Friday, November 23, 2007






Feeling a bit overstuffed this morning and I can't quite figure out why! I bet there are quite a few of you out there, that might feel the same way.

In any event, some new work in progress here . . . just the beginnings of this one from work yesterday morning and the previous evening. Not much to see really, but then again it does take quite some time for me to layer in the darks like the background of this particular work. Having begun my career as an artist, as a painter way back when . . . as I have said time and time again when asked about my work and my technique with graphite, I tend to work as I did when I painted and as all my painter friends generally work . . . by building up layer upon layer, almost like paint glazes, of graphite till I reach the desired intensity of black.

I have been asked these questions many times at shows and by young artists and the answer is always the same . . . it takes time! Starting out with a rather hard lead, perhaps 4H and progressively moving to ever softer leads, I try and establish ever darker 'coatings' of graphite, sometimes setting them in between layers with a very light mist of fixative. Using the good 'ole method of cross hatching, each successive layer tends to fill in the 'gaps' created by the slight texture of the bristol board that I work on, ultimately giving me, with best hopes, a nice, even tonal quality.

In this particular work, all this began at the top of the background, and establishing the basic outline of the animal and slowly working my way around to the right and down to the bottom of the image. Then, going back over the areas worked with softer and softer leads, F, HB and ultimately a top layer of, in this instance, 2B with a sharp line of delineation around the animal of 4B. At this stage of the work, I am not sure if the darks have been reached as yet and that remains to be seen when I finally get to working on the orang itself. If I find I need to pump up the darks in the background, I can still over layer with 3B or 4B as needed to bring out the depth of the shadows. I am pretty happy with the way it looks now, but we shall see what it looks like again at the end of today.

My good friend, Cole Johnson, uses powdered graphite a lot in his beautiful renderings of animals, resulting in an almost air brushed quality to his finished works (one of which I am proud to have in my own personal collection). It works for him, but since I have established my particular technical approach to the way I work based upon what I have outlined here, I doubt I could make use of the same powder in my work without coming up with tornadoes of graphite spilling out all over the studio. In the end, it all comes down to making use of the same medium in vastly differing ways and that makes for very interesting 'variations on a theme' for those of us who have chosen graphite as our medium of choice.

End of Layering Lesson 101!

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