Wednesday, September 5, 2018


9/4/18 Seward Park

For our last Drawing Nature class, we met at Seward Park on the south end of Lake Washington. On a clear day, Mt. Rainier can be seen in full view from this park, so it’s a favorite among plein air painters (including instructor Kathleen Moore, who had told us about that view). Early yesterday morning, I spotted “the mountain” from near my house, so I was hoping it would still be visible by afternoon. Alas, although cloudless, the sky was just hazy enough near the horizon that Rainier was invisible.

No matter. I was just as happy drawing this stand of poplars at the shoreline casting a tangle of shadows. For my last class assignment, I debated whether to again use the charcoal pencils that I had befriended last week, but the temperature was so comfortable and the light so lovely that I wanted a slower medium. I wanted to indulge in this end-of-summer treat for as long as possible. Using three grades of graphite, I took two-and-a-half hours to compose this 7-by-8-inch drawing carefully and build the values gradually.

In addition to getting over my charcoal anxiety and exploring graphite further, I learned more about making strong compositions in this very enjoyable class. Kathleen was immensely helpful in pointing out small changes I could make to improve my compositions. For example, I hadn’t yet decided what to do behind the trees. I could see the lake and the opposite shoreline between them, but my impulse was to leave it all blank back there as I often do with sketches (especially when I’m not sure what to do). She pointed out the triangular shape made by the water, which further emphasized the strong diagonal I had created with the line of trees, and I realized immediately that it would strengthen the composition.

Paper note: I’ve lately been using a different paper with graphite (and last week’s charcoal): Borden & Riley drawing paper with a vellum surface, which has a tooth somewhere between Bristol smooth and cold press watercolor paper. The texture is pleasant to use with graphite, which grabs on well but still erases easily. I have yet to try it with the Bajzek method, however, so I’m eager to do that. So far I’ve had better results with smoother finishes when using his techniques, but I’m adding this vellum and a Strathmore Bristol vellum to my ongoing paper tests anyway. (You know – for science.)


  1. You are getting such great results with the graphite. This is a WOW!!! I love the soft shadows on the path. Well done!

    1. Thank you, Joan! I was really in the "zone" while working on this -- I enjoyed it so much!


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