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Fantasy Art Tutorials in the FARP Section



Pencil Drawing Techniques

By :-) Jessica A. Taylor


Fantasy artists use imagination as a basis for their creations, they utilize some form of realism, cleverly intertwined with the extraordinary to create powerful art. Fantasy artists often use precise techniques to realistically portray the texture, structure and lighting of objects from reality together with imaginary elements, (monsters, wings etc.) challenging our perception of of the world and stretching the boundaries of our imagination. Pencils, because of their accuracy can be daunting but equally beautiful, ideal for photo realism to cartoons and obviously, fantasy art.

As fantasy art often demands realistic and precise drawing I am concentrating on more refined drawing techniques, although I will briefly touch on sketching skills.

Getting Started

Once you have decided on your subject, you will need to choose the best techniques and materials for your work of pencil genius.

Pencils, a Brief Overview

Pencils range in hardness and blackness from 9H to 9B. Pencil manufacturers use the letter "H" to indicate a hard pencil and "B" to designate the blackness of the pencil's mark. The letter "F" indicates that the pencil sharpens to a fine point. 9H pencil is the hardest pencil available. 9B is the softest pencil you can get and it will create the darkest lines. My ‘pencil kit’ ranges from 2H to 2B, but I recommend using up to a 6B for deep shadows and bold, dark lines. You will find that any harder that 2H is quite difficult to use and may create dents in your paper.

For fine details, you will often require a sharp pencil, or a mechanical pencil. Using a sharp or mechanical pencil with keep all your strokes fine and small.

Paper & Other Materials

You will also require good quality paper, an eraser and a sharpener. Make sure you have a clean and uncluttered desk to draw on, or if that is impossible or you are outside, draw on a solid clipboard with a bulldog clip to stop your paper from flying.

You might find the kneaded rubber eraser to be an invaluable tool for eliminating erroneous lