When I travel the three items I must have besides my sketchbook are a Derwent 9B pencil, pencil sharpener and a blending stump. I use these items to do a quick sketch technique I learned from David Rankin’s outstanding book “Fast Sketching Techniques.”
For this fast sketch technique I like the Derwent Graphic 9B pencil. These buggers are hard to find and when I do find them when I travel, I tend to buy the store out. I will use an 8B or an ebony pencil, but, only in a pinch. This 9B has a fluid, buttery feel to it that is unique.
Of coarse with a wooden pencil you will need a pencil sharpener. Surprisingly I’ve found that most museum and gallery gift shops (like the National Portrait Gallery in London, above) carry pencil sharpeners. It’s important that you have a sharpener that collects the shavings and lead so it doesn’t get all over the inside of your backpack, pocket or plane seat. I usually carry my sharpener inside a zip-lock bag for further protection.
Blending stumps are what makes this fast sketching technique so versatile. Because the 9B lead is very soft it can easily be picked up with the stumps. The stumps then become a pencil (or brush) on their own and the lead can be transferred to other areas on the page. You can create a water color look and create delicate shading. It takes practice but, it is oh so worth it.
A landscape Sketch in One Minute
To follow is a series of images showing how I apply the the fast sketching technique using the 9B pencil and blending Stumps
The above sketch took me about one minute. I like to use this technique while riding in a vehicle (car, tour bus, boat). Its amazing how much detail you can record within seconds while going 50 mph.
A Detailed Sketch Using the Quick Sketch Technique
I use the 9B pencil and stumps when I get back home from my trips by using notes and photos I’ve taken. Below is an image I did for my Iditarod sketch book. I was a volunteer for the Iditarod for two years. The volunteers worked hard giving me little time to sketch let alone sleep. I took plenty of photos and notes on index cards. Below is a sketch of fellow volunteer Josh Capps when we were at the Koyuk checkpoint. This image of Josh is from a group photo I took while in Koyuk.
The key to sketching from photos is the same as when working from life—don’t get bogged down in details. Notice the way the lines are placed on the figure. Good line work can indicate volume, shape and depth.
The best drawing tool is practice. Use the techniques I’ve covered and practice, practice, practice. Go to your local library and see if Rankin’s book is available. Good Sketching!!!