Shadow was a welcome return to graphite for me, after some time using pastels for more colourful artworks. As with anything you haven’t done for a while it took a little time to get back into the groove with my trusty pencils. My approach with pencil, pastel and coloured pencil is always to build layers gradually which allows me plenty of opportunities to adjust as I go, and as I worked on this horse and studied the image I was able to see more and more nuances in the tones.
Much like a musician will hear things in a piece of music that I am not attuned to, visual art has trained me to see more subtleties than many would notice. This skill comes with years of really looking, and allows me to accurately represent the musculature of, in this case a horse. As I learn the way the light falls and the hair grows it informs the true shapes and form. This is a big part of the adventure of drawing for me, it is like detective work, piecing together lots of different information points to create a whole.
The original artwork of Shadow is available to purchase, and I am currently accepting commissions for portraits. For more information about these or any other artwork please contact me.
I have been working on this beautiful horse drawing alongside drawing Shadow. The two pieces take quite different approaches. Shadow is in graphite pencil on white paper, which are familiar tools to all of us, whereas this drawing is being created with white coloured pencil on black paper.
I wanted to draw another horse and when I was looking for inspiration there were a few that caught my eye, so I decided to immerse myself in this pair of monochrome portraits for a while.
Drawing with white on black like this is a highly effective method as it gives the strongest contrasts and therefore a lot of drama and potency to the image. I have a number of white on black drawings in my gallery, and after some years of working this way it is now comfortably familiar to me, though it is not something I would recommend to a novice artist as it can be very confusing.
We are most familiar with reading and writing on a white page and therefore highly attuned to seeing the darker marks that form words and images. We are not aware of it but we focus on shadows when seeing in this way, but switch the page for one that is black and now you need to attune yourself to the highlights, pushing the brightest values and in turn creating the shadows by the absence of mark making. It requires us to see and draw tonally in reverse, which certainly takes some getting used to. It is a technique that I love and once mastered is faster than my graphite work, and for those pictures which are heavy on the darker values it is a striking and most effective approach.
Many thanks to Paul B Nash for this photograph of my work in progress.
Looking back though my posts here I have realised that this is the first graphite pencil drawing that I have completed in many months. Coloured pencil and then pastels have dominated my creativity for some time, and after all of the glorious hues I found myself craving the relative simplicity of monochrome.
Working on this drawing I found it took a little while to get back onto the swing of drawing with graphite. The muscle memory is all there but like any skill it can need a bit of waking up when you first return to it. I have named this portrait Shadow. I do not know what name the horse goes by, but it seemed a fitting title as I was chasing the shadows over this page for a long time. After thinking I had completed it last night I realised that there was still more depth required in the shading when I looked again with fresh eyes this morning.
Art is so often elusive like that; you think you are done then you look again and realise not. You know something is not quite right but try as you might you can’t see what needs adjusting for the longest time. You are sure that your likeness is accurate than suddenly an error makes itself glaringly obvious. This is why when I first finish a portrait I always have in the back of my mind the knowledge that I may realise it still needs something else. I will come back to it a couple more times after time away doing other things before I can confidently say that it is the best that I can do right now.