Saturday, July 26, 2008

Virtual Sketch Date - July

11" x 14" charcoal on Stonehenge paper
Stacy L. Rowan

Here is my entry for the July Virtual Sketch Date. It is a charcoal drawing of sunquats. The reference was supplied by Leslie Hawes and can be found here. A list of entries will be posted on the Virtual Sketch Date blog tomorrow.

A Sunquat is a citrus fruit and is a cross between a kumquat and a lemon.

As soon as I saw the gray scaled version of this reference I knew I wanted to attempt it in charcoal. I admit that I may have been a little ambitious when I whipped out the 11" x 14" paper, especially given our current circumstances, but that didn't stop me from trying. Overall I am pleased with how much I got done and how the drawing turned out. Although, if you look closely you will notice it is not signed yet. I am reserving the right to tweak it later.

This is the first charcoal I have attempted on Stonehenge paper. I am pleased with how the paper performed. My only complaint is that I had a hard time getting my brightest highlights back. For that reason I still prefer working on Rives BFK paper.

In case anyone is interested, I thought I'd share a little bit about my process.

Normally if I am working on a charcoal from life, I'll start the process by doing some small, quick value sketches. In this case, I was working from a gray-scaled reference so I skipped that step. However, I did take the reference into Photoshop and posterize it. Posterizing reduces the number of different values and simplifies the reference.

Using my two references, I decided where I wanted to change values and where my three lightest and three darkest values would be. I made this decisions based on composition and focal point instead of following the reference exactly as it was presented.

After the computer work was done, it was time to start drawing.

When I start a charcoal, the first thing I do is apply an even mid-tone of charcoal to the whole sheet of paper. As a watercolor artist who is used to saving my whites like they are gold, the first time I had to tone a paper I was petrified. I've gotten over that fear, but still find this step the most boring part of the whole drawing. I use a compressed charcoal stick to apply the charcoal and a combination of cotton balls and paper towels to even out the tone. I am not particularly gentle during this toning process and yet, both Stonehenge and Rives BFK hold up well.

Once the paper is toned, the real fun begins. I lightly sketch out the composition with my charcoal stick and then add and subtract charcoal as needed to get the values I desire. For my darker values I use a range of charcoal pencils from 2B to 6B. For lighter values I use long handled cotton swabs, tissues and my trusty kneaded eraser to remove charcoal.

One of the things I love about charcoal is how easy it is to make changes. I can darken and lighten repeatedly without damaging my paper. Using the flat side of my kneaded eraser I can remove large areas of charcoal. If I want to erase lines or small areas I can use the edge or shape the eraser into a point. Tissues and clean cotton balls are great for smoothing out an area of tone while lightening it. A cotton ball or swab that has already been used is good for smoothing out tone without much lightening. They can also be used to darken a light value. For my brightest brights, I use a pink pearl eraser. It pulls more charcoal off the page than any other tool.

Charcoal allows me to work freely and quickly while still achieving realistic results. And in the warmer months, when I am surrounded by so much natural color, I find a real attraction to its black and white tones.

When I was preparing this image for posting, I played around with cropping it. I'd love to hear if you like the full sized image or cropped image better.

Sunquats - cropped
Stacy L. Rowan

And please remember to visit the other Virtual Sketch Date participants...
Leslie Hawes, Laura's Watercolors, Miki Willa, Sharon, Doug Hoppes, Melissa Muirhead, Kay Susan, Michael, Jeanne Grant, Kylie, Paulette, Maryann Cleary, Maggie Steifvater, Jeanette Jobson who served as admin this month, and the woman who started it all Rose Welty. (More entries may be posted before the end of the day. The final list of participants will be posted tomorrow on the Virtual Sketch Date blog.)


"JeanneG" said...

I really like the look you got with the charcoal. I don't do charcoal or pastels. I don't like the mess or the sound of them. I like the crop the best.

Jeanette said...

Fabulous drawing Stacy. I've really come to love charcoal and carbon pencil. I like to use toned paper to avoid having to tone the paper first.

Rose Welty said...

Stacy, fascinating to read your some food for thought for me.

The sunquats are lovely - I like the crop best, but both are nice. Well done.

Melissa Muirhead said...

I love the charcoal and I think IO actually prefer the larger image over the cropped. Beautiful.

MaryAnn Cleary said...

Nice job!!

For me, Rives BFK paper is also one my favorites, especially when using charcoal. Stonehenge is nice, but it is not as easy to work with when using this medium. Thanks so much for sharing your process.

Jennifer Rose said...

