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White on black paper lunar sketching technique

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#1 kraterkid

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Posted 23 July 2005 - 05:38 PM

Hi Folks,

After receiving the moderators permission to post a tutorial, I began to realize that doing this on a forum is a new experience for me, so bear with me as I try to pull this thing together.

First of all, the tools required with this medium are not much different at all from those used in pencil techniques. Blending stumps and sponges of various sizes, several types of erasers from art gum, Sanford Magic Rub to pink pearl, a sanding pad and pencil sharpeners, and a brush for removing eraser debris.

This is a picture of my drawing tray with the type of sketching equipment I always have on hand:

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#2 kraterkid

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Posted 23 July 2005 - 05:42 PM

Here's a picture of my blending tools, note that white blenders are separated from black blenders so that when I sketch I don't pollute delicate tonal areas:

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#3 kraterkid

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Posted 23 July 2005 - 05:59 PM

You are looking at my complete setup with the sketchboard sitting on top of a inexpensive folding ladder. Two 1/2" diameter dowels were installed in the ladder top shelf to support the board while at the eyepiece. I use 2" wide masking tape to attach my Strathmore black textured paper to a drawing board. This board is 18" x 22" and the sketch size is approximately 13" x 17" (~1/2 sheet of paper) when taped down:

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#4 kraterkid

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Posted 23 July 2005 - 06:58 PM

This drawing was started at 8:40 pm PDT on Saturday July 16 2005. I ended it at 9:58 pm that same evening. The seeing conditions were very favorable 7-8 of 10 and the transparency excellent at 9-10 of 10. The sketch was done entirely at the eyepiece of my 12" f/10 Meade GPS OTA riding a paramount GT1100. The eyepiece was a 26mm Plossl with a 2x barlow. The name of this group of small craters is currently a mystery. Perhaps when I finish this tutorial some of you good folks could help me out with this one. I did not take take detailed notes nor had easy access to an atlas (because I was taking photos every 5 minutes and spending about one minute or so for each shot and did not want to take the time to run upstairs to get it) and alas, I do not have a clue as to their nomenclature. I know it was within a few degrees of Copernicus and right along the terminator but that's it.

So this is how my white Conte' Crayon on Strathmore textured black paper lunar sketches develop from start to finish in nine easy steps. First I must decide how to orient the sketch, for example, with the length running perpendicular or parallel the terminator. The next thing I do before I start is to find a place that is exciting visually for its contrasts between light and dark. The terminator is therefore my favorite "place" along which to locate such dramatically lit lunar features. Once I've decided to sketch a particular crater or feature, I will simply draw the most prominent crater or feature at a size that will allow me to include my composition in the frame of the page. So it comes down to this, the size and positions of all other craters and features take their scale from the size and position of the most prominent crater or feature. I draw the main crater the size I want to fit my page and all other features are constantly compared for size and position to this. Initially this starts as simple line work:

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#5 kraterkid

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Posted 23 July 2005 - 07:12 PM

Next, I'll use the side of the white Conte' stick and rub it against the page to start creating the mid tones and simultaneously define the shadow boundries. I call this "freezing the shadows" because it's at this point I start fixing the angle of the light as I observe it at the moment:

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#6 kraterkid

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Posted 23 July 2005 - 07:20 PM

In this next shot you see that I'm continuing to apply the white Conte' to delineate the midtones across the mare environs these craters sit amidst, and that I've drawn in more lines for smaller features:

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#7 kraterkid

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Posted 23 July 2005 - 07:30 PM

Ok, so what do we do with all those wonderful blenders? Here you see the result, on the left hand side of the sketch, of using a synthetic sponge moved rapidly in a roughly randomized pattern over the built up Conte' Crayon. Conte' Crayons blend incredibly smoothly, and the way this toothy textured black paper can load up with chalk is simply amazing. This characteristic will become more and more apparent as the sketch progresses.

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#8 kraterkid

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Posted 23 July 2005 - 07:41 PM

More Blending and building up white Conte', at times I'm using blending stumps (particularly in tight places such as directly around crater rims or small features) and at times I switch back to sponges or pieces felt cloth. Here you see the continuation of the buildup and blending process:

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#9 kraterkid

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Posted 23 July 2005 - 07:50 PM

Yet more blending, here you can see how subtle the gradiations in tones are and how easily attainable they are with this medium:

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#10 kraterkid

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Posted 23 July 2005 - 07:58 PM

In this next step I'm darkening the shadows with a black (Noir) B Conte' stick and finishing the shadow details, such as the fine structure in the shapes of the jagged shadows the craters project across the lunar surface:

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#11 kraterkid

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Posted 23 July 2005 - 08:07 PM

Yet more black Conte' is applied to define the shadows, all the while continuing to build up white Conte' by rubbing vigorously and in a random pattern, smoothly redistributing the chalk in order to reach the appropriate tone value observed in the environs.

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#12 kraterkid

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Posted 23 July 2005 - 08:25 PM

This is the final drawing. The only thing I do at this point is spray the surface with a fixative. Two or three passes at 14"-16" from the surface will usually more than suffice to protect the sketch from smearing. I buy a large pad of newsprint and lay a sheet between each drawing as an extra level of protection.

Well, that's how I do my white on on black paper sketches. I invite anyone to pick up the challenge of this exciting sketch medium. I don't think you'll be disappointed. And don't worry about doing a giant sketch your first night, my first sketch with this medium was 5" x 5"!

OK, it's time for all those kind folk who know what the mystery crater group is to help me out.

Thanks so much for taking the time to check out this step-by-step tutorial,

Rich :)

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#13 Carol L

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Posted 23 July 2005 - 08:32 PM

Interesting technique.. my guess is Encke.

