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Using Graphite and Charcoal Together Charcoal / Pencil Art Lesson Mark Reep Drawing for Beginners Creating

A Misty Moonrise, Part 1 of 2 - See more at:

For nearly a decade, pen and ink has been the medium I’ve most enjoyed making art in. There’s something wonderful about a pen with a very fine point, about the precise marks I can make with it, the variety of textures, the level of detail I can create. And of course, there’s the ease with which pen and ink lends itself to two of my favorite elements of drawing, line and contrast. But like all media, pen and ink is ideal for rendering some subject matter, some effects, and less ideal for others. For example, my drawing 'Comes A Moment' (above; Ink, Graphite, Charcoal; 5 3/8” x 2 1/4”) consists of these elements: A rock outcropping, a path, a tree; and a misty sky and moonrise. The foreground elements- the outcropping, path and tree- were inked with a combination of stippling and linework, using black Sakura Pigma Micron .005 pens. The background elements though, presented a very different challenge. I wanted to establish a sense of depth and distance, to create a misty sky, a dramatic moonrise- And to achieve these kinds of effects in pen and ink would be very difficult, to say the least. Instead, as I usually do, I created the background elements with powdered charcoal and graphite pencils. In this demonstration, I’ll create a moonrise for another pen and ink landscape, and share some thoughts on the process as the drawing evolves. My general goals for this drawing are the same: I want to add a dramatic moonrise, half-veiled by drifting mists. And, as always, I want to infuse the drawing with a sense of what I can best describe as quiet. I want my landscapes to be quiet places, inviting of solitary wanderings, of times of reflection, of exploration and discovery- And I want exploration and discovery to remain at the heart of my creative process as well. So without further ado, let’s get started. And as Bob Ross liked to say, “Let’s have some fun.” 1) First, with the drawing’s foreground elements inked, I darken the meadow’s highlights slightly with a Number 3 graphite pencil. Over the years, I’ve accumulated dozens of drawing pencils of various kinds, but I’ve come to depend almost exclusively on the same yellow Dixon Ticonderoga pencils many of us have used in one classroom or another. They’re very affordable, and commonly available; a box of a dozen costs $2-$3 in many office supply stores. But much more importantly, I have yet to attempt a graphite effect I couldn’t achieve with them. They’re available in grades 1, 2, 2.5, 3, and 4. All are useful. For most penciling, including this kind, I hold the pencil so that it rests lightly on the paper’s surface, and press down very little, if at all. In this case, the resulting marks are very light, but still sufficient to reduce the contrast between the tops of the clumps of grass and the areas between them. This has the effect of blending, smoothing, and softening the overall texture of the meadow. If

I buy Sanford’s Design kneaded rubber erasers in 2” squares. .dpuf Though I’ve brought the meadow and path to the highest level of finish I And by the time a passage is nearly finished. and shape it like a bowling pin with a sharp point that will lift a mark as small as a single dot. I roll a piece between my thumb and forefingers.I darken a highlight too more at: http://www.dpuf . etcSo I’ll leave the tree unfinished for now.See more at: http://www.artgraphica. I’ll be applying powdered charcoal around the tree with a cotton ball and/or a Q-Tip.2cn9qCdo. . have to clean it back off. I don’t bother doing the same with the tree at this point. that’s often exactly what I’m doing: Adding and removing single dots. I’ll inevitably get some charcoal on the tree itself. it’s easily lightened or removed with a kneaded eraser. and cut them into about eight small pieces.

so the interval need not be nearly this long. I often find it helpful to wait until my next working session to begin the next step. I’m not above resorting to a fine grit sandpaper. The surface of the paper should now be as clean as possible. or both. ink. And often. With the drawing cleaned up. an inked mark need not be removed completely. Whenever possible. I brush away any eraser particles with a few light strokes of a lamb’s wool duster. When . I begin the next session by cleaning up the drawing’s remaining undeveloped areas with a fresh kneaded eraser. Usually. when I finish a foreground. and often don’t begin the background until the next day. I’ll try the hard rubber eraser first. If I need to remove an inked mark. I try to never press hard when I’m drawing. I try to avoid abrading the paper’s surface at all--but Strathmore’s Bristol Board is very forgiving of mistreatment. I put the drawing away for at least a few hours. so most remaining graphite sketch lines are easily removed. The Pigma Microns’ ink dries smear-free almost immediately on the Strathmore 300 Series smooth-surface Bristol Board I use. only lightened enough to blend into its surroundings. But since the process I’ll be using to develop the sky is very different from the inking I’ve just finished. and brushing them off as lightly as possible helps prevent them from smearing the drawing again. More stubborn marks usually yield to a vigorous scrubbing with a hard rubber pencil eraser. These particles will have picked up either traces of graphite. If a hard rubber eraser won’t work. They’re surprisingly effective.2) Here’s a close-up look at the strokes and stippling I’ve used to create the meadow’s close-cropped grasses and the path’s surface. As I mentioned. And I’ve taken full advantage of this many times.

