Graphite and Pastel
We realise you may have never seen or used products like this before so we have put together a few hints, tips and techniques to test out and get the best from these supplies.
Pictured here is the Koh-I-Noor graphite block. Graphite Blocks have been long-term favourites amongst many artists for their convenience and versatility. This Graphite stick is in a 6B making it great for creating bold, dramatic sketches and atmospheric line drawings.
Sharpen like a normal pencil for detail work, or use the edges or blunt points for shading and broad, expressive work.
Things To Try...
Getting your proportions right sets yourself up for a good final drawing. A simple way to achieve this is by using a grid. Grid out your reference photo and your paper with 1cm squares. You can then fill in the squares with exactly what is on the reference picture.
Converting your reference picture to black and white will further enhance how you capture the details as it will allow you to see areas of light and dark better. You can use a filter on your phone to do this, super easy and really helpful.
Begin your drawing with the lightest pencil using minimal pressure – HB or 2H are perfect for this. Work your way up to darker graphite, applying more pressure towards the final stages of your drawing.
Graphite pencils are classified as either soft black (B), hard (H), hard black (HB), and firm (F). The number next to the letter indicates the intensity- higher the number the higher the intensity. So a 6B pencil will be darker and softer than a HB which will create lighter but firmer lines.
Lightly block out any main areas of shadow once you have sketched in your main line work to set the foundations of where your darker areas will be. Try to leave any light areas as untouched as possible. The graphite block is ideal for this.
Blend in between each layer of graphite for a more realistic texture. With a circular motion, you can use your finger or a bit of tissue to smooth out the graphite. You can also use a brush for a softer blend, this works really well with the pastel pencils. Try not to scribble your pencil lines that you plan to blend, as scribbling marks are a lot harder to smooth out.
The way you hold your pencil will effect how it lays down. To create a light loose sketch, hold your pencil towards the end. For more exact, specific lines, hold your pencil closer to the tip for more control.
The darker the graphite, the more shiny it will be. Use the black pastel pencil for your darkest areas to eliminate this.
The white pastel is great for adding a pop of highlight. It layers well over the graphite and can be easily blended out if needed.
~ Recognise the value of contrast.
The word contrast is used ubiquitously in art, and seems a little confusing. Contrast is simply the transition from white to black (light to dark) on a scale of 1 to 10. 1 is the white of the sheet and 10 is black. So 5 is 50% or ‘halftone’, a grey colour, something in between white and black. Any drawing is made up of contrasts (shadow and light), whatever the colour. To help you with this, I suggest working from the middle to the edge. Keep your darkest colour darkest (shadows), no darker than 6 or 7 on the contrast scale; and your lightest (light and everything in the light) 3 or 4. Move towards the darkest (accent) and the lightest (highlights). Highlights are the lovely details that give life to your work.
~ Squint or step back two steps from your work as you create.
Sometimes one hundred percent vision doesn’t help. When we observe what we are drawing, a lot of information passes through our eyes. And this fills the drawing with a lot of extraneous detail, degrading the effect of the image. The aim is to edit and simplify.
Squinting blurs the overall picture, and we see a simplified version of the whole picture, clearly noticing all the simple shapes. Reproducing these simple shapes helps in creating the essence of the whole picture.
~ Explore thick and thin lines.
Using thick and thin lines is an interesting idea, and it’s funny how many artists don’t use this useful technique in their work. If each line has the same width and is drawn with the same pressure, a drawing looks like ordinary colouring, which makes it boring. The use of thin and thick lines brings the image to life. So how do you apply this technique and what do you need to know? The main rule is that the upper lines of the objects are thinner because the light falls on them and the lower lines can be thicker because of the shadows. That’s all. And it’s very simple.
~ Did you know that oils, grease and sweat on our hands can ruin the cleanliness of paper?
Oils and sweat can soak into the paper. To solve this problem, use a glove or put another piece of paper under your hand to protect your work.
Sophie's Beginners Tips
First, do not buy a white table. This was my main mistake. Secondly, in the room where you are going to work, always keep an eye on the lighting. It should be good white light or natural light. Thirdly, the easel should be adjustable so that you can draw on it both sitting and standing.
After organizing the space, it is worth paying attention to the place where the material is stored. I didn’t have a workshop for a long time and I had to work at home. Therefore, the dust was often mixed with coal, and all the clothes smelled of solvents and canvas varnish. So, I had to sort all the materials into separate boxes so that their smell or colouring pigments did not spread throughout the house.
Keep your hands clean, because if you are completely in black ink, everything you touch will also turn black.
Learning and development always go together. Find contact with artists you admire. Be humble and ask them for advice about your work. Ask about your weaknesses, how you can start to improve and what to focus on. Ask to be honest. You will definitely get an answer. After all, all artists have been in your shoes at one time or another. So stay persistent and pursue your goals.