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Sketching: Tools and Techniques

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#1 desertstars

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Posted 30 June 2004 - 02:15 PM

We've all been stunned and amazed recently by some of the sketches posted by our fellow Lunies. I usually observe with a pad of paper and a #2 pencil, with the goal of using a rough sketch to shore up my feeble memory when I later on write up an observing report. I get the sense that I am not alone in this, and that I'm not alone in wishing I could do more.

So I'm going to ask if those of you who have the skills and knowledge would be so kind as to pass along what sort of pencils, paper, etc. you use and how you use them to get the effects you achieve. If there are how-to books out there on basic sketching to recommend, that would be great to know as well.

What prompted this was a quick look at an art supply store the other evening. My intention was to get some "basics" and get to work. But I truly didn't know where to begin! Ah, that newbie feeling! :o :lol:

#2 Tim2723

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Posted 30 June 2004 - 05:19 PM

Hey Tom,

These new kids are blowing us away with all their talent!!

I use smooth, 50 pound acid-free sketch paper that comes in a pad of 50 sheets for about $5. I tried different roughnesses, but I really need smooth paper. The rough stuff is for charcoal sketching I think.

I bought a set of 10 sketching pencils, but only use three, the hardest and softest, and one in the middle. An 'ebony' pencil is great for really stark black shadows, and a white charcoal pencil is handy for highlites and for describing the brightness of rays and young craters.

I got a couple of shading stumps, but never use them.

Get a good hand pencil sharpener that holds the shavings inside, and one of those little widgets that has sandpaper on it to dress the points. Keep these away from the glass!

A can of fixative is an absolute must, but the cheap stuff works just as well as the expensive as far as I can tell.

#3 PMB

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Posted 30 June 2004 - 08:48 PM

Hi Tom,
I use a variety of drawing paper. I like a medium to heavy weight. I dont really pay attention to the numbers. I just feel a sheet and if I like it , I get it. I use charcoal pencils. A hard ,(gray) medium,(dark gray) and a soft(black). They are messy and you have to pay attention so you dont smear things, especially when shading with the soft. Inevitably you smear things so, I always have a good eraser mainly to keep things clean. I also use a blending pencil. Charcoal goes a long ways sometimes so I use the blender to make a certain area more opaque or smooth with an even look so as not to see all the strokes. If I'm really getting into it I'll use my finger or a kleenex or the corner of my shirt or.......... heck whatever will get the effect I want . The brightest light for me is hard to capture. I think the trick is draw or shad the darker areas arond the bright areas and let them emerge buy themselves. Dont actually try to draw it but bring out the shadowed area and it will appear. Like the central peaks in Copernicus.... I drew the dark shadows behind the peaks and lighty shaded the preceeding side of the rock and presto, the rocky peak appears. Easier said than done I know :p After the manual work is done I'll scan the sketch and use the same type tools in Photoshop to get a little more detail out of it. I like the combined look of the art with a touch of processing. The other technique is to relax and enjoy the moment. I tell ya though.... there are about 3 in the trash can for every one I keep. They dont alway come out so good but I do learn something everytime that helps the next one along.

Also, I've used gray scale & color pastels on black paper alot. More on that later but its similar. Hope this helps!
Pat

#4 Tim2723

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Posted 30 June 2004 - 10:18 PM

Gee Pat, you're too much of an artist for me to follow!! :bow:

#5 Special Ed

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Posted 01 July 2004 - 09:38 AM

Thanks for starting this thread, Tom. These forums are useful for sharing experience so folks can spend their time sketching instead of re-inventing the wheel. ;) You'll get a range of experience from someone like Pat :bow: to a relative novice like me, so people can see you don't have to be an expert to do this but you can get really, really good at it. And remember, sketching is low tech.

I've been sketching seriously for a little over a year and this is some of what I've learned.

Paper:
There isn't an art supply store within 50 miles of my location so I bought my first sketchbook at Wal-Mart--a Crayola sketchbook with a picture of a squirrel in a party hat on the cover. :grin: It had lightweight paper but worked ok and I filled it. My sister-in-law, who is an artist, gave me a real sketchbook for Xmas--Strathmore 300 series medium weight paper. It's nice to have.

