Sunday, July 31, 2022

The Tree Next Door


7/26/22 graphite on Stonehenge Lenox Cotton

More than a year ago, on a freakishly warm day for April, I went out on our back deck to sketch a tree I marvel at every time I’m out there. It belongs to our neighbors. Strangely pruned, at least on the side we can see, the missing foliage reveals an amazing branching structure.

Knowing that the comfortable day was an anomaly, and I couldn’t count on more, I used an ArtGraf water-soluble carbon pencil so that I could finish the sketch in one sitting. Although I was happy with the sketch, I felt I hadn’t done the tree full justice; it deserved the details, delicacy and full attention of pure graphite. I vowed to do again someday.

Inspired by Kristin Frost’s class, I decided it was time to do it right – and I knew the forecast of many consecutive dry, warm days would give me the time I needed (it took three days, an hour or two each day). This time I included a suggestion of foliage in the composition, which I had totally avoided last time – with good reason. Compared to the limbs and trunk, it was terribly challenging! I’m not happy with that part, but I did give that complex branching structure the close study it deserves.

Material and tool notes: As I’ve been doing in Kristin’s classes, I chose a graphite set I rarely use – the Kitaboshi Art Set. Unlike the others, though, which haven’t been my favorites, I enjoy using Kitaboshi, but I sort of forget about them because I seem to reach for Mitsubishi Hi-Unis or Tombows first. Kitaboshi are truly under-rated among Japanese graphite pencils. For this drawing, they were a pure joy to use on Stonehenge Lenox Cotton paper.  

My outdoor studio fully equipped with Kitaboshi pencils, Uni sharpener and iced tea.

I’ve also been using a new tool lately with graphite drawings: the SmudgeGuard Glove. As a lefty, I’ve learned to live with smeary, smudgy writing, and it doesn’t bother me. The only time I get annoyed is when I’m working on a graphite drawing, and I see the mess I’m making – both on my drawing and on my hand. (And that’s not even a lefty issue; righty artists make smudgy graphite messes as much as lefties do.) I decided to try this weird-looking glove with only one finger – and it works! A full review will be published at the Well-Appointed Desk soon, but for now, I’ll just say that it does the job: Keeps me from smudging my work as I go, keeps my hand clean, and prevents transfer of graphite from my hand to the paper.
Edited 8/1/22: Here's the review at the Well-Appointed Desk.

SmudgeGuard Glove


  1. What!? WHAT!? There is such a thing as a glove to prevent smudging?? You know where I am going.
    I did not realize you did this tree last time in water-soluble graphite (although you do say so in the tag), it looks so clean. But, comparing it to this graphite tree...Wow! The way you handled the graphite has imbued the tree with an ethereal luminescence that is awesome! Well done!!
    Anne (HwH)

    1. Thanks so much, Anne! I do think regular graphite has a greater range that captures more luminosity, or maybe it's just that I took more time with this one. A lefty like you needs this glove! Seriously, who knew??!

  2. I love the delicate look to this! Super job on this tree!!

    Interesting to hear about the glove. Please include a link to your review here. I am curious.

    1. Thank you, Joan! And I will update this page when the review is live.


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