Gurney Journey | category: Pencil Sketching | (page 2 of 28)


Gurney Journey

This daily weblog by Dinotopia creator James Gurney is for illustrators, plein-air painters, sketchers, comic artists, animators, art students, and writers. You'll find practical studio tips, insights into the making of the Dinotopia books, and first-hand reports from art schools and museums.

Jamming at the Flurry

Randy Jennings is the bass player for the the Nisky Dixie Cats, a 7-piece ensemble that performs Dixieland-style jazz.

Jamming at the Flurry

Dave Crump is an ear trained musician who hosts big band and do-wopp jam sessions every week in his living room. I sketched them playing at the Flurry, a huge dance festival that happens this weekend in Saratoga Springs, New York.

Sargent's Charcoal Portraits

The Morgan Library in New York is currently hosting a big show of John Singer Sargent's charcoal portraits. (Link to YouTube)

The exhibition includes over 50 drawings and it will be on view through January 12.

There is also a new book in Richard Ormond's series on complete works of Sargent that focuses entirely on Sargent's charcoal portraits.

"John Singer Sargent: Portraits in Charcoal" at the Morgan Library
Book: John Singer Sargent: Portraits in Charcoal

Thanks, Chris.

Using HB and 2B Graphite Pencils

Jim McMahon asks:
What kind of pencil did you use for the sketches shown on the You Tube video: Dan Gurney Accordion Player, Age 7? I really admire the spontaneity and energy of these drawings.

Thanks, Jim. I usually use two pencils, an HB and a 2B or 4B. I use the medium pencil (HB) to start out the sketch, and I continue using the HB for the lighter tones. I switch to the softer pencil for the darker tones and the blacks. 

In practice, I keep the two pencils in my left hand, along with a kneaded eraser. In this drawing the boys were very active, moving around a lot, so I had to work decisively if I wanted to get anything down.

Dylan Foley and Dan Gurney / Irish Music of the Hudson Valley
Amazon Music

Portraits in the Wild / Painting People in Real Settings
DVD from manufacturer
DVD from Amazon

Woodless Pencil Test

I decide to try out a woodless water-soluble pencil. A woodless pencil means the whole pencil is made out of the lead, rather than surrounding the thin lead with a casing of wood.

Woodless Pencil Test
Matthew Schreiber, Bulgarian Accordion. Listen to one of his tunes on YouTube
The pencil I'm using is called a Cretacolor Aqua Monolith. You can buy them individually for about $2.00-$3.00 each. I'm just using the ivory black one here, but it comes in a set of 12 colors, which retails for about $24.00-$30.00.

Woodless Pencil Test
I'm using a water brush to blend the pencil, and I'm drawing in a Pentalic watercolor journal. The watercolor paper is robust enough to handle some scrubbing.

Some thoughts: 
1. A woodless pencil sharpens like a regular pencil, but you have to waste the pigment on the whole tool to get the sharp point. 
2. The Cretacolor Aqua Monolith is round in cross section, so it would tend to roll off a table. If it accidentally falls to the ground or slips out of your hand, it's likely to break.
3. The pencil is coated in a shiny lacquer varnish, so that it won't activate with water on the part of the pencil that you're holding. 
4. The lead is quite hard, and the pencil is heavy. It feels different from water-soluble crayons or pastels, such as the Caran d'Ache Neocolor, which feel lighter in weight, waxier, and softer.
5. The darkness of the black is somewhere between the graphite gray of a Derwent Graphitint pencil and the velvety black of a Derwent Inktense.
6. It delivers a responsive line and blends well with water, but I don't see much advantage to having the whole pencil made out of the lead unless you want to use it on its side to make large areas of tone. 

With any sketching tools, my recommendation is to buy just one sample of a given product line and try it out and see if you like it before buying a whole set. 

Sketching with Patches of Tone

In this graphite pencil sketch, Charles Bargue (1825–83) uses well placed patches of tone rather than using only outlines to describe the form.

Sketching with Patches of Tone
Charles Bargue, graphite, 8 x 5 3/16 inches, Metropolitan Museum
The patches are made out of short, parallel strokes, which create an impressionistic, painterly effect, even though he's working only in unblended pencil.

Charles Bargue helped create the Drawing Course used in many ateliers.
The method of sketching with patches of tonal values is also described in Sketching - from Square One to Trafalgar Square and Ernest Watson's The Art of Pencil Drawing.

Previous post: The El Dorado Page (Ernest Watson)

Doré's Caricatures of Communards

Gustave Doré (1831-1883) is best known for his illustrations of the Bible and Dante's Inferno, but he was also a caricaturist. 

Doré's Caricatures of Communards

In this 1871 sketch of a Communard prisoner, He emphasizes the wild hair and beard by downplaying the eyes and making them mere smudges.

Doré's Caricatures of Communards

He pushes the sweeping curve under the chin and the aquiline nose. 

Doré's Caricatures of Communards

This guy has dots for pupils and a triangular face.

Doré's Caricatures of Communards

After their failed uprising, many of the Communards were executed or exiled. Doré portrayed them as the pitiful souls that they must have been. The sketches were done under intense conditions: "In the evening, among his friends, to the repeated sound of the cannon at Mont-Valérian and the heights of Montretout, thundering incessantly against Paris; at the striking memory of those long processions of Communard prisoners brought back from Paris to the avenues of Versailles, at the sight of those wretches, their brutish faces contracted with hatred, rage and the suffering of a long march, under a burning sun he took pleasure … in making these sketches.

Dig Deeper
Book: The Dore Illustrations for Dante's Divine Comedy
Flickr set with more of these Gustave Doré caricatures
Images: from Versailles et Paris en 1871, which also includes magistrates and members of the National Assembly
Previously on GurneyJourney: The other side of Gustave Doré
Wikipedia on Communards and Doré
Thanks, John Holbo and Mme. Bruyére

Fantin-Latour's Charcoal Self Portraits

Fantin-Latour's Charcoal Self Portraits

The young Henri Fantin-Latour (1836-1904) experimented with charcoal in a series of painterly and atmospheric self portraits.

Fantin-Latour's Charcoal Self Portraits

He applied directional hatching of short, parallel strokes on top of broadly applied tones to convey a painterly impression of light.

Some of his drawings also combine pencil, chalk, and whitening to the charcoal.

Fantin-Latour's Charcoal Self Portraits

He was one of the fusainistes (charcoal draftsmen), who, in addition to using oil, explored the possibilities of charcoal.

Fantin-Latour's Charcoal Self Portraits

Charcoal was central to the practice of all the artists in the École des Beaux-Arts, but it became especially popular after the development of an improved fixative.
Read more about fusainistes in Noir: The Romance of Black in 19th-Century French Drawings and Prints
Visit my Pinterest page

Pocket Sketching Rig

Pocket Sketching Rig

When I attend a fancy-dress event, such as an opera, a wedding, or a black tie fundraiser, my sketching gear has got to fit into a single pocket. Here's what I bring:

Two water brushes, one filled with clear water, and one with diluted black water-soluble ink.
• Fountain pen filled with sepia ink
• I add the white gouache to the collar later.
Jamming at the FlurrySpoonbill StudiesSargent's Charcoal PortraitsUsing HB and 2B Graphite PencilsWoodless Pencil TestSketching with Patches of ToneDoré's Caricatures of CommunardsFDR Tour GuideFantin-Latour's Charcoal Self PortraitsPocket Sketching Rig

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