Saturday, 1 December 2012

A Whisper On The Wind ~ Drawing Tutorial

Whenever I do an exhibition I get asked quite a few questions about my techniques and methods. One of the most frequent is how I create the effect of fur in my wildlife drawings. Therefore to save me having to keep repeating myself I've put together this tutorial which shows a drawing from start to finish, step by step, explaining my methods of creating fur as well as all the other aspects. Of course this is just my way of working, it's not to say it's the right way, the only way or even the best way but it's what works for me. I hope it may be of assistance to fellow pencil artists who are struggling to achieve realistic fur effects. Perhaps it will just cause a bit of amusement for those far more talented than I. Either way I'll be happy....this is going to be a long posting!
As well as an A3 sheet of Bristol Board, for the majority of this piece I will be using just 4 grades of pencil. 5H, B, 3B and 5B. I may also use other grades here and there, we'll see. Other tools on my table are kneadable erasers; a stylus; a small brass screw; fine sandpaper and blade for sharpening; tortillons made from rolled up pieces of paper, 'J' cloth and card; some colour shapers and a pot of graphite dust (which I save from my sharpenings).

I've used a reference photograph from the Wet Canvas picture library by member Nightshimmer. I've chosen this one because it has long fur, short fur, whiskers....the lot and I really like the pose of this beautiful wolf as it appears to hear something approaching.

The first thing I did was remove the colour and adjust the levels to show as much detail as possible in Photoshop before printing off at the same size as my drawing is to be (A3). I will only be using the subject in the foreground for this piece.

 Next I sketched out my basic outline using a B grade pencil (not too sharp). I tend not to put much detail in, just the barest minimum but I can't stress enough how important it is to get this stage right. I've seen so many brilliantly rendered portraits where unfortunately a small misjudgement was made in the positioning or size of an eye or other feature which has resulted in a glaring error in the finished art work. There are many ways of transferring your image to the paper. You can just go for it freehand (if your draughtsmanship is up to it), or use a grid method, a projector or even a tracing. I don't believe there are rules to be followed here, just use the method which suits you best and make sure it's accurate. The final result is what counts. The image below has been boosted a bit in Photoshop so you can see my lines, but in reality they are very faint so as not to indent the paper too much. Also where possible lines should be drawn in the direction of the fur, rather than an outline running around the edge which would be difficult to disguise in the final drawing.

Being right handed, I'm working from top left to bottom right, using a clean sheet of paper to rest my hand on so as not to smudge or dirty the area underneath.
If you click on the above image and look closely you may just be able to make out where I've used my stylus to draw some eyebrow hairs and a few of the lashes into the paper, which only become visible when a light layer of graphite is added over them. I've also begun drawing the hair around the eye with a fairly sharp 5H to begin building the fur texture. You can also see where I've roughly applied some graphite to the brow area using a tortillon.
Above, now I have continued to work on this area using 3 pencils in sequence. Always working in the direction of the fur (no matter how short) I've used strokes of the 5H to drag the graphite from the brow down into the light area above the pupil, then the B and finally the 3B. I then gently blended this area using a very fine paper tortillon before forming a sharp edge with the kneadable eraser and gently lifting out highlights. I repeated this process until I achieved the tone depth and detail required. I also darkened the eye, working the 3B up toward the brow area, allowing the 'pre-drawn' hairs which I drew in with the stylus and 5H to emerge. I made sure to maintain the lighter part of the iris, in this case shaded lightly with the side of the B pencil and blended a little with the finest tortillon, to give it the shine and roundness of a real eye.
Quick Tip: If you can, have two pencils of each grade at your disposal. One kept sharp and the other less so as you don't always need the sharpest point.

 Above you can see I've continued working down along the nose area, using the same methods described previously. The fur on the nose is the shortest of all so all the marks made with the 5H take that into consideration before blending the graphite over the top with the tortillon and lifting out with the eraser. The fur below the eye though, heading towards the jaw, is a little longer so a slightly different method is used.
I make strokes in an inverted 'V' shape, making them quite dark at the point of the 'V' before blending them out using a colour shaper or tortillon. This seems quite pains taking but once you get into a rhythm you can make steady progress, always concentrating on the fur direction as you work across the face.

You can see here how it's beginning to work. I should add that this area is by no means the finished article. As I gradually work my way across and down the drawing, I'll constantly be going back in to the previously worked on areas to refine and adjust. There will be a final going over at the end also to tidy up and make final adjustments to light and tones.

