#Illustration Explorer | Part 5

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A preliminary pencil drawing for a character concept.


Fundamental to illustration or the creation of virtually all other 2D visual art is drawing. The ability to draw reasonably well is still very important, even if most or all of your art is computer generated. Drawing is where I started all the way back at the nursery school age. Everything else came afterward.

Sketching and drawing reveals the ability of an artist to recognize form and texture, and develop creative vision.

As a toddler, I would use magic markers, biro pens; anything that I could get my little hands on, to mark and scribble on paper or the walls in the home. Mum kept a picture of me doing exactly that. Wanna see it? Take a look at my artist’s statement. Real drawing for me; however, began when I was old enough to use dry media.

Just as it sounds, dry art media includes crayons, chalk, pastel, charcoal, pencil crayons, metalpoint styli (goldpoint, silverpoint, copperpoint) — amazingly beautiful and expensive drawings can be produced with pure metals, and my all-time favourite graphite pencils. Associated dry media are erasers (plastic [white], rubber [pink], gum and kneaded), erasing shields, smudge tortillons, blending stumps and soft brushes for sweeping away eraser crumbs.

You can draw on any marking surface that will accept the chosen media. When working with graphite, I prefer white papers and show card stock. I prefer cold press stock with medium tooth. Say what?

During the manufacture of hot pressed stock (HP), as opposed to cold pressed, paper is passed between hot glazing rollers. Finished hot pressed stock is nice and smooth. It can even be a bit shiny. Cold pressing, on the other hand, is when stock is directed between cold polished rollers. Cold pressed stock can have varying rough textures to sight and touch. The graphite work I typically produce depends on a somewhat rough texture — medium tooth, in order to bring out visual textures like brick, hair and even smooth metal with gradated shading.

I like the look and feel of working with this media. It helps me to develop my artistic voice. Whether you’re reading this as an artist or not, you should choose some media, experiment with it a bit, and then try to express your thoughts through drawing.

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A pack of my drawing pencils of nearly all possible graphite grades.

Just a Bit About Graphite Pencils

I don’t want to get into any big explanation about graphite pencil types. That’s been done before by many artists. Quite simply hard graphite, a form of carbon with a silvery-grey luster in certain light, is given an H grading by manufacturers. H to H9 is the softest to the hardest of the hard graphite grades. They produce light silver-greys to very light silver-greys in that order. Between the H (which I tend to think of as 0H although it should probably be thought of as 1H) and 2H there is a hard F grade graphite. I prefer to think of F as 1H but in spite of my preference, that’s not what it is. F is F!

On the other side of H, is the intermediate grade of HB that pretty much everybody who doesn’t do everything by computer or smartphone is familiar with. The first of the soft graphite grades start at B, which I think of as 1B. The softer the graphite, the higher the number in the grade all the way to 9B. 9B doesn’t really look all that grey but black.

I’m most likely to use everything from HB to 4H in my work. Rarely do I use graphite outside of this range.

Another type of graphite pencil that I enjoy using sparingly is aquarelle or water-soluble graphite. It’s great for rendering leather, the skin on a dog’s snout or an eagle’s talon.

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