Face with graphite wash

This is something new I picked up from Cindy Valdez in Cheryl Long’s watercolor class a few weeks ago. It’s a little pot of graphite by Artgraf that is water soluble. It’s similar to watercolor in how you use it: wet the brush, pick up some of the graphite with a brush, and ‘paint’. To control black level, you use more or less water. (It is also available as pencils, sticks, and giant graphite blobs.)

I’ve been toying around with it, and finally decided to try to render a face with it. This is based on a random photograph I found; I wanted something with distinct light and shadow to see how well I could use the graphite to portray a face without any pencil or ink lines — just the graphite wash. I had a few slips of the brush (this was on Stillman & Birn Zeta paper, which is a 180lb hot-press surface), but it’s a workable medium that is not really as much like watercolor as I had expected. 🙂  It dries very quickly, so you have to really focus to get the right amount of water – you can see areas where I was too dark, or too light. That will come with time. I think it will also be useful for single-color value studies (preparatory sketches, often monochrome, with bright and dark areas to help sort out the structure of a painting).

I’ve had the idea of portraits floating around in my idea-bin of a mind for some time now, it was good to finally give it a try. I don’t think I’m ready for family portraits yet, but this is a good start for doing watercolor portraits, something I aspire to and would love to try out soon.

Graphite wash with No. 5 and No. 2 travel watercolor brushes
Graphite wash with No. 5 and No. 2 travel watercolor brushes

2 thoughts on “Face with graphite wash

  1. I love drawing faces! That’s what I started with and they still draw me in even though I’m no longer drawing. This looks like a perfect medium for you, Ron.


    1. Thanks. Zan Marie. I love faces, too; they also scare me a bit. I always seem to see something extra in a face than what is literally there — even if it’s from a photograph. I’m happiest when the extras show up in the drawing, suggesting the extra dimensions we all have.


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