Graphite pencil and white pencil - Portrait Rifleman

Here is a sketch I am currently working on of a living historian in a British Army Rifleman uniform 1854. I have been trying to practice getting my dark values with as light a pencil as possible, to avoid my sketches becoming too dark. This is on grey Srathmore paper. So far I have only used 5h pencil and a white pencil for the highlights.


Great job with the facial features and a lot of detail with the ear.

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Thank you very much. I always get comments on the ears I draw or paint! Lol I guess it is because I hate them and so make more of an effort! :joy::ear:

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5H pencil only! You really master the use of graphite. Great work, once again.:smiling_face_with_three_hearts:

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Thank you. Matt’s videos are a great help! :grinning: Yes 5h. I found it really surprising the difference in values that I could achieve with just the one pencil. It is a good experiment so far. There are a few areas that I intend to use a darker and softer pencil to increase the intensity, but I want to use this very sparingly. haven’t decided where or how soft yet. I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it! :grinning:

very beautiful sketch

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Wow James! I really like where this one is going! The cross contours are really working to create the illusion of form here. Love the highlights!

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I am impressed and inspired… my ask if this is free hand or did you use a grid method? I like the contrast in tone. 5H only… that is amazing control

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Thanks Matt! :+1: Really pleased so far.

Hi Frankie. Thank you! I did this free hand and pretended the photo on my iPad was a live model and used the sight size method holding up my pencil to the image and corrected as I go. I have also made it 2/5’s larger. I find I enjoy it a lot more. I find the grid method a bit too mathematical tbh. However, I do use it occasionally if I am working on something that is particularly challenging or giving me a headache getting it right. Lots of corrections as I go and also, as an aside, having watched the videos about erasers I am completely converted to using putty erasers! Great tool! :grinning::+1:

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One thing I find frustrating Matt, is that whenever I photograph my graphite work, I find my IPad camera flattens or deadens some of the shading areas and possibly even contrasts some of the transitions a bit more? Either that or it is changing my view of the image and forcing me to look at it with a different eye! :wink: Do you think the former is possible? Down to camera or perhaps lighting? Any advise would be welcome if you have noticed this can happen. iPad camera is just so convenient! Cheers

Hi James, I feel your pain! I used to use my iPhone to photograph art, but with the new features and iOS “upgrades”, they’ve changed the way the camera works. It now automatically turns on HDR, which stands for High Dynamic Range. This makes the darks darker and the lights lighter - essentially creating greater contrast. This isn’t good for photographing art. You can turn off the HDR manually before taking a photo, but it still does a poorer job than it did before. I’ve been forced to switch to using a manual camera or my overhead video camera set on manual to photograph. I use three 5600K lights - one on each side and a ring shaped light overhead. The lens of the camera is positioned through the ring light pointed directly down on the art. This does limit the size of art that I can photograph with the max being about 20" by 36". But since most of my art is small, it’s not that big of a deal.

I plan on doing a video of my studio soon (tour). You’ll be able to see the equipment that I use and the lighting when that video is released.

Photoshop is invaluable for fixing the lighting irregularities and the distortion that sometimes occurs when photographing your art.

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“avoid my sketches becoming too dark”…:cat:
Well, working with a single ballpoint pen alone, I think I know what you mean by this. It’s always like treading on thin ice. A bit darker? Yes…maybe a bit more…a little bit more…OMG! Why has it become so dark !? kind of thing :cat::cat::cat:
I look forward to seeing the completed version :raising_hand_woman:

By the way, why does everyone here choose to take photographs of their works? I usually use a scanner, and if you’re working on a large work which cannot be scanned using a home-product scanner, you can have your works scanned by some professional scanning service. Is it too expensive maybe?

Thanks Matt, I thought it was probably the camera, but at least I know why now. Cheers for the info. I will look out for the studio vid! :+1::grinning:

@Maki I can’t answer for everyone, but there are a number of reasons I don’t scan them at the moment, most of which are practical reasons and others are around convenience.

I don’t own a scanner, but I have thought that it might produce better electronic images, but if I get one I would like one that scans A3 without having to scan it in batches tbh. I have a 7month baby at home, so this always ends up at the bottom of the priority list spending wise. :wink: Living, as I do, in a small country village it isn’t really doable or worth the cost for me to go into town and get it scanned in, effectively just to share my sketchbook studies online. A proper finished piece obviously is a different story. The other thing is that I do oil paintings as well, which I have never heard of people scanning? At least not without very hi tech gear? :thinking: Happy to be proved wrong though if you or anyone else have done it?

That’s my reason anyway! I am sure other people may have different reasons. Cheers :+1::grinning:

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Hi James, many thanks for your response.

I understand your very practical reasons, but I am a bit surprised that you haven’t heard of scanning of oil painting. We have some non-contact type of scanning services available for oil paintings in Japan, and as you say, it indeed uses a very hi tech gear. I believe the same kind of services are available in the UK too. I don’t know if these services can be used remotely, i.e. by sending the original works by courier and receiving the digital data online.

I understand photographs will suffice for your casual sketches, ongoing works, but for proper finished works, scanning might be more appropriate especially if you’re submitting your works for the screening of some art contests. Interestingly, this Tokyo-based scanning company accepts English inquiry, so if you’re interested, you can ask them if they know any services like theirs in the UK or if they accept a scanning request from the UK. Cheers :beers:

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Thanks for the links Maki. Sorry I wasn’t clear enough above. I have heard of printing companies scanning oil paintings, to turn them into professional prints etc etc. I meant more i haven’t heard whether other people tend to use the standard contact scanners that you can purchase as an individual to scan their oil paintings. I would imagine there are a number of reasons why this would be a bad idea, not to mention awkward, but it isn’t something I have given much thought to, so was wondering out loud really. :thinking: Cheers

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I’ll chime in again here. I have scanned in the past and now I photograph. Scanning is great but there a few issues that arise. One, the scanning bed is limited in size. I know this pretty obvious, but it is a drawback. For even a medium sized work, you’ll need to piece the work together in an editor. And if your scans aren’t perfectly executed, you’ll have distortion.

A scan bed also sometimes picks up the material, like pastel dust for example. Dusty art materials and electronics do not mix well together. And if you don’t clean the scan bed properly, the next work you place on it could get marred. This happened once to me.

Scanning also sometimes picks up the texture of the paper or canvas. This results in textures that aren’t usually noticeable when viewing the art in person. And depending on the scanner, the values may be different with each scan.

I’ve also found that even when an piece is scanned, you’ll still need to do adjustments in an editor to make the image true to life.

Cameras have come a long way and even a phone can take great, usable images of art at a very high resolution.

It was quite a while back when I was in art school. Back then, we created slides and used cameras to photograph the art. Scanners were available and it annoyed me that my professors insisted on photographing the art. I wanted to scan. But I’ve learned the limitations of scanning and the benefits of photographing and see why we were influenced to learn how to take photos of our art.

For small dust-less work on surfaces that aren’t textured, scanning is great. But for everything else, I think the camera is the best option.

Neither solution is perfect and each has its drawbacks. I think it’s best to use whatever works best for you and whatever is more comfortable.


Hi James, thank you for your response. My apologies, I took it wrong. :sweat_drops:Furthermore now I realise I should have asked this question in Member’s Minute, instead of asking you personally.
Now that Matt has kindly clarified the pros and cons of using scanning or photos, I am convinced perfectly.
Thank you Matt, for the detailed explanation.:+1:

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No worries. All good stuff! :grinning::+1:

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Cheers Matt. Going to save me a few pounds on a scanner then! :grinning::+1:

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