Sunday, November 6, 2022

More Penciled Critters


11/1/22 graphite, Stillman & Birn Zeta sketchbook

I’m continuing to work my way through France Van Stone’s “Critters” crosshatching exercises with colored and graphite pencils. My intention was to eventually use Bic ballpoint, but after InkTober ended, it just felt too good to have pencils in my hand again. Despite that, I do think crosshatching as a technique looks better with ink than with pencil, so I’m sure I’ll eventually get back to my Bics.

Though the most straightforward of these, Oogie the Bassett hound (at right) was my favorite (those eyes!). With a vintage 6B Dixon graphite pencil, the darkest values were easy to crosshatch quickly.

In a lesson on birds, France demo’d an interesting compositional challenge: Overlap two birds in the drawing. She talked about how such overlapping gives the sketchbook page a spontaneous, un-precious look that appeals to her, and I agree. In other videos, she has shown page spreads from her sketchbooks with several unrelated, overlapping sketches that nonetheless look cohesive because they are all done with the same crosshatched technique. With these birds (a kingfisher and a songbird), it was difficult to resist all the appealing details and colors that help identify bird species, but crosshatching is all about not looking at details and instead focusing on form and values.

11/2/22 Caran d'Ache bicolor pencil, S&B Zeta sketchbook

When France demo’d this cow, she implied the local colors (brown and white) with the density of her crosshatching while also indicating the forms and cast shadows. In the time I gave myself, I didn’t think I would be able to do all that, so I made the decision to focus only on form and shadows, not local color.

11/3/22 Midori graphite and colored pencils, S&B Alpha sketchbook

I almost never mix graphite with colored pencil, and pale blue and orange are probably not colors I would have chosen for this cow. But since these Midori MD Paper Products pencils just happened to be lying on my desk, I used them. I’ll be reviewing them soon at the Well-Appointed Desk, but for now, I’ll just say that the colored pencils are softer than I expected and a good pairing with the slightly toothy Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook I used.

I enjoy how speedy this kind of messy crosshatching is with any medium. I’m getting better at gauging where I need to spend more time and attention to reach a certain degree of completion within 30 minutes. With reference photos, making that assessment early in the game is easy. Doing that on location would be a different experience, I think, and will be my ultimate challenge (and always my goal for anything I study). (All reference photos below provided by France Van Stone.)


  1. You are doing so well with the animals. I just love the look of the Basset hound and the cow. You used different media for each, but they both look great!

    1. Thanks! I'm having so much fun with these... much less stressful than people! ;-)


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