Travel Journal Tip No. 4: Using a 9B Pencil & Blending Stump

Quick sketches done with Derwent 9B pencil and blending stump.

Quick sketches done with Derwent 9B pencil and blending stump.

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.”

Fast-Sketching-Techiques

A great reference on learning to sketch from life. One of my top ten books.

Click here for a pdf on fast sketching faces with David Rankin.

Derwent 9B pencil.

Derwent 9B pencil.

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.

Pencil sharpener that contains the shaving is a must.

Pencil sharpener that contains the shaving is a must.

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 carried inside a snack-sized zip-lock to keep them from marking up surfaces you don't want them to mark.

Blending stumps carried inside a snack-sized zip-lock to keep them from marking up surfaces you don’t want them to mark.

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

Pick an interesting scene to sketch such as these Alaskan Mountains.

Pick an interesting scene to sketch such as these Alaskan Mountains.

Step one: Frame your subject. I've done this so often that I can quickly decide what format to do my sketch (landscape, portrait, circle, etc).

Step One: Frame your subject. I’ve done this so often that I can quickly decide what format to do my sketch (landscape, portrait, circle, etc).

Step 2: I quickly put down an outline of the scene in front of me. I squint to eliminate most of the details in front of me.

Step Two: I quickly put down an outline of the scene in front of me. I squint to eliminate most of the details in front of me.

Step Three: Fill in the darkest areas in your landscape.

Step Three: Fill in the darkest areas in your landscape.

Step Four: Once the dark areas have been done, I use the stump to "drag" lead to areas I want to add value to. The dark areas will also become darker when you rub over them with a stump.

Step Four: Once the dark areas have been done, I use the stump to “drag” lead to areas I want to add value to. The dark areas will also become darker when you rub over them with a stump.

Step Five: I now go back and forth between adding lead with the pencil and blending with a stump.

Step Five: I now go back and forth between adding lead with the pencil and blending with a stump.

Step six: With the pencil I will add to the darkest areas and put in a few sharp lines with the pencil to make it look sharp. Then I stop.

Step six: With the pencil I will add to the darkest areas and put in a few sharp lines with the pencil to make it look sharp. Then I stop.

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.

Step One: I wanted to use both pages of sketch book (called a spread). The first step is to make an outline of your image you want to draw. I use a mechanical pencil for this stage.

Step One: I wanted to use both pages of sketch book (called a spread). The first step is to make an outline of your image you want to draw. I use a mechanical pencil for this stage.

Step Two: Fill in all the darks and outlines with 9B pencil. Notice that I use a clean piece of paper to rest my hand to prevent smearing the soft lead.

Step Two: Fill in all the darks and outlines with 9B pencil. Notice that I use a clean piece of paper to rest my hand to prevent smearing the soft lead.

Darks and outlines are complete.

Darks and outlines are complete.

Step Three: go over image with blending stump. Don't over do it. Go back over image with pencil if it gets to "muddy" looking. The key to a nice sketch is to have contrast (darks next to lights).

Step Three: go over image with blending stump. Don’t over do it. Go back over image with pencil if it gets to “muddy” looking. The key to a nice sketch is to have contrast (darks next to lights).

IMPORTANT: Any pencil sketch should be sprayed with a Fixative as soon as you can. Remember always use a well ventilated area and spray  a test piece first before art work. The fixative keeps the soft lead from smearing and "offsetting" to the opposite page.

IMPORTANT: Any pencil sketch should be sprayed with a Fixative as soon as you can. Remember always use a well ventilated area and spray a test piece first before art work. The fixative keeps the soft lead from smearing and “offsetting” to the opposite page.

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!!!

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2 Comments

Filed under Travel Journal

2 responses to “Travel Journal Tip No. 4: Using a 9B Pencil & Blending Stump

  1. Glad I found this. I’ll put my 9B to use better now!

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