often in a direction I hadn’t envisioned. my drawing’s surfaces are very stable. although I’m still maintaining room for change and growth. I hinge the working mat to the drawing paper with a strip of low-tack drafting tape positioned along one side of the mat. The bottom and sides are apparent. In order to allow my drawings room to grow in any direction. This tape peels easily. My drawings sometimes change and evolve repeatedly. and keep a stack handy. the drawing can be laid face down on a scanner’s bed without the paper’s surface coming into contact with the glass. and won’t lift the surface of the Bristol Board like masking tape will.artgraphica. trim them to stock frame sizes. helps me see more But by now.html#sthash. and so work better and longer. Now I can flip the mat out of the way and back into place as needed. this helps keep the work fresh and interesting. I use the largest sheets of Bristol that’ll fit comfortably on my drawing table. I try to keep as many options open as I can. usually 9” by 12” or 8” x 10”. I make the mat’s window 1/8” or so wider than the finished drawing will be. But sometimes the final layers of graphite can be vulnerable to smudging. no unfinished edges of the drawing will be exposed. For me.dpuf . In addition to helping establish composition. This way. and with the foreground and tree also in place. the drawing’s surface is protected by the thickness of the mat. for as long as possible. The unfinished side of the cardboard is usually a medium-dark gray tone. Working on a drawing that’s surrounded by a gray mat greatly reduces the contrast of my field of focus. scrap mats are also beneficial in other ways. I can judge what the drawing’s height needs to be. and works well as the mat’s visible face. I cut the sides from large cereal boxes.I’m working on a drawing. so that if the presentation mat is cut a bit large. Usually.See more at: http://www. But focusing on a small drawing in the middle of a large white sheet of paper can be tiring to the eyes. Another benefit of using a working mat is that with the mat in place. so I cut a working mat from scrap cardboard. .2cn9qCdo. most elements of this composition have been pretty well established.

and hiding a bit of the moon with both these foreground elements help will help establish the sense of depth I want. I want to frame the tree with the moon. I bring a Number 3 pencil to a very sharp point by rubbing it on scrap paper. The moon should appear to be behind the tree and the horizon. I’m assuming that when the drawing’s finished. and at this point. describing circles ranging in size from 1 ¼” to 3 ½”. this moon will likely be at least partially obscured by mist as well. Keeping the pencil as nearly perpendicular to the paper as possible helps keep the circle true . and outline the circle. or at least that portion which will appear above the horizon. just below the drawing’s horizon line. with the tree’s top extending past the moon’s edge. so most of the moon should appear above the horizon. But for now. I need to be able to see the moon’s outline in its entirety.3) With the height and width of the composition established. a 2 ¼” circle seems appropriate. it’s time to lay out the moonrise. I move it around until I’m satisfied. place the pencil’s point against the edge of the template. I use a Rapiddesign Extra Large Circles template. With these things in mind. then hinge the side of the circle template to the drawing paper with drafting tape. I’ve been doing a series of misty moonrises lately. My criteria for sizing and positioning the moon include these thoughts: I want the moon to look big and full. This template has 13 openings. To size and position the moon.