Pencils:
I use Sanford Turquoise graphite pencils from soft 9B,6B,4B to harder HB,3H. Graphite is less messy than charcoal and probably easier to use for the novice. I usually only use 2 or 3 pencils on any one sketch.

I agree with Pat--let the bright places emerge as you shade. Remember when you're shading to apply the graphite in layers, not all at one time.

I also have Sanford and Berol Prismacolor color pencils that I used when sketching Mars.

Tools:
For planets and EP drawings of DSO's, have a template prepared beforehand.

I use an artist's stump for blending--it's a must have for me--and a kneadable eraser.

Something that I just got is an eraser shield--recommended by Sol Robbins. :bow: I couldn't have done my sketch of the Venus transit without it.

In my experience, sketching lunar features is magnitudes harder than sketching planets. Don't get discouraged--the more you do, the better you'll get. This isn't rocket science. :cool:

You can get any supplies you need here: http://www.dickblick...gories/drawing/

That's it!

#6 Guest_**DONOTDELETE**_*

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Posted 01 July 2004 - 10:32 AM

I've just started to sketch the moon. I use ordinary printer paper and a #1 pencil. I use my finger to blend.
Eventually, I hope to get better equipment for sketching.
This will be a great thread. I've already found out about several interesting things I could get.
By the way, what exactly is an "eraser shield"?

#7 dgs©

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Posted 01 July 2004 - 10:41 AM

A thin metal sheet (usually around 2"×3" or so) with different size & shape openings in it. Place on the drawing with appropriate opening over the part that needs erasing and your eraser only gets to touch the exposed parts. Drafting supply stores used to have them... probably art supply stores too.

#8 desertstars

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Posted 01 July 2004 - 11:10 AM

Thank you one and all, and keep it coming! This is exactly what I hoped would come from asking this question.

I'll stick this one to the top so we can always find it when we need it, whether to learn from or add to.

:grin:

#9 Guest_**DONOTDELETE**_*

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Posted 01 July 2004 - 11:50 AM

Makes sense. Must be a very handy tool. It will have to get in line on my astronomy wish list! :lol:

#10 Special Ed

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Posted 01 July 2004 - 01:13 PM

Makes sense. Must be a very handy tool. It will have to get in line on my astronomy wish list! :lol:


Ian, you won't have to wish too hard--they cost less than $1. You can see a picture of an eraser shield at the dickblick website. I think it's under tools. (Edit--it's under Drawing and Lettering Aids)

Another advantage of sketching--most of the gear is very inexpensive.

#11 Tom L

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Posted 01 July 2004 - 03:40 PM

I want to know what an artist's stump is. Being an engineer, we had to take lots and lots of drafting classes. I have all this stuff and still use it for drafting the things I want to make...but I never came across an artist's stump...is that a gum eraser?

An eraser shield is $.50 and worth having if you are serious. Great thread!

#12 Guest_**DONOTDELETE**_*

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Posted 01 July 2004 - 04:14 PM

Another advantage of sketching--most of the gear is very inexpensive.


:jump:
I'll see if I can find a eraser shield. If I were to get three or so pencils, what types would you recommend? Also, what is the best paper? Does ordinary printer paper work, or is there something better out there?

#13 Special Ed

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Posted 01 July 2004 - 09:47 PM

I want to know what an artist's stump is. I never came across an artist's stump...is that a gum eraser?
An eraser shield is $.50 and worth having if you are serious. Great thread!


A stump is a blending tool. It's shaped like a pencil but sharpened on both ends and made out of soft paper felt. You clean and sharpen it on a piece of sandpaper. There's a picture at http://www.dickblick...gories/drawing/ under Charcoal and Graphite.

Ian, I was mistaken--eraser shields are under Drawing and Lettering Aids.

#14 Tom L

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Posted 01 July 2004 - 10:06 PM

Thanks Michael!

