I noticed that many of the drawings to copy are made with graphite the nature of which, until now, I hadn’t really questioned, imagining it was maybe another word for ‘pencil’. But looking at the way this medium seemed to work, I was struck by how much smoother the result was and so I investigated further. Of course, graphite really is not pencil although it does come in sticks. I bought some of each, the powder arrived first and my goodness is this a tricky substance. I had no idea (still don’t) how to make it stay where I want it to be, to keep it still, fixed in place so I searched for video advice. The first one uses sticks, despite its header, and helped to give me an idea of the potential of this medium.
I had some real failures; this medium does not adhere to gesso, and it really impacts on putty rubber which quickly becomes shiny.
This next video is very much about the materials: graphite v charcoal powder for instance, paper types, using stumps, paint brushes, and shammy-tipped implements for drawing. This is real beginners’ guide to what is essentially a range of methods for rubbing powder into paper and then taking bits off again with erasers. Basic but absolutely essential when you have no idea about the medium.
This very short video simply demonstrates the use of sandpaper to make graphite and its application with a paintbrush.
This video is a speeded up demo showing how erasers, blending, and drawing with a graphite stick can give rise to the forms and tones of a landscape.
Onto my own work now; the original of this copy (‘Sphere’ by Damien Leeds, 2010) is in charcoal which might have made it easier to achieve the blend if I’d noticed before using pencil. Charcoal doesn’t, in my experience, adhere to applied pencil so it is now what it is.
The original (‘Apple Demonstration’ by Grace Flott, 2018) of this copy is made in graphite so this is really my first attempt at using this medium for a particular effect. I found it difficult to handle, to get the darks dark enough, and to stop it from just moving around wherever an implement pushed it. And since I had only powder, I had to use charcoal for the emphasised borders. Still, I think I have a recognisable apple to show for it; also the substance doesn’t seem to rub off the page as easily as it does my own paper.
My set of graphite sticks arrived just now and so I was able to try them out with this copy of Robin Warner’s ‘Eggs Demonstration (details) 2017. I used the paper stump to blend and forgot it was loaded with either graphite or charcoal powder. Consequently, I have an over-extended and misshapen shadow beneath the egg which would not erase. The putty rubber did a nice job of blotting for lightened tone.
I’ve found I need a drawing board set-up for this kind of work – tilted and accessible from a sitting position. Luckily one of my easels will do this although I managed to collapse it in the process and had to reassemble a few parts. Worth the effort.
The next section is portraits which deserves its own post. My copy of Aristides’ Figure Drawing Atelier, (Monacelli Press, 2019) arrived recently and after a quick glance, I’m pleased I started with this more basic drawing skills book.