How Do I Do It?
I've always had a passion for drawing but I do owe it to many art instructors from grade school and college that have helped me grow into an even better artist over the years. But my biggest inspiration behind my art background would be my grandma, Barb Garrels, who is an amazing oil painter! Ever since I could remember, she would always be watching Bob Ross painting his "happy little trees" and I would also attend classes she taught at The Art Center of Burlington, IA. I also remember going to see her work at the Snake Alley Art Fair which I will be showing my own work in for the first time this year! I'm working hard on ideas for my booth and art pieces to show and sell at the fair. The show is on Father's Day which is June 18th. I'll keep sharing my experiences and pieces of art for the fair so please follow me on Facebook or Twitter!
If you're interested, please take the time to read this to learn more about how I create my artwork or if you've considered being an artist yourself. Please note that this post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. I've tested many different products over the years when drawing and have found my favorites which I'd love to share with you. First off I need to say, there really isn't such thing as "messing up" when drawing. For example, ten different artists could draw the same picture and of course none of them would look exactly alike. And some people will like one artist's style over another. You really can't go wrong- it's all about taking your time though and not rushing. Most of my drawings take anywhere from 3 hours to 8 hours on average and I typically don't finish them in one sitting. Other important tips: focus on one section at a time and step back from the picture to examine what you've done so far every now and then- I guarantee you'll always notice something every time you step back. Or you'll even be like me and keep obsessing over it until you have to tell yourself to quit- it looks good!
My favorite paper to use would be the Strathmore Drawing Paper Medium Surface 400 Series. It's acid free- which is what you want (acid makes paper yellow over time) and it's very important to me that my paying customer's pieces will last forever. This is also great for graphite and charcoal pencil as it allows you to create small details and blend, highlight and shade beautifully. I like to use the 8x10 and 11x14 sizes. Both sizes are very universal and have a lot of good in-stock frame and mat options which keeps the price down for my clients. I always purchase my 8x10 paper here Strathmore Medium Drawing Spiral Paper Pad 8"X10"-24 Sheets or the 11x14 paper here Strathmore Medium Drawing Spiral Paper Pad 11"X14"-24 Sheets.
I also am a big fan of using Canvas Panels 16" H x 0.18" W x 20" D to do charcoal drawings on as it's a sturdier and nicer way to display a drawing and I can add paint to my artwork as well if I want. They also have a great texture for charcoal. These canvases are thin as well so they could be framed if wanted but also have a nice backer if you just wanted to add a Picture Hanging Kit and hang it up without a frame.
First, I start out my drawings with very lightly drawing out the picuture with mainly just the shapes and outlines- no shading or detailing yet. I use a 4H graphite pencil because it's very light and allows for easy erasing. You can get a nice 4H graphite pencil here Faber-Castell 9000 Graphite Pencil 4H. Again- you DON'T want to use a heavy hand when sketching out the initial drawing- keep it light and easy to erase.
After it's all sketched out, I use my absolute favorite charcoal pencils which are the woodless ones in soft, medium and hard. They have an acrylic finish which keeps your hands clean when holding them and leaves less mess. I use the soft charcoal pencil when shading in a large area and I use the hard charcoal pencil when there's a really sharp, small detail. The medium I use most often just to do the general drawing and shading. I purchased the Pentalic Woodless Charcoal Set. One very good tip I'd say when using these pencils is to keep rolling and twisting them in your fingers as your drawing and that will continue to keep the tip pointed. Every once in a while you will need to sharpen them, but this method of rolling and twisting will make the pencils last way longer. It's a little hard to get the hang of remembering to twist them as you're drawing, but it comes naturally after a little while!
And then of course there's blending- I have this set of Blending Stump and Tortillion Art Blenders. These come in a variety of sizes to blend small or large areas. For really large backgrounds that I want to shade in, I use a Viva Paper Towel because they are so soft and don't have patterns on them like other paper towels. I take the paper towel and rub it in my leftover charcoal pencil shavings that I store in a spice shaker that you can see in the photo to the left. The sky in the Pink Flamingos drawing that I did is a very good example for this technique.
And finally, highlighting is pretty much the last step (though to have a nice drawing you'll do a little more shading, blending and erasing even after you highlight). You're drawing should have many, many layers. I love to use the kneaded erasers for highlighting. They don't leave eraser pieces on the paper and you can keep kneading them like Play-Doh to get the graphite or charcoal off and create a clean spot on the eraser every time which is CRUCIAL! Charcoal can be very messy and this particular eraser is charcoal's best friend. You can also take the eraser and create a pointy tip on it to make a twinkle highlight in an eye. Or knead it to have a sharp skinny edge to create a highlight on a metal edge or the shine on a person's hair. You can get a pack of them here PRISMACOLOR DESIGN Eraser 1224 Kneaded Rubber Eraser Large (3 Pack).
When my drawing is all finalized, I like to finish it off with very carefully spraying it with Kenra 25 Volume Hair Spray. Lay the drawing on a flat surface and hold the can about 2-3 feet away and let the hair spray fall onto the paper. I do a quick pass up and down and another quick pass side to side (you don't have to soak it!). This seals the charcoal to prevent as much smudging as possible after finished- though a drawing should be handled carefuly as it could still potentially smudge even after sprayed. And not to worry, it also allows you to continue to work on your drawing later if you notice you need to add or erase something. I have to give credit to my art teacher from High School, Mr. Pugh, for giving me that tip.
One other tip of mine: to organize all of these materials, I use this exact Rubbermaid Silverware Cutlery Tray. It's easy to keep everything organized and to clean it out. And it's easy to move around and store away when I'm not using it.
Another easy thing to move around and I absolutely love using would be my SoHo Urban Artist Extra Large Solid Wood Adjustable Drawing Painting Board and Easel- Natural Finish 19.75" x 30". Though I do have an actual art table set up in my basement, this is a perfect tool just to sit on my kitchen table while watching my kids or multi-tasking. It adjusts up and down very easily and has a ledge to hold your drawing and pencils.
I hope this read has been very informational and possibly inspiring to you. Now don't be scared- go out there and start drawing today! Thanks so much for reading! :-)