Friday, January 22, 2010

Chapel Bell

Chapel Bell
Charcoal & Graphite
3 ½”” x 2”, matted & framed to 7” x 5”

It’s been awhile since I’ve worked this small and tight, and with West End’s annual Little Gems show coming up, a true miniature sounded like fun. I began this drawing by laying out the chapel’s belltower on a clean sheet of Strathmore Bristol Board with a very sharp #3 Dixon Ticonderoga graphite pencil. These pencils are a couple grades harder than the yellow #2s we all used in school, and create fine lines that erase cleanly. With the layout established, I lightened the lines with a kneaded eraser, and shingled the brightly lit surface of the roof with the same pencil. For the shadowed slope I switched to a very sharp, very hard HHH Wolf’s Carbon pencil that’s harder to keep sharp but produces marks a little darker than any of my graphites. The deepest shadows were darkened with HB General Charcoal pencils.

For me, the process of stippling is about adding a little, taking a little away, adding more. When a mark or area becomes too dark, I lighten it with a kneaded eraser shaped to a fine point- Essentially, stippling in the negative. Not quick work, but continuing to build up and adjust marks as needed creates layered surfaces with texture and depth.

The chapel’s roof and walls were created the same way. For the foreground evergreens I used a softer 6B General Charcoal pencil, lightening with a kneaded eraser, softening and blending with a Q-Tip, darkening again, definining further. The foreground wall, bushes and ground cover were established with charcoal pencils, refined with graphite. To create the effect of the farther trees receding into bright mist, I used only graphite pencils to keep values in those areas lighter. The trees’ shapes and mist, the lawn and path were refined and smoothed with kneaded erasers, progressively harder graphite pencils, finishing with a Staedtler 6H.

I began the drawing’s remaining background by loading a cotton ball with powdered charcoal, scrubbing off most of it on scrap paper, then applying what was left very lightly, barely brushing the paper. It’s a technique that borrows something from drybrush, creates a kind of dry wash that's not as smooth as watercolor, but provides a good foundation for a somewhat similar effect. I avoided the finished elements, and developed adjacent areas- along the chapel’s roofline, and at bottom left- with the Staedtler 6H.

And yes, I did remember to use my magnifier this time.

The thumbnail above should load an actual-size jpeg at most browser settings. Here's an enlargement.

Chapel Bell
and other recent Mark Reep drawings will be available at West End Gallery’s Little Gems exhibit. The show runs from February 5- March 12; opening reception is Friday, February 5, 5:00- 7:30. If you're interested, call Lin, Hedy or Bridget at 607.936.2011.

Crossposted to West End Gallery's new blog WestEndTalk.

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