I put the nose in next, using the side of the 3B on the surface and the point for the dark shadow and nostrils, lifting out a bit of highlight with the eraser. At this point I used my stylus again to draw some whiskers and light hairs that overlap the mouth and bottom lip. Then I worked on the muzzle in the same way as I did under the eye. As the 'pre-drawn' whiskers appeared I was able to put in the dark spots from which they grow. Then a bit of gentle blending again with the tortillons and colour shapers.

I went back to the top of the head next. At this stage I was still undecided about the background so a light wash of graphite is all I put in, using a bit of tightly rolled 'J' cloth and some of my graphite dust. I didn't work it in too firmly at this stage so that I could lift out the white fur around the top of the skull using the kneadable eraser, then carefully going  in with the B pencil to sharpen it up. The white fur and hairs were again drawn in front of the far ear with the stylus and 5H before the ear was drawn in, using the 3b for the darkest area at the bottom, the 5H to give a bit of hair texture further up and the B and 3B combined to finish. Then a little light blending. This was as far as I got in the first session, about 4 hours in.

Quick Tip: If you have a scanner or a decent camera I find it very helpful to get an image onto the computer after each session. I find I can see it almost with fresh eyes once it's on the screen, showing up any obvious mistakes or bits that might need slight adjustment. It also enables me to play around a bit with the tonal values in Photoshop (or whatever photo editing program you use) to see if it can be improved by adjusting them one way or another.

In the next image you can see I've started work on the forehead and I've scanned it here to show the stages of completion. I began by drawing with a well sharpened 5H, the fur here is short and woolly in texture so a stippling method was used, working in the patterns of the reference picture. The 3B was used next, getting a good dark tone at the base of the fur and using short strikes outwards before blending using the colour shaper.
The colour shaper blends the fur to a slightly blurred finish rather than leaving the hard pencil marks. This is what gives that fluffy, ruffled effect which is so pleasing. The deeper the tone in the shadows, the thicker and deeper the fur will appear to be. You can see below how I've continued down to the jaw before beginning on the longer fur around the neck area.
This area proved to be very challenging. After mapping out sort of arrow shapes I began with the stylus to put in some fur tips. I then continued using the same method as above on the face but with longer strokes, again ensuring a nice depth of tone at the root and then blending it out using the colour blenders. I also did a little lifting out with the eraser here and there to give better highlights. These fur clumps are a bit too pronounced at this stage but will be softened further towards the end. I've also worked a little more on the bottom jaw, refining and darkening it as well as adding the far side of the body which is in shadow. Next thing I tackled was the nearest ear.
 Again I began by drawing with the stylus and 5H before applying some graphite powder with a 'J' cloth tortillon, making sweeping strokes from the dark inner ear out towards the edges. Then I went in with the 5B for the darkest tone in the centre, as well as the 3B and B for the detailing before blending out with a colour shaper.
More of the same as I worked around the ear and down towards the neck area.

Before working on the back of the neck I put in more of the background wash by lightly blending in some graphite powder with a 'J' cloth tortillon. This was mainly because there are areas of bright white fur. These areas are lifted out with the kneadable eraser before adding in more strokes with a small tortillon and adding detail.

Quick Tip: For small fly-away hairs and fine fur detailing use a small brass screw as a stylus, which is much finer than the regular stylus. Make sure it's blunt as you don't want to damage the paper surface, I do this by rubbing the point on a piece of leather.
 After completing the neck area I began on one of the front legs at the shoulder. The fur here is more of a thick woolly texture. To achieve this I started by dipping my index finger into my pot of graphite and then used a gentle slapping motion to apply it to the paper. Slapping it over and again the graphite starts to give a lovely random texture  and looking closely, little tuft-like shapes appear which can be exploited by doodling over the area very lightly with the 5B. No blending is used on this area to avoid losing the texture, just a little lifting out with the eraser at the edge where the light is hitting it. Get some deep shadows under the longer neck fur.
At this stage I put in some dark shadow under the leg to enable me to define the longer hair underneath it. Then laid a wash of dark graphite to ground it. In the reference the wolf is lying on a dry rough ground but I'm considering putting him among some dried wood branches and logs......haven't fully decided yet, I'll wait until I've completed the wolf entirely before thinking about what will work best. I always prefer to put my subject back into it's natural environment, even though the reference may have been taken in a zoo. It's a chance to use some imagination to make the piece my own, rather than sticking too religiously to the photograph.