#14 kraterkid

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Posted 23 July 2005 - 08:55 PM

Thanks Carol,

That's what I had winnowed it down to myself, but I wasn't so sure. More detailed sketch notes and a ready atlas will keep this from happening in the future.

Rich :)

#15 oldsalt

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Posted 24 July 2005 - 04:49 AM

Very nice, Rich. now we all have something to shoot for, and another technique to try.

#16 kraterkid

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Posted 24 July 2005 - 10:26 AM

Thanks Jim,

I'll be delighted to see what other folks (yourself included, buddy!) will do with this medium. I'm aware that this technique breaks with traditional approaches to lunar sketching, both in the size of the drawing possible and in the way you draw directly the light you see. Drawing the light is actually much more natural to me and a heck of a lot easier, because the shadows are produced by what I don't sketch in.

I'm not trying to stir a hornets nest here, but organizations that teach folks that it is necessary to draw in cramped 2"-4" circles or squares or use only pen, charcoal or pencil techniques have mislead many, albeit unintentionally, into believing that these are the only "acceptable" techniques. Once you start down that path it is hard to to see any other way to approach a lunar sketch. Obviously, I don't buy that one! This is not to say that many folks aren't masters of those techniques, or that their work is less valuable (some of the finest lunar sketches I have ever seen were done in sizes ranging from 2" x 2" to 4" x 6" in pen and ink (Check out Harold Hill's "A Portfolio of Lunar Drawings" Cambridge University Press originally published in 1991, for example). Once most attain this level of mastery, they could certainly apply it to any other technique, but most will stay within the "comfort" zone of their established methods and simply refine their techniques over time. For those who would say the same applies to me, they are of course correct. But then again, I'm constantly reaching for the exciting possibilities that this new frontier is opening for lunar sketching.

The truth of the matter is that there is room in astronomical sketching for everyone and every technique, and that it is only when a person opens up to accept, understand, and learn from each do they deepen their appreciation for the full spectrum of astronomical sketching.

Well that's my :penny: :penny: worth.

Thanks,
Rich :)

#17 Erix

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Posted 24 July 2005 - 11:37 AM

And there are lots of different techniques out there, so thank you for giving us a tutorial on yours as well, Rich. Beautifully done and appreciated!

#18 kraterkid

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Posted 24 July 2005 - 02:13 PM

Thanks Erika,

The diversity of people and approaches is exactly what makes this community such an exciting place. Someone mentioned in a previous post somewhere, that we seem to be sharing thoughts in a way that was reminiscent of the french pubs of the late 1800's. Such places were very much about what was new and cutting edge and well as a place to meet other artists and take part in discussions regarding artistic justification, technique and the occassional bottle of absinthe :drinkspit: (:shameonyou: Seriously, folks stay away from that stuff, it'll eat your brain!)

Anyway, the Absinthe aside, I'd say that's a pretty apt analogy. The forums here are informative, interesting and occassionally provocative, yet always friendly and understanding. I've always been greeted with the warmest respect, which I'm sure is the common experience for everyone at CN. You folks are great! :bow:

Thanks for your wonderful words,
Rich :)

#19 LivingNDixie

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Posted 24 July 2005 - 02:37 PM

Incredible Rich, I was wondering how you did your drawings

#20 kraterkid

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Posted 24 July 2005 - 03:25 PM

Thanks Preston,

Give it a try sometime, it's amazingly easy to do and fun too! :jump:

Rich :rainbow:

#21 PMB

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Posted 24 July 2005 - 10:58 PM

From rags to riches!!! I love it! Your style has a unique realisim to it. Thanks

#22 kraterkid

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Posted 25 July 2005 - 12:51 AM

Thanks Patrick,

Yes, this particular approach is well suited for creating sketches that appear almost photographic to the eye.
That's just one of the reasons I'm just going :yay: for this medium! Regardless of what method you are currently using, you can benefit from trying your hand at this technique. The simple awareness of where the light strikes various forms and shapes and its relative intensity across the sketched area will teach you wonderful lessons you can apply to any other technique you may already be comfortable with using. Besides that it easier than you think and a real hoot to boot.

Thanks again,
Rich :)

#23 typhus

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Posted 25 July 2005 - 07:39 AM

That is a great tutorial. Thanks for sharing. It is really neat to see the progress of a sketch and see how it gets to the final sketch. Very nice.

#24 kraterkid

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Posted 25 July 2005 - 09:10 AM

Thanks Shane,

After about 5 years using this medium I'm amazed how much I learn from every sketch. However I've found new techniques simply by mining the wonderful information that CN astrosketchers have left in their various posts. Recently, though I misunderstood the context in which she spoke, Carol L. wrote of using a brush for blending (I thought she was making little piles of powdered graphite, then dipping a soft bristled art brush into it and applying it directly to the paper. That's not what she was referring to, rather she was using the brush to blend the graphite already applied to the page. Before she could correct me, however, I created a powder of white Conte' by taking a stick and by vigorously rubbing it against a sanding pad, created a fine powder which I then applied to the paper with an art brush. The result was incredibly subtle and it enabled me to develop even finer control of the grey tone values! In point of fact, I owe Eric, Carol L. and Jeremy Perez, Sol, David M. and others here a debt of gratitude for some the techniques I am currently using, so thank you folk very much for your help. You guys are the big kahoonas of CN sketching.
:flower: ....

Thanks again for the kind words Shane,
Rich :rainbow:

#25 Stan Lopata

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Posted 27 July 2005 - 05:56 AM

A superb sketch - really a work of art!! I've never seen this technique. Would you give me permission to use your step-by-step instructional for a presentation to my astro club. Carol L's step-by-step is already part of the presentation. Any other techniques out there????

Stan






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