Technical Tuesdays – Woman wearing scarf with coffee on The Shambles, York

By 7 January 2020No Comments

Graphite drawing of woman wearing scarf drinking coffee on the Shambles in York in winter

This one’s a “deep cut” from the catalogue, didn’t generate huge interest at the time, but there’s the odd thing of which I’m actually mighty proud.

The composition of the photo had shoppers stacked at varying depths, letting me lean into that dimension with respective amounts of blurring.

The blurriest bits are difficult to render in graphite and a tortillon, as the graphite doesn’t always extend as far as you want it to. This is where where some nicely extensible, dry-brushed charcoal would have made much easier work of it, but I only discovered that medium this year. It’s another in a long line of constant reminders that it’s best to acquire all the skills you need as soon as possible, ideally yesterday.

It was an ideal foreground subject, as her clothing and accessories provided a great deal of contrast, especially in the floral shirt sleeves. Lots going on in this section – shirt pattern, hair, texture of the gilet, scarf, and a woolly fleece. The only regrettable thing is the paper and graphite combination for the background, as it’s quite noisy. This was still using the relatively grain-free Bristol Board, and I could have sunk the pencils deep into the tooth, filling all those white bits, but you have to back off at some point with graphite, otherwise the finish will be far too shiny.

Negative hairs and shades. In the month that passed between my first Street Photo drawing and this, I did not work on my “hair game”. A Tombow Mono Zero erasor took care of any hairs landing in front of a 4B pencil, but couldn’t do anything in front of the 8B, so I had to emboss. From enough of a distance, it looks natural, but I never look at it without seeing the workarounds that led to the result.

I probably spent the longest time “per square inch” on this bit. And the hand and cup themselves took a little over one square inch of paper. Delicate work trying to draw hands. A mechanical pencil was needed for most of the cup details.

Probably my favourite part of the whole piece: the backlit white sleeve against the dark coat, for the way the sleeve really pops out. Note evidence of edging out the sleeve near the elbow with dark pencils. A thorough technique for this sort of thing is to cut some frisket film the exact shape of the elbow, stick it down and then draw freely over and around it, then remove the film, leaving a perfect blank arm to shade in, with no evidence of avoiding “trespassing”. I’ve never tried it, as I didn’t want to find out how much the paper surface might change after sticking it down. Some more care could have been taken here, but it’s all part of the curve.

This piece is still for sale (original and print), with £5 per print sent directly to the Yemen Crisis Appeal.

Graphite drawing of woman wearing scarf drinking coffee on the Shambles in York in winter

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