Tag Archives: graphite

My Geographic Palette #4 – Graphite

24 Jul

graphite 4

The next one out of my geographic palette is graphite, a slightly greasy, slightly soluble solid black pigment and mineral found in The Lake District near Keswick, which is where I bought some nice chunky sticks of it and a whole load of top-quality graphite pencils. Not far from Keswick, at Seathwaite, is an old graphite mine which has been around since the late 16th century until it was abandoned in the late 19th century because cheaper graphite, although of inferior quality, could be imported, mainly from China.

tracing 5

Historically, this very pure graphite was used to mark sheep, still an important local industry. But it was used mostly for moulds to cast coins and cannonballs; it is said that it made such good cannonballs that it gave the British the edge over the French. When warfare moved on, someone had the bright idea of stuffing a thin wooden tube of wood with graphite and this kickstarted the famous pencil industry in Keswick which still has the Derwent factory and Pencil Museum. It’s a fabulous little gem of a museum, so informative and a great place for graphite geeks to hang out. Graphite pencils are a relatively late invention; back in the day, artists drew with charcoal, red lead, silverpoint and chalk.

 

Using a 6B block of graphite, I drew into my A5 spiral bound Bockingford sketchbook, using both the flat side and pointed tip of the graphite to get different textures. Then I took a watercolour brush dipped in water and rubbed areas of the graphite to create soft washes directly onto the paper. Then, while the paper was still wet, I drew into the damp areas which gave me more lines and textures.

This is based on a sketch I did en plein air on a field trip with colleagues from The FIRE Lab, near the source of the River Tawe. It’s a culvert – I’m falling in love with culverts, who’d have thought it? Please check out the FIRE Lab blog here – it’s a good read.

 

 

My Geographic Palette #1 – Charcoal

21 Jul

charcoal 2

 

This is my first tryout with my geographic palette, a drawing based on a sketch I did en plein air on a field trip with colleagues from Swansea University’s FIRE Lab a couple of months ago when we went off exploring culverts up in the Brecon Beacons.

 

The charcoal I bought a few years back when I visited John Ruskin’s house, Brantwood, at Coniston Water in the Lake District. At the time they made charcoal from willow grown on the estate, using traditional methods. It’s quite crumbly and benefits from being used with a heavyweight textured paper. I’m using a 300gsm Bockingford here and I’m pleased with the results, lots of tonal variation depending on the pressure I’ve used. It’s only a small drawing, I’m using an A5 size sketchbook, spiral bound from Pink Pig in Barnsley, and I’m abstracting away from the original which is starting to excite me.

 

 

 

 

My Geographic Palette

20 Jul

Geographic Palette small

I’m thinking about how to develop from the sketches I’ve done on a couple of field trips with colleagues in the FIRE Lab team and, as the research project is about ecosystems and environment, I thought I’d try as much as possible to use natural earths, plants and minerals in my artworks, so I’m putting together a geographic palette. I’ve made a pretty good start already, with graphite, lapis lazuli, ochre, charcoal, Bideford Black, some red sandstone and my own home-made walnut ink.

Over the next few days I’ll be researching and writing about them so watch this space …. 🙂

 

 

 

A Big Box Of Pencils

13 Jan

 

tracing 3

I did a bit more work on my next woodcut today, making a tracing from my original drawing to transfer the image onto the wood block. I used a thick charcoal pencil for the tracing because I have to turn the tracing paper over to reverse the image onto the wood. Once the reversed image was in place, I drew over the thick charcoal lines using a smaller 2H pencil which gave a fairly fine line. Finally I took the tracing paper off the MDF and went over the faint trace lines with a B pencil, which gives good definition without being too smudgy. I have a big box of pencils. It’s really nice.

tracing 5

I bought the box at a very reasonable price from the Derwent Pencil Museum in Keswick in The Lake District. It’s a fabulous little gem of a museum, so informative and a great place for graphite geeks to hang out. Just outside Keswick is an old graphite mine, which is why the pencil industry took root there. And it has a factory shop, with cut-price pencils and boxes!

From left to right: tracing over the original drawing; the tracing reversed onto the block of MDF; going over the faint trace lines with a darker pencil.

Getting Started

22 Jun

sketch 1

Just started drawing an idea for a new woodcut, scribbled it out onto a piece of layout paper with a chunk of 6B graphite first then did a couple of more detailed studies.

 

Next stage – getting some hand-lettering worked out….

Gazing Darkly

17 Jun

Rose woodcut

Today I printed up the woodcut I carved out earlier in the week. I used Intaglio Printmaker’s Caligo Easy Wash Relief ink mixed 50:50 with Extender and took the print by hand on Hosho paper using a Japanese Baren. This self-portrait was inspired by the late, great Käthe Kollwitz, an artist who produced loads of self-portraits during her long career. That’s a very dark gaze I’ve got going on there!

 

process 2

 

bamboo baren

A Japanese bamboo baren

 

Sprogs In Sketchbooks

12 Jun

I’ve been flicking through some of my old sketchbooks again, finding things I’d forgotten about. There are quite a lot of drawings of sprogs.

23 sprogs 2

 

They’re weird little creatures to draw, looking simultaneously like aliens and cartoons.

A Wooden Selfie

10 Jun

process 1

I started a selfie today, a self portrait woodcut, using a piece of plywood. I transferred my drawing onto the wood and commenced hacking away with my Flexcut tools, they’re pretty good but plywood is quite tough and takes some effort.

I did a rubbing, with tracing paper and a graphite block, as I cut, to keep tabs on how it was progressing. Tomorrow I’ll do a first proof print to see exactly what’s going on and then finish the cutting, if necessary.

 

 

A Cluster Of Heads…

8 Jun

I’ve been flipping through old sketchbooks, reminding myself of work I’d forgotten about. I came across a cluster of heads in one that I’d bought from the Tate gallery in London. Nice sketchbook. I like drawing heads and faces, but children’s faces are so difficult. The younger they are, the more they look like an alien life form. There’s a mixture of media here, graphite, charcoal pencil, Faber Castell Pitt drawing pen and biro (ballpoint).

Soggy Scribbling

17 Jul

Scribblers 2

Here are a couple more of my soggy scribblings from the Troublemakers Festival over the weekend. It was a sopping Saturday and my fellow Plebeian Scribblers – Melvyn Williams, Patricia McKenna-Jones and Chris Harrendence – stood on Swansea’s High Street and drew for a couple of hours. We got wet. Very wet. So did the sketchbooks. Now I have to work out how to dry out an entire sketchbook without it crinkling or going mouldy.

Melvyn photographed all our drawings and put them into a short video …..

 

 

 

For a limited period I am putting a new drawing of an ancient monument on my Artfinder gallery every day.  If you’d like to check them out, please click on the image below or the Artfinder link at the top right of this page.

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