Thanks for telling us how you went about using charcoal to do this :) Its nicely done, with lovely dark shadows :) hmmm, I think I prefer the larger image. Seems more balanced to me.

Sydney Harper said...

Thanks for posting your process. I haven't done charcoal in a while. This is very nice. I like the full version better but it's a tough choice.

Stacy said...

Thanks Jeanne! The only part of charcoal that I find to be messy is the toning of the paper. After that is done the mess isn't too bad.

Thanks Jeanette! Charcoal has really grown on me this last year. One of these days I'll try toned paper.

Rose, I'm glad you found my process interesting. I wasn't sure anyone would want to read through it all. LOL I think the crop is growing on me.

Melissa, thanks for your vote on to crop or not to crop. I think I'll set this aside for now and come back in a few weeks with a fresh eye to make the decision.

Maryann, isn't Rives beautiful paper! I'd have used it for this, but I am trying to find a use for my two tablets of Stonehenge.

Thanks Jennifer! I love the dark shadows I can achieve with charcoal. And it really helped in this case since I couldn't get back to pure white paper for my highlights.

Stacy said...

Hi Sydney! You snuck in while I was typing my comment. Thanks for your input! I am going back and forth on the crop issue.

Maggie Stiefvater said...

I love the soft look of your charcoals -- very book illustrationy. And while I like the composition of the crop best, I like all the dark you can see in the big version.

Really nice -- in particular I'm impressed with how you kept the interest of the piece with NO color at all.

Paulette said...

Hi Stacy,
Your drawing is great. Thank you for sharing the how to. I like the crop best, but both are good.

kay susan said...

Lovely drawing. I thought at first it was graphite. Thank you for the explanation - I don't use charcoal, time I tried it!

Jeanette said...

hi Stacy

I am awarding you the Brilliant Weblog Award. If you would like to accept it just pop over to my blog.


Michael said...

I enjoy watching a lot of the old black and white movies. Especially the old film noir style. Looking at this piece gives me the same feeling I get when watching those films. It is a true art form to be able to spark emotion in the viewer. You have done that for me. Thanks.

laura said...

This is really stunning, absolutely beautiful drawing--the leaves and the light on the sunquats are lovely!

Quilt Knit said...

Hi! Stacy: This is such a lovely charcoal piece. I really like the feel! Very special piece.

Sherrie Roberts

Kylie said...

Hi Stacy! Like everyone else said, wonderful piece. It is really hard to choose, but I think I have a slight preference for the cropped image.

leslie said...

Very Beautiful.
I liked doing graphite on Rives BFK, but never thought to do charcoal.
I have never worked with Stonehenge paper.
I like both versions, full size and crop, but think if forced to choose, I like the full size.
Again, very beautiful. Peaceful, and I think you can use a bit of that, eh?

bluelilac said...

Hi Stacy

I like this piece very much.
I like both, but the full version is the one I like best because I like the additional area below of darker soft tones.
Your work is beautiful.
Glad you are getting back to it.


Stacy said...

Thank you everyone for your kind comments! Working on this piece brought a sense of normalcy back. I realize I need to do art even when, or especially when, other areas of life are challenging. Your encouragement after posting was the icing on the cake.

Maggie, strong values are always the first thing to attract me to a reference, so it's good to know I that I can pass that interest on.

Paulette, thank you! I'm glad you found the how to useful.

Thank you Kay Susan! You should give charcoal a try. I find it faster than graphite, which I appreciate.

Jeanette, thanks for the award! My first one I think. I'm pondering my seven recipients now.

Michael, what can I say?...Your comment made my day. Heck, it might have made my week! I am striving to reach a level where I can spark emotion with my art. It is wondeful to hear that I did for you with this peice. Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!!!

Laura, so glad you like the leaves. I found them to be one of the more challenging parts!

Thanks Sherrie for the kind remarks and for the email too.

Hi Kylie! Thanks for your opinion. I see there is no clear favorite for crop or no crop. That make sme feel better about still waffling. :D

Leslie, it's funny, I never thought to use Rives BFK for graphite. I'll have to try it sometime. Although, I 'm starting to prefer charcoal over graphite. (I never thought I would say that!!) And yes, calm and peaceful is a welcome feeling right now.

Thanks Blue! I am glad I made time for this piece too. Maybe you would like to join us for August?!? You can use any medium you, colored pencils, watercolor. It might be fun like the WDE on Wet Canvas. Think about it okay.

Kellie Hill said...

you're right, the crop works really well, and you see values so perfectly :) I really admire that. oh, and congrats to child #1 for getting the cast off- those things are such a pain!