Biffy

Hi, I’m back, – of a sort, anyway. Since I prepared this post a while ago and it didn’t need much tweaking, I have quickly finalised it for upload. I hope you will enjoy.

Still the little bee sits and waits unfinished and wet on its wet flower. In the meantime Biffy, a lovely dalmatian, came to life in this A4 sized drawing. An initial blunder with the proportions necessitated a re-start, that time with grid to make smooth progress easier.

'Biffy'. Graphite pencil on A4 watercolour paper.

‘Biffy’. Graphite pencil on A4 watercolour paper.

I am finding that, as I am getting older, rather than getting faster with my drawings, I seem to spend more time on each one. It could be that I am putting more detail into the drawings as my experience grows, I’m not sure, but a lot has to do with it getting harder to concentrate and focus on drawing minute details for long periods at a time. I won’t even start on all the usual household chores that haven’t yet figured out how to do themselves, and have a habit of appearing at all sorts of inconvenient and annoying times. That makes it very difficult to keep track of the hours I actually spend on a portrait like this. I tried this time, but again lost count half way through, with there having been so many stops and starts and working periods of varying lengths. If I had to hazard an educated guess I would probably estimate it having been around the 20 hour mark. Should anyone have a trick up their sleeve how to do this effectively and with reasonable accuracy, please let me know. But bear in mind that I am not prone to taking notes every time I pick up a pencil for 10 minutes.

To do Biffy’s portrait I was supplied with a handful of photographs via email, one of which the client had specified as their preference. The fact that I had good quality photographs with a decent resolution on my computer was extremely helpful as it allowed me to manipulate the images depending on which details I was working on.

I was not entirely satisfied with the way the heavyweight cartridge paper that I used for the portrait of Tyson handled the graphite. It seemed difficult to achieve the gradiations in tone that I am accustomed to with the light weight version, although it allowed very detailed work with fine pencils. For Biffy I tried a watercolour paper which looks whiter and smoother than any of the cartridge papers I have used in the past. Being intended for watercolours it isn’t completely smooth, but the ridges and valleys on it are comparatively gentle. No doubt that is why Daler Rowney call it ‘Aquafine smooth’ Watercolour. At 300 g/m² it is pretty heavy, and with the price for the 12 sheet A4 pad working out at nearly 50p a sheet it isn’t altogether cheap.

My pencil palette has still been somewhat limited for this one, – a 6B pencil, along with 0.5mm mechanical pencils in 2B, HB and H (or was it 2H?) was the complete range employed in the creation of this portrait. And a putty rubber, of course. An essential piece of kit.

Overall I was impressed with the paper, it accepted tonal gradiations and fine detail happily where I wanted them. I did get the impression though, that where a lot of graphite had been laid down to achieve deep blacks, some of the depth may have been lost over time, so it is perhaps not as capable as other papers to hold on to thick layers of graphite without fixative. Still, a respectable result, I think. I will be using that paper again.

So, now for the bee….or maybe I should get the brushes and paints out for a change ? Hm…

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6 thoughts on “Biffy

  1. I’m looking forward to the bee but Biffy is a delightful interlude. You’ve managed to make the muzzle look so soft and strokeable, it’s a lovely result.

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