as well as the drawing’s brightest highlights. I don’t need to darken those areas of this drawing. I don’t like what I see. By the time I’ve thoroughly blackened several square inches worth of paper. But since I work close up. I avoid pressing or rubbing hard. the better. I’ll remove some of the charcoal first by rubbing the cotton ball lightly on scrap paper until the resulting smudges have lightened to the values I’m looking for. This works. I’ll lift out areas with a kneaded eraser to create clouds. I want to keep the paper as clean as possible there. this happens anyway. much of the layer of charcoal I’ve applied may eventually be removed again. But since I’m envisioning mist obscuring at least the lower portion of the moon. and I don’t want to burnish any away google_handleError. If not. I powder charcoal by rubbing a soft or medium grade charcoal pencil on a clean piece of scrap paper. and will make marks I don’t want. Working with this small an amount of charcoal produces little dust. It’s a process not unlike drybrush-put a little on.dpuf 4) Now I’m ready to begin blocking in the sky with powdered charcoal. This will be the lightest passage of the drawing.artgraphica. I’m never sure if the result will be all I hoped. Again. and I won’t be able to cover up much here. I am. Some are coarse. it’s about keeping my options open--and again. Another of the reasons why I want to draw the moon’s outline as lightly as possible is simply that I may want to change it. Because I want to be able to apply the charcoal as lightly and uniformly as possible. I place the loaded cotton ball lightly against an area of the drawing that I want to darken. A little more to the right. . In fact. I’m not concerned--it’ll clean up with a kneaded eraser. and refining a charcoal-covered surface. google_render_ad). which will often be at the top of the image. hold it over my wastebasket. and rub the cotton ball back and forth to load it. Until I flip the template out of the way. and because I’m applying it lightly. The first application of charcoal will be the darkest. semi-random strokes that will blend easily. the better. take most of it back off. using more or less circular. and how satisfied I am with the results. coarse cotton doesn’t work well for me--the finer the cotton. If I’m working on an evening or night sky. Again. I want to be able to erase it easily and completely. and rub it back and forth as if I were sharpening the pencil--and actually. If I need to work in a tighter area. Of course. it’s essential that I apply the charcoal lightly enough so that it can be easily removed. depending on how this sky evolves. beginning with the darkest area.google_render_ad". I usually wear a disposable dust mask while I’m powdering and applying charcoal. because when I flip the template back. I’ll switch to a Q-Tip to apply the charcoal. google_protectAndRun("ads_core. like those where the moon’s edges meet the horizon. I press a cotton ball into the charcoal rubbings. as well as a slight depression in the paper--both of which would make finishing the moon’s edges more difficult. But the less I have to clean up the lightest. mist.See more at: http://www. and brush the cotton ball lightly over the paper’s surface. each application that follows will be progressively lighter as more charcoal is transferred from the cotton to the paper. If I’m working on a lighter sky. I’m happy I I follow the template’s edge. or at least lightened considerably. Because the moon’s edges will be its lightest areas. I’ll apply the charcoal full strength. and so most critical areas. I think… There. so I pick up the paper by its edges. This would create a much darker line than I want. I hold the pencil at a shallow angle to the paper. and begin. so I try to avoid getting charcoal inside the moon’s outline. Smooth-surface paper is both ideal and necessary for the kind of look I want to achieve--but it has very little tooth. as needed. I consider this stage the .html#sthash. As when I’m penciling.2cn9qCdo. a scattering of loose particles of charcoal will have accumulated as well. and tilt the paper until any loose particles fall off. I avoid pressing down at all. all the drawing’s highlights--so again. or a light passage like the area near the the horizon.

html#sthash. A quick dusting. Dirty erasers have their uses. I tap the point on clean paper several times to blunt and widen it. A portion of an eraser that’s been partly coated with the charcoal it’s lifted will remove progressively less material each time it’s pressed into the paper.Kzza6MV1. Admittedly. In the next steps. and I want to lighten a passage only slightly. and shape a new point from an unused portion.equivalent of underpainting.artgraphica. I’ve evened the charcoal by lifting areas that are darker than I want with a kneaded eraser. They can be molded into an endless variety of shapes and sizes. they’ll become as indispensable as my pencils. To lift a wider area. I do most of the work in My goal here is not to take this sky to any degree of finish. The layer of charcoal I’ve applied is a very light one.dpuf .dpuf Creating A Misty Moonrise. but simply to begin it. semi-transparent in places.html#sthash. This is a process I’ll repeat many times. . the result is worth the time and effort invested.See more at: http://www. This is useful when I want to lighten a passage only a little. A light last rubbing with a clean cotton ball insures that no loose particles remain. Part 2 of 2 5) Here. If I’m feeling more painterly. and by now I’ve worked it enough so that it’s no longer easily smudged. I may choose to take a sky much farther with charcoal. before I pick up a pencil. I’ll tap the eraser into a charcoal or graphite smudge on scrap paper to dirty it first. But most often. Kneaded erasers are among the most useful and versatile tools I use. If I’m using a clean eraser. and I’m ready to begin penciling.See more at: http://www. refining them with kneaded erasers.artgraphica.2cn9qCdo. too. . adding layers with Q-Tips. the charcoal I’ve removed from the paper will have coated the point I’ve shaped from the kneaded rubber. as I described earlier. it’s not quick work. so I roll the eraser between my thumb and forefingers again. to establish a foundation to build But usually. and the range of effects I can create with them are equally limitless. and very stable. After lifting only a few marks.

and anywhere a delicate refinement is needed. and mist is rising.See more at: http://www. 2 and 2. and will hold a sharp point longer. this pencil’s working so well. and lightened the moon’s penciled outline as much as possible. as I usually do. and good for midtones. 1 pencil. No. . 4 is the hardest.html#sthash. I’ve felt no need to do so. and see how high a level of finish I can create with it.dpuf . I use this grade to smooth and soften surfaces and edges. finish bright highlights. But I’m having fun. The right side of the sky is taking on the tone I’m looking for. I began developing this sky with a No. No. and a good grade to begin developing the darker areas of the sky with. for lightly toning inked passages’ highlights. assuming that at some point. But so far. In fact.5 are progressively less soft. and will hold a very sharp point. I want the visible parts of the moon’s edges to be crisp but soft.6) After several hours’ work. the sky has begun to take shape. I’d turn to progressively harder grades. A little more about the Dixon Ticonderoga pencils I use: Number 1 is the softest. so I’ve cleaned them up.Kzza6MV1. and for much finish work as well.artgraphica. I think I’ll stay with it as long as possible. This is the grade I use for sketching. 3 is a bit There’s a long way to go. No.

