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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Drawing What You Love/Sketching Scottie

When Jen wanted to make a drawing of her delightful Scottish terrier, Molly, I suggested she use a photograph of her dog for reference. We worked with the same toned paper technique I taught to a group of high school students in my Drawing Animals lesson.

After toning her paper, Jen drew Molly's features with charcoal lines. Then she established all the darkest shapes on Molly's face by making intuitive repeated bold strokes within those areas, suggesting fur. She achieved beautifully loose movement and texture with this approach. Jen also used her kneaded eraser to remove the charcoal in selected areas of her drawing, establishing lighter tones, as well as near-whites.

Jen's close familiarity with her dog contributed meaning and enthusiasm to the process of drawing Molly. When you decide what to draw, think about using something or someone close to you as your subject. Try using this charcoal-toned paper technique to draw animals, people, landscapes or still lifes. It's a very forgiving process that allows for easy modifications and changes. To change a line, just rub it out with your finger or a paper towel, and redraw it.

I really love drawing with charcoal, & I created a series of large drawings of fruits and vegetables, including the charcoal diptych drawing, "Three Peppers." I'm thrilled that based on this drawing, I was recently awarded a solo exhibition at John Slade Ely House New Haven in September 2012!

Here are the steps for making a toned paper charcoal drawing:



soft willow charcoal in 1 1/2" lengths
white drawing paper
kneaded eraser
paper towels
photograph for reference, optional
spray fixative


1. Using the side of your charcoal, make broad, dark strokes on the paper, covering the whole surface. It helps to work on top of a pad of paper for smooth application.

2. Using a paper towel, gently smooth and blend the charcoal as evenly as possible all over the paper. If too much charcoal is removed, just apply more, and smooth it again.

3. Draw the basic shapes of your subject, and fill in the dark areas with charcoal. You can blend and lighten any areas with your finger or paper towel. Also, use your kneaded eraser to "pull out" charcoal in order to create very light areas. Keep adding darks, middle tones and lights, to establish a three-dimensional representation of your subject.

4. In a well ventilated area, lightly spray the fixative on your drawing to prevent smudging.

"Molly" by Jen

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