I darkened some areas of the left leg before moving on to the paw. As the paw is sitting in bright light I've used very dark tones and bright highlights for contrast. The right shoulder is very light too so just a hint of shading here before completing the right leg.

Quick Tip: The darkest tones are achieved not necessarily by pressing harder with the pencil, rather layering over and again but always making marks in the direction the fur would be lying even though it's not really visible. This is because pencil drawings, depending where hung, often reflect a little light and it will look better if the light just reflects fur texture rather than a scribble. Also, if at a later stage I decide to lighten a shadow slightly, a quick dab with the kneadable eraser will work fine without much extra detailing.
More of the same on the hind quarters which are in bright sun. The contrasting shadow areas are working well using mostly the 5B. I've put my little brass screw to good use here too, using it to get some nice fly-away hair effects. Next it was on to the beautiful tail with it's multiple tones and long locks of fur. I've pre-drawn quite a bit with the 5H and then applied long sweeping strokes of graphite in the fur direction using a paper tortillon. Before continuing with this area though, I need to continue the wash of background graphite so that I can define the boundary of the tail.
 Above you can see I've brought down the sky and worked up the darker top of the tail buy using the B and 3B grades. I've used the feather shapes again here with the dark tone put in at the bottom, dragging it out toward the end of each shape before softening it a little with a colour shaper and the odd dab of the eraser.
I completed the tail with more of the same making good use of the eraser in the lighter areas. Then I started putting together the foreground and background. Using the eraser and the tightly rolled up piece of 'J' cloth I lifted out some clouds and softened them. I added a distant line of trees in the lower left background using the paper tortillon dipped in my graphite, then started on the foreground large tree log. I dipped my finger into the graphite and spread it roughly over the area before lifting streaks out by drawing the eraser along the length, twisting and rolling it as I went. This left me with a lot of interesting shapes and texture which I brought out further using the 5B.

The right hand foreground next, starting by very firmly pushing and twisting the kneadable eraser into the dark area below the tail which starts to bring out a suggestion of rocks. Then I dragged the eraser horizontally and upwards to get some more dead tree branch shapes. I continued using my imagination and had fun adding more details to the background and foreground to complete the scene.

Quick Tip: Try to avoid the habit of removing loose granules of graphite or other debris by blowing on it, rather just waft a piece of cloth or paper over the work to blow it away. This is because if you get any droplets of moisture on the surface of your paper from your breath then as soon as you apply graphite over it, even after it is dry, you will get a very dark mark where the moisture has altered the paper surface. This will be permanent. Having said that, I have been known to apply a light mist of water on purpose to get a 'spatter' effect. I'm not using that effect here though.
 Above you now see the completed drawing. I've put in a suggestion of distant hills, finished the foreground and gone over the whole thing to tidy up before applying a light sealant. Just needs to be signed.

Quick Tip: Use a clear, pastel fixative to finally seal the drawing. I use a spray can of Ghiant fixative. Not only will this protect the finished work from smudging, but will also give a slightly matt finish to it which will decrease light reflection after it has been framed and hung in position.

I hope the above tutorial will be of some use to some of my followers. I'd be very interested to hear any comments and if there are further questions I can answer, post them and I'll add the information to the tutorial if I can.  Now to frame it.......


Clive Meredith said...

hi peter,a very interesting and detailed look at your drawing is always good to see how a fellow graphite artist tackles the medium and despite using the exact same medium using very different techniques to create lifelike detailed drawings.i'm always struck by the plethora of imaginative techniques employed by artists to create drawings using graphite which is far too often seen as the most basic of all mediums

Peter Williams said...

Thanks Clive. Agreed! I've often followed your works in progress and we are chalk and cheese regarding methods. The results are two entirely different styles of pencil work but both (hopefully) equally valid.

Sue Clinker said...

Great tutorial Peter

Having undertaken a 3 day graphite drawing course with Mike Sibley its clear he works quite differently also. He doesn't believe in turning coloured ref. pictures into grayscale for instance.

I've also attended a 1 day workshop where it was frowned on to use tortillons or 'smudge' graphite - only hatching was acceptable!

But I think its brilliant that there are so many different techniques and interpretations available. Whatever works for the artist (and of course the public) can't be wrong can it.

Thanks ... and I'll certainly experiment with graphite dust at some stage.

Dave said...

A brilliant tutorial which was well timed as 1/ I will be doing a wolf picture soon. 2/ I have started indenting more on my work now.
Thanks for taking the time to guide us pencil artists.
All Best