When you think about drawing with pencil or graphite, the act can refer to a number of things. First, it can be deemed as the preliminary step to a painting or other piece of art. This is because sketching a composition in pencil that will later be finished in another medium, is a good place to work out the kinks and develop a plan for a painting.
For some, graphite drawing is a nice way to capture a portrait or animal drawing. As you may know, I use graphite for just about everything. It’s my favorite medium and I’ve written many books about drawing with graphite. I find it the most versatile medium to use. To me, it’s a solid medium that stands alone in its beauty.
In my studio, I teach all of the mediums, and a variety of subject matter. While teaching, I’m able to see what my students really enjoy. Portraits and animals are their favorite for graphite. Landscapes and skies, however, will usually be done in paint, pastel or colored pencil.
Unfortunately, one of my favorite things to draw in graphite doesn’t seem to carry over to my students. I love drawing skies and clouds in graphite. My students shy away from it and don’t find it as interesting. I think it’s the lack of color in a graphite sunset that turns them off. But I love to create skies and clouds in graphite due to the realism I can get.
For example, look at this drawing, which I’m including in my next book, The All New Big Book of Drawing. The drawing above shows how effective graphite is for capturing subtle tones and values.
In this technique, your blending stumps and your kneaded eraser are going to become your best friends. While the pencil is important for capturing the shapes and clean edges (I use a 0.5mm mechanical pencil with 2B lead), it’s the gentle lifting of light and highlights with the eraser that makes it look so real. Skies need to look very smooth. Noticeable pencil lines will ruin the effect. Heavy blending is required to make everything as seamless as possible. With the kneaded eraser squished into a point, you gently lift all of the subtle, wispy clouds out. Think of this as “drawing in reverse.” Use the tip of the eraser as you would a pencil, and carefully “draw in” the light. Use the same stroke as you would if you were adding dark with the pencil. Go back and forth with this process. Add dark, blend out, and lift light. Before you know it, the realism starts to happen.
I totally recommend drawing skies and clouds in graphite. While it may not be the first subject you think about when you pick up your pencil, it will surprise you with how enjoyable it really is. For some awesome projects and practice work, check out my book, Draw Animals in Nature. It’s filled with examples of how skies can enhance a drawing, and help tell a story.
Until next time…
Lee Hammond has been called the Queen of Drawing. That may not be fair these days, since in addition to providing the best drawing lessons, she has also created fantastic books and videos filled with the same easy to follow acrylic painting techniques, colored pencil techniques and more. Click here to see all of the instructional books and DVDs that Lee Hammond has to offer!