These marks may be very small strokes. If I’ve neglected to use my magnifier . and detract from the composition’s focal elements as well. mist and sky have been established. when I’m simply adding and removing single dots. Assuming the composition remains more or less unchanged. This was a trial-and-error process. Most of the work that remains will be about continuing to soften edges. This role needs to be a supporting one--to complement. I’m also identifying points that are too light. but more often by this time I’ve reached that point I alluded to earlier. So there’s a balance to be struck. even tones. the upper sky will play a large role. relatively featureless sky would likely seem empty space. that area of the sky seemed to compete with the moon for my attention. it needs to have interesting qualities of its own--a clear. and darkened the upper sky. and filling them with graphite marks. I’m identifying marks that are too dark for their context. the moonrise and tree.7) Here I’ve softened the edges of the clouds. But since the upper sky comprises a large area of the drawing. Though I liked the sense of brightly lit high clouds that had begun to emerge in the previous session. and removing them with the point of a kneaded eraser. This kind of work doesn’t require a great deal of concious thought. At this point. and I’m slowly finding it. most of the basic lights and darks of clouds. rather than distract from the drawing’s focal elements. and remove distractions.

etc. But I’m not satisfied with the areas to the moon’s right.Kzza6MV1. turning it upside down. Each adjustment of lights and darks I’m making at this point is nearly microscopic in scale. so that their edges aren’t lost. I’m satisfied with the upper sky.artgraphica. For me. . I want the graphite background to meet the tree’s outline and the horizon line cleanly. and the mist that’s obscuring the moon’s lower portion could be a bit better. In this drawing.See more at: http://www. selling for around $20 or so at most office supply stores--but it’s one of the best investments I’ve made as an artist.during the earlier stages of the drawing. and I’m happy with the look of most of the mist. . or above the tree’s top. with the flow of the patterns they form.. with its lights and darks. will help identify any areas where the graphite needs to be further darkened or evened.dpuf 8) The sky seems nearly done. areas where inked elements meet graphite are often a challenge to finish seamlessly--especially if the inked elements’ values are very light. I use a wall mounted magnifier that swings out over my drawing and can be pushed out of the way when not in use. I’ve almost certainly remembered by now. It’s an inexpensive unit. This is another of those times when leaning back from the drawing.

by now I’m using No. or a dusting of snow.html#sthash. they’ll make a great deal of difference. one element of a drawing oftens dictate how all the others develop. But happily. 3 and No.But cumulatively. the look of the tree’s foliage was that element. 4 pencils. Typically. and see what might happen next.Kzza6MV1. and establishes consistency . 3 pencil. the foreground and background elements work well together. Usually. So I decided to give the meadow and path a similar look. For me. I could always darken the inked passages. . In this drawing. Toning all the inked passages lightly with graphite helps give them the same warmth as the elements that are created in graphite and charcoal. I kept my options open--if this didn’t work.dpuf 9) Here I’ve darkened and softened the tree’s foliage slightly with a No. I think. I liked the look of the foliage just as it was--to me. with a tree that’s as strongly backlit as this one. and keeping their points as sharp as possible on a piece of scrap paper. But when I’d finished inking the tree. I’ll darken the foliage more at: http://www. and done the same with the tree’s lower trunk. Now all that’s left is a final polish.artgraphica. Again. it suggested leaves covered with an early frost.

artgraphica. and stop trying to make them just a little better. . I think. It’s I already have. I’ve achieved. By this time.throughout the this simple image represents a dramatic.See more at: http://www. most of what I wanted from this project--including a sense of quiet. yet quiet moment. This drawing. has reached that point. It’s important that I recognize that point when I’ve likely made an element or the drawing as a whole the best I can. are represented by clean paper. in a place I’d like to visit someday--and in a sense. I think.Kzza6MV1.dpuf .artgraphica.dpuf 10) As with most of my drawings. Only the brightest highlights. there are elements of this one I’m not entirely satisfied with--but they’re insignificant. . To me. I’ve enjoyed the time I’ve spent here.Kzza6MV1. I’ve covered almost all of the drawing’s surface with at least a light layer of graphite.html#sthash. like the visible edges of the moon.See more at: http://www. and I hope you have as well.