week first: sketch something

today I drew something…

I spent some time finding the right image. I got this lovely photo of a castle in the fog from dreamstime.com. It’s a great site for finding the right image, and is super affordable when compared to most stock image sites. (I’ve also found many of the same images.) I really like upsplash.com for more unconventional images. I digress… So then! I got together my pencils, a couple of sharpeners and found a small sketchbook. The large one was just too daunting.

I liked the simplicity of this image (photo on left) for this quick foray into a creative space. The fog and the gradients remind me of Chinese watercolors. I have always loved the mysterious feeling that accompanies the style. Watercolor has a softness to it that I’ve always appreciated. Sketches need depth too and I liked the way this scene goes for miles. I was working with a small sketchbook so I brought the foreground elements closer together.

I used three pencils, going with the softest leads because I wanted to have a couple of shades of black to work with. I started with a 4B, moved into a 6B then a soft charcoal pencil. When I began I wanted the sunset to shine through the windows on the structure to the right. That’s why I went with the hardest lead (4B) for detail. I quickly lost patience. I’m just being honest; I got bored. So, I started on the tower structure and that gave me a little trouble with the shape. When horizontal lines aren’t quite horizontal because of perspective it is tough to get them all to make sense together with the verticals without getting out a ruler. I started using the darker lead pencil (6B) to deepen the shadows.

It doesn’t come across the same way on a photo of a drawing, but graphite and charcoal have distinct characteristics. Charcoal is softer and darker. It spreads across the paper a little more readily. But the biggest difference is that it’s matte black, as opposed to the shiny glean that comes from graphite, even the softest leads.

I found that I needed to add deeper black to the structures to bring them into the same space as the trees in front of the castle structure (left). The structure on the right needed to be deeper too, but a little charcoal goes a long way to destroying detail. I wasn’t too sad about it though, because I still had another layer to get to, the lightest and furthest away ridge. I used the 6B on that one because I wanted it to look distinctly different from the ones in front and the glean didn’t bother me. I do think I shouldn’t have done such a clean sweeping line…

The only other tool I used was a cotton swab. I couldn’t find a smudge stick. These are essentially a piece of paper fashioned into a sharp tip. You actually sharpen and clean them by using a bit of sandpaper. For this project, the swab actually worked out better because the darkest parts with charcoal needed to be wispier than I think I could have achieved using the smudge stick.

I will spare myself and any hapless reader the critique I usually engage in when a sketch, painting, project is complete. The need for perfection is a real problem for some… and I’ll admit, me. A quick journey with a pencil and a blog to round it out.

Next up: black and white ink drawing. I’m not sure I can totally stay away from color, but I won’t allow it to be an assault on the senses.

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