#15 Bill Grass

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Posted 01 July 2004 - 10:43 PM

Hey, Tom...you look a little different! :lol:

#16 Tim2723

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Posted 02 July 2004 - 08:27 AM

Ian,

This drawing set has everthing I use except an eraser shield, white charcoal (not really needed), and a sandpaper block (you can use an emmery board instead and it works fine). There's a typo, you only get one ebony pencil, but that's all you need for a loooong time. But you get hard medium and soft drawing pencils, hard and soft charcoal pencils, a good eraser, a pad of 60 pound paper, a blending stump and a sharpener (that's not so hot) for about $14.


http://www.dickblick...am=0&ig_id=1318


I got this set at Walmart for about $5 less, exactly the same thing.

I also bought one of those 10 pencil sets, but I ended up only using the hardest and softest ones. I'm not a good enough artist to use all the others. The charcoal and ebony pencils work really good for me though.

#17 desertstars

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Posted 02 July 2004 - 12:02 PM

Tom, you said in another thread that you'd seen a book on drawing the Moon. Did you have a chance to go back and try to relocate it?

#18 Special Ed

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Posted 02 July 2004 - 12:50 PM

Tim, you and Pat have both mentioned using charcoal pencils--I've only used graphite. You've probably used both kinds--can you describe the different effects you can get and the pros and cons?

Also, what is an ebony pencil? I assume that it is very dark but what is it made out of? I used a 9B to get very dark shadows in my last drawing--is it like that?

Thanks in advance.

#19 Peter Argenziano

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Posted 02 July 2004 - 01:57 PM

Great thread!
I haven't done any sketching in years... truth be known since I was at Kent State in the 70s...
I have been motivated to search the closets, and I came across a box with my sketching kit: Cretacolor, Kimberly, Eberhard Faber, Stabilo pencils in various degrees; blending stumps; assorted erasers; erasing shield; French curves; sanding pad; sharpener...
Stopped by Az Art Supply yesterday and got some paper: Strathmore series 300 (104 gsm) and 400 (130 gsm) in 9x12 pads.

Thanks for getting it started...

Peter

#20 Tim2723

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Posted 02 July 2004 - 04:05 PM

Hi Michael,

Pat will probably have a different use or opinion, which is great because sketching is one of those personal things!

I use both graphite and charcoal. I use very hard, medium and soft graphite for all the normal stuff, outlines, general shading, notes, etc. The charcoal (pencils only, I've never used the sticks) is for shading. A little charcoal on the darkest areas then smudged in with the blending stump. Charcoal can be really messy at the scope, and I've used it more to do finish work after observing.

I'm not sure what an ebony pencil is made out of, it might be a very dark graphite formula, but it is very, very black and gives, to my eye, the absolute dead black of the deepest lunar shadows. It's also very hard and holds a point well, so I can get nice clean delineations of shadow and bright light, such as the shadows of mountains.

#21 desertstars

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Posted 02 July 2004 - 04:24 PM

This drawing set has everthing I use except an eraser shield, white charcoal (not really needed), and a sandpaper block (you can use an emmery board instead and it works fine). There's a typo, you only get one ebony pencil, but that's all you need for a loooong time. But you get hard medium and soft drawing pencils, hard and soft charcoal pencils, a good eraser, a pad of 60 pound paper, a blending stump and a sharpener (that's not so hot) for about $14.


http://www.dickblick...am=0&ig_id=1318


I got this set at Walmart for about $5 less, exactly the same thing.


Looks like I've got an extra errand to run this weekend. :grin:

#22 Tim2723

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Posted 02 July 2004 - 04:52 PM

One of the nicest things about this seriously low-tech activity is that you can go crazy in the art supply section of Walmart, buy one of everything to try, and still not spend $50! Now a liquid cooled SBIG CCD camera, that's another story!

#23 desertstars

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Posted 02 July 2004 - 04:56 PM

And not a short story, either! :money:

#24 Tom L

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Posted 02 July 2004 - 10:40 PM

Tom, you said in another thread that you'd seen a book on drawing the Moon. Did you have a chance to go back and try to relocate it?


Hey Tom, I'll try to find it tomorrow...

#25 Tom L

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Posted 02 July 2004 - 10:45 PM

I went through my drafting kit and all my leads are for mechanical pencils...guess I'll be going to get some regular pencils. I was going to get a soft, medium and hard and find the stump and charcoal pencil...and a nice pad, unless i can find some of these around here.






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