I don’t sketch much. Or rather, I don’t do much sketching before I begin a drawing- I’d much rather sketch on the fly, exploring options, fleshing them out, revising, refining as I go. I want exploration and discovery to remain an ongoing part of the process; I want the drawing to remain an adventure throughout.
Initially, I sketch with a kneaded eraser, lifting shapes from a gray background of charcoal dust. Elements established this way are more easily revised than if I’d drawn them with a pencil, and highlights that work well need less cleaning up than if they’d been defined by a pencil line at their brightest edge.
As the drawing progresses, I lay in darks with soft charcoal pencils, then blend tones, soften textures with Q-Tips. Lift out more highlights with a kneaded eraser, add deeper darks, sharpen edges, blend to further adjust tones, textures, contrast. Repeat the process, continuing to refine, revise, explore whatever suggests itself next.
The work develops its own rhythm, momentum. Sometimes, I’m unwilling to take even a moment to put down one tool, reach for another; and I’ll block in the next element’s shape with the pencil I have in my hand, lighten it later as needed.
Of course, not everything I try works. Far from it- And if it did, what fun would that be? Happily, charcoal is a forgiving medium. Most tones can be altered; most marks are removable, more or less- Usually, I can revise or remove anything that bothers me. And I’ve come to realize that where traces of abandoned directions remain, the drawing’s various textures benefit from the added depth and richness these underlying layers have contributed.