Friday, August 5, 2022

Sweltering Arboretum

7/30/22 Arboretum

For our last graphite class with Kristin Frost, we met again at the Arboretum. Unlike the comfortable first time, however, the temperature was 90 degrees by afternoon. I was tempted to skip it, but with plenty of huge shade trees, the Arboretum seemed tolerable.

We found a heavily shaded spot at the Woodland Garden pond that kept us relatively cool. Dense with younger trees and foliage, the area was daunting to find a composition to draw. Not wanting to fry my brain more crisply than it already was, I chose a small scope where a slender tree’s branches formed an intriguing silhouetted frame for the surrounding foliage. I knew the branches would be easy enough to complete at home, so I focused on the challenging background during class. When I asked for feedback, Kristin suggested ways to evoke the density and depth of different kinds of foliage without getting trapped by trying to draw each leaf. I was too busy sweating and staying hydrated to get much done at the park, but I made a small patch of foliage as a memo to myself.

The next day I finished the small drawing at home. Although I had taken reference photos, I didn’t need to use them much – I had done most of the hard work on location, and all I had to do was darken the values and finish the foliage in the same way that I had done the patch on location.

Despite the heat, I’m glad I stuck the class out. With Kristin’s helpful feedback and instructive demos, I feel more confident now that I can tackle challenging subject matter like thick layers of foliage as well as portraits of individual trees.

Material notes: For this class, I chose Staedtler Mars Lumograph pencils, which are favorites of both Kristin’s and Suzanne Brooker’s (whose graphite class I took five years ago) but have never been mine. Much harder than Japanese pencils, they are also less smooth and sometimes have gritty spots. But as I’ve discovered with other pencils I previously haven’t cared for, on Stonehenge Lenox Cotton, the Staedtlers feel much more pleasant to use, and the paper’s light tooth retains and layers graphite beautifully. Using all my less-favored pencils for this class has taught me an important lesson: If I don’t like a particular pencil, I need to try it with a variety of papers. It might just be that I haven’t found the right partner for it.

As for Lenox Cotton, it’s now my favorite graphite and colored pencil paper, for sure! I haven’t yet used a pencil with it that has been disagreeable.


  1. Looks like you learned a lot in this graphite class. I like the way you are sketching the trees! Too bad it was so hot.

    1. Trees are a favorite subject matter, so it's been a pleasure to study and observe them closely in this class.


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