of Juliette Courbet as a Sleeping Child"
| Why am I covering the use of
graphite as a painting medium? I have heard frequently the phrase,
"If you can draw you can paint". There is some truth
to this because painting requires more technical experience
but it is not much different than drawing with a brush.
with art, personal technique and preferences create strong opinions as
well as varied disciplines. Although pencil drawing traditionally has
used only for studies and preliminary sketches, my objective with this
article is to eventually demonstrate how rewarding the medium of graphite can be
you as a finished work of art.
Just in case you may have wondered how pencils are
made you should visit General
Pencil Company for their online tour. Pencils are
manufactured in a
wide range of harnesses determined by their clay to graphite ratio to
differing tonal values. Pencils vary in hardness grades from 9H (the
to, 9B (the softest). Soft graphite sticks are also available in 2B,
and 6B grades (wood less pencils) and should always be part of your
board inventory. Some are also water-soluble which can be used with
to deepen the tonal qualities or create a watercolor wash effect.
powder is also available and can be used in large areas to establish
values but, it is most widely used the pouncing technique
create a cartoon outline for fresco.
Although both forms of elemental carbon can be
smudged, smeared, or
erased and moved across your support similar to paint, some graphite
not mark as dark as charcoal. My appreciation for graphite stems from
precision and clarity that can be obtained where it tends to produce a
more accurate drawing style within a relatively short amount of time in
comparison to other mediums. Some find not being able to obtain deep
and graphite's shiny metallic appearance undesirable.
water soluble graphite pencils produce a deep black once they are
lightly with water and if a fixative is applied with a final satin or
finish it will remove the shiny spots and create a uniform luster.
As usual, I have a list of
"do's and don'ts" but not with
- Wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your
hands. Continue to wash
through out your drawing. Some people enjoy the use of their
to smudge and blend. Avoid this habit and touching of the
your bare hands. Everyone's hands will release oils as they perspire
in turn will pick up the small particles of graphite dust creating
smudging and transfer the oil from your hands to the paper in the
areas making your work appear "dirty".
- Develop a light hand. Don't depend on the
pressure you apply to affect
the lightness and darkness of your drawing. Learn to use the
harnesses in relation to their tonal qualities. Harder pencils produce
lighter lines and the softer leads will make darker lines. Especially
the harder pencils, when more pressure is applied you may chance
or damaging the paper. If you are attempting to create deeper
consider using the water solubles sparingly instead.
- Don't use cheap paper. Unless you are just
doodling, don't put all your
time into a drawing on paper that won't hold up to your techniques. For
future reference and to observe how much you've progressed with your
you should always keep a sketch book handy. They come in a
of sizes and stiles, in glue bound or wire bound 60lb. paper
hold up well to pencil and colored pencil. However, they are intended
to be used for preliminary sketches of difficult subjects to render or
to assist in you with determining composition. They are not recommended
to use with inks or watercolor because they cause the paper
and bleed through. Keeping these sketches in a book will also turn out
to become a convenient portfolio if you keep it clean and
Use a heavy weight hot pressed cotton
80 lb. or more for your finished pieces. Hot pressed paper generally
the smoother texture associated with drawing paper. The heavier the
of the paper the more it can withstand the abuse of erasers, blenders
tortillons, and water sometimes necessary to create the
board is also an excellent choice for larger pieces since it is usually
available in 30x40 sheets. It also works well for mixed
You will have to have some form of support beneath your
This is to assist holding the paper if you re using an easel. It is
to use a board which has a non porous or smooth textured
such as a laminated board (like draftsmen use) , masonite ,
I have found the most effective way to to do this is to set up your
work similar to watercolor without wetting the paper. I generally tape
the paper around the
to create a clean edge and to ease handling the work once
You will almost always find a time when a fine straight line makes
a serious improvement in the overall appearance of your work. They are
also an effective means to scale an image if you are working from a
photo. If your
requires this, avoid wood and plastic as they tend to get nicked
and this will appear on your work. All of my rules are constructed of
aluminum or stainless steel.
As previously explained keeping a clean canvas is essential to
creating an appreciable drawing. A drawing bridge is a slab (preferably 1/2" Plexiglas) held
over your work and used as a hand rest to prevent you from resting your
hand on the paper. A mahl stick is mostly used when painting for the
same reasons as well as to help the artist maintain a steady hand without
touching the canvas but
is still effective when drawing especially if you will be doing your
work in the upright position on an easel. These can be easily made if you
prefer not to buy one. It is not recommended using a
piece of paper to rest your hand on. While moving the paper around your
work you might defeat the purpose you were using it in the first place.
Graphite Drawing Pencils
Purchased in different hardness's to
vary the darkness of your strokes. You may also want to have a set of
Water Soluble Graphite Pencils
to create some terrific blending
and line techniques.
Supplied in different hardness' comparable to graphite, charcoal is generally used
by some in dry media to express the deep dark tonal values. Since
the development and versatility of water soluble pencils though, many artist have
switched in favor of them.
Used to smug or brush on to create
special effect or tone a background.
Conté Sketching Pencils
Produced from a blend of compressed clay and pigments, the
crayon is good for two or three color renderings and responds well to
of tonal values. It is available as a raw stick or as
in the three hardness grades of soft, medium, or hard and in the colors
of black, white, sanguine, and sepia.
Stumps & Tortillons
By rubbing graphite particles with a stump the artist is able
to blend shadows and light tones or create different blending
by smearing the line with this a tightly rolled piece of soft paper or
chamois. These paper sticks are available in
and have points on both ends.
Other Blending Materials
The materials you use will make a difference in the blending effects
you are trying to make. It is a good idea to experiment with
materials such as paper, tissue, chamois,
sponge to achieve your desired results. Watercolor brushes are also an
effective option if you are using a water soluble pencil..
The major types of erasers include:
Gum and Pink
as well as,
Pink Rubber pencils used to remove fine lines. The kneaded is something like a pliable ball
which can be 'kneaded' into any shape to use for touch-ups or
and cleans itself when ever it is kneaded. Another new found eraser
works as a kneaded eraser and is exceptional at removing graphite. Gum erasers are
easy on your paper but leave allot of particles in the
Pink rubber erasers are more abrasive than the gum eraser with the same
and work well with graphite pencils or sticks. White vinyl erasers
are less abrasive and respond well for use with highlighting and also
well as blending tools.
Soft Bristle Dust Brush and/or Hair Drier
Rest assured you will need one.
A small piece of fine grain sand paper works well when you need a fine
point after using the sharpener of course.
Spray workable fixative used sparingly allows you to continue to work
on your piece after applied. Be sure to spray it with
Turpentine can be used with graphite,
charcoal, and conté and
dissolve the marks, if you desire to create a watercolor
Use sparingly to avoid penetrating the paper.
The first consideration to make is to determine a plan unless you
intentionally sketching and in acceptance of experimental results.
your image as you would like it to look. With your image in your mind
the details such as;
- Tonals - is your mood cast from an evening
background or in the
of full sunlight?
- Contrast - are your shadowing lines crisp with
hard contrast or blended
- Texture - what would be the best way to depict
the detail of
objects in your work?
- Blending technique - do you see hard stroke
lines, are your lines
or are you using a combination of both?
- Uniformity - or style of your stroke. The most
frequent used are when
the strokes are all running in the same direction, the cross
and using a series of circles. Not much different than a
your stroke style and blending technique should be uniform though out
I've been progressively working on a
portrait capturing images in stages to show how to create
realistic drawings with
"Drawing is not what one sees but what
one can make others see.".. Edgar
the use of graphite
Derwent Cumberland Pencil Co.
to Make Pen & Ink Drawings from Stills by David
Tutorials by Mike Sibley
Can Draw Secrets to Drawing Faces And
All Things Colored Pencil - Ann Kullberg
Top of Page