Beginning today, a new project. Over the last week or so, I've had several email conversations with another artist who was interested in learning how I depicted rocks. I sent him into my blog archives to look at some of the previous works that I had done with rocks as a predominant feature but since I decided to start this particular work today, I thought I would take a bit more time than I might usually in posting in-progress shots to focus more on my process of forming rocks.
First off, the overall composition is going to be a bit over 8" x 13" so you will have a good point of reference for the size of the individual elements. In this first shot, taken after about 50 minutes of work time, I have basically established a very soft grey tone to the water, just as a point of reference for me when trying to figure out the appropriate levels of light and dark in the foreground rocks. This first image shows how I basically begin to outline each of the separations between individual rocks and segments of larger boulders. I am working with five grades of graphite at this point and in the third image down, you can see the four pencils and one lead holder that I am using, I'll speak about those shortly.
In the next image, I've shown a close up detail of this first bit of work and how I carefully outline the rocks and come in with a combination of 2H, 6H and 3H to begin to establish light/shadow relationships to start to form dimension and depth. You will note that I am sort of beginning at the back of the composition and working forward so these initial marks are going to be fairly soft. I am not trying to make any sharp shadow indications now and most of the deeper shadowy areas in this detail are done with a sharp 2H over a 'ground' layer of soft tipped 3H. You can see how rough the line quality is at this stage as I am simply interested in getting some basic shapes on the Bristol Board.
In this next shot below, I show the 'tools' I am using for this first couple hours of work . . . from left to right are a lead holder with a 2H lead in it with a rather sharp point on it. Next is a 9H with a fairly rounded tip which will give me a rather soft tone when rubbed gently across the slightly texture surface of the Bristol I work on. The third pencil is a 3H with a more pointed end than on the 9H but still with a slight rounding to it so it makes soft tones when run across the surface on its side. Next comes the workhorse of this first bit of work, a sharp pointed 6H, which not only do I use to make the basic outlines of each rock but when softly run across the surface it also leaves a very nice even light grey tone. The last pencil is a blunt ended 8H, blunted so I can use either the wider side of the blunted end as a softening, blending tone or I can turn the pencil in a way that I can use its sharp pin point to make very small, sharp marks, it serves double duty that way.
In those first two images, I am basically using the 8H to initially establish, with the blunted surface of its point, the soft beginning tone, as I did in the water. This gives me a good starting point from which I can begin to build up layers to darken particular areas as I need to shape the rocks and begin to give depth. Over the 8H, I have applied layers of 3H and 6H to build up to darker tones of grey and in the few areas where I have indicated some strong points of shadow and also to separate surfaces, I have gone over the layers with the 2H sharp pointed lead in the lead holder. At this stage and for quite a bit more to come, I will go no darker than that 2H lead since I am working from the back forward and don't want to get too picky now as later on when I have to do all the darker shadows in the foreground, I don't want to be stuck and unable to work darker than what has been established in the background areas first.
In the next shot, I've worked about another 90 minutes or so and have begun to get a bit more picky in some of the rocks to show how I continue to 'mold' them into objects that have dimension. Again, I am continuing to layer and build up dark areas as before. I've also set in a bit more of the shapes in the foreground and to the right of where I worked earlier just to keep things in perspective for my own understanding as I will begin to work across the entire composition shortly to start to develop an overall balanced feeling to it.
In the last image is another detail of the area just worked showing what I would consider to be about 90% completion at this point. I've also layered in 3H and 6H (the 6 acting as a 'blender' to form a smoother/even tone) over an initial layer of 2H on the dark shape at upper left, beginning to bring it forward but remaining subtle in my layers so as not to make it too dark at this point.
Since this area is in strong sun, the sunlit surfaces of the rocks are peppered with little strokes of 8H and 9H dabbed here and there to just indicated surface texture to the rocks, with the occasional shot of 2H to give a bit more rough surface texture. I am not, by any means, trying to duplicate every nook and cranny of the rocks as shown in my reference photo but to make a good, believable rendition of a rock's surface.
I feel comfortable with some of the modeling I've done so far and that the rocks all look like they have dimension. Much later, I will come back to this area and spark it up with shots of very soft leads here and there to give it more impact; those final marks will most likely be made with a combination of F, HB and B or 2B leads to give the strong blacks that the work will need to make it sing.