as I have them set up here – nor am I really sure about the focal point of the drawing. It seems the dark tree at the top is too dark, but it could be a leading line down the hill to the tree with the cast shadow. The trail leads the eye. In a painting, this could work out with warm and cool tones in addition to values. Maybe I’ll give it a shot!


With Day 13 I tried to make my masses more simple and graphic. I am continuing this, and will for the rest of the 30 day challenge.

Some studies lend themselves to it more readily than others. Despite that, I tried to simplify in all three. Doing this makes Roberts’ admonition to “draw shapes, not things” easier to do. Distilling the more important – most important – into value masses seems to be happening (at long last!).

Again, it will be interesting to see where it works with painting.

12 / 30

Day 12

Again, behind on the 30-Day Challenge. I do see the results. For instance, this drawing is very simple, done on grey-toned paper. It’s not an especially exciting picture, but I am beginning to think differently! That is the whole point.

What are the changes?

  • Focal point of the picture. Here, the lone figure.
  • The lines of the estuary into the distance.
  • Contrast – white (light) sand, crashing waves on shore.
  • Line direction to show changes in terrain, vertical, horizontal.

This paper – the grey – is very toothy, and the result is the lines are not very smooth. Midtones are a bit difficult to achieve – that is supposed to be represented by the plain paper – but that just doesn’t really seem to fit into my brain. This makes it difficult, challenging, and rather a bit of a visual tweak.

Overall, the point in these studies is to look at values, and to simplify. It is not easy as I am used to doing detailed work in pencil. Making simple marks on the paper which interplay well is difficult. “Noisy” marks distract from the point of the value study. In other words, lines which are scribbled and curly distract from the values. Value, value, value!


7 – 11 / 30

I got behind! So here we go – the 30-day challenge.

Day 7

I found some grey stock when rummaging around. Graphite and white chalk pencil on grey paper.

Day 8

More of the same media as Day 7. This is a glacial lake with snow. Does it look like it or not?

Day 9

I like this one the best out of this series. It looks like it is supposed to be – a chicken!

Day 10

A candle, and back to graphite on white paper, just like Day 9.

Day 11

The soft melted wax dripping down the side of the candle for Day 10 made me think that perhaps some fabric would be another good exercise in soft surfaces in pencil. Again, graphite on paper.

And there we are – caught up. I couldn’t get to anything until this afternoon, so a daily drawing was not possible. The 30-day challenge is to do as many images, up to 30, in 30 days, but without the caveat that it has to be one a day at the most. In a way this really made for a sort of evolution in the drawings. Day 7 and Day 8 had the same idea – grey paper, graphite, and white chalk. It had its good points, but I think I prefer the graphite on white paper. The midtones are more easy to think about. I think these two studies helped make Day 9 as good as it is. From there, two subjects I never have considered – the candle and the fabric. Both work and don’t.

Again – how will I translate these value studies into color??!!

Pencil Time

After my attempts at a portrait of a person, the realization was that my shading skills are not really good.  Also, my Pencil Portraits class recommences on 2/17, so I thought it might be a worthwhile endeavor to work with a pencil, and work on value with the pencil.  This certainly will benefit any studies I do in the Pencil Portraits class, and perhaps get it into my thick skull to think a lot more about gradation and value than I do!  (Magpie Brain loves bright colors.)

I am very fond of the books by Alphonso Dunn on ink drawing.  His work is phenomenal, and I have learned a lot through his exercises.  Given this, I decided to apply some of his studies to pencil work rather than ink.  All of these exercises come from his Pen and Ink Drawing Workbook.

Above, is the first one I attempted.  If you look closely, you can see the page numbers in the sketches (enlarge the images by clicking on them).  These studies were outlines with a choice of light direction.  You have to use your imagination!

Shapes and shadows – reflected light, cast shadows, highlights.  Simple forms and then a rather pathetic toucan.

I particularly enjoyed employing the pen-into-pencil of these drawings in Mr. Dunn’s book.  His are obviously rendered in black and white, with shades of grey determined by pen strokes.  Here, I took his studies and applied pencil – graphite – to them.  They include a cabbage (I know, it looks like a brain), mushroom, hammer, and bow tie.  Each has a different set of textures.  I started to visualize where the light source was, and that really helped me start thinking more about what I was doing.

For all of these, I used a 2B pencil and a sketchbook, along with referring to Penn and Ink Drawing Workbook examples.

Inktober #12: Whale (Shark)

Yes, there are really fish called whale sharks!  In looking up pictures of whales, I came across this creature, and if you look at online images, you will see it is a beautifully patterned shark, as well as learn that it migrates long distances, and is a gentle animal, feeding on plankton and such as it swims along.  I thought it was so beautiful that it had to be the Inktober #12 offering.

The weekend was super busy, so I am a bit behind with my Inktober commitment, but the commitment continues.  It would be really easy to let it just fall behind – like a diet – so the focus of Inktober may be more important than the drawings themselves.  Inktober is a challenge to not only commitment, but to imagination and dedication to meeting a goal.  Harder than I thought it would be – but at least I have some time for commitment these days.


Inktober #3: Roasted

Well, there are political roasts, and roast chicken, and roasted peppers.  And coffee!  I do love my coffee – thus, my tribute to “roasted” for Inktober #3!

I must say, I have not expected to see where this Inktober challenge led me.  I thought something really simple, like some roasted bell peppers, but instead, I started thinking of integrating one sketch (coffee beans) with another (coffee plant) and then a coffee cup, and finally, a tribute to Columbian coffee, which is really misspelled and should be “Colombian.”  Oh, well.

This is done with pen-and-ink along with water-soluble graphite.

Inktober #2: Tranquil

Breathe in.  Breathe out.  Breathe in.  Breathe out.

How often do we get to slow down?  To be tranquil is to relax, to be in the moment, to be calm, to be-here-now.

My contributions for the day!  First, a rock “duck” – that intriguingly simple pile of rocks, small or large, by the beach, a stream, or on a mountain top.  To me, the epitome of zen.

And then, the peace and comfort of a good friend or loved one.

I used a water brush and water-soluble graphite, specifically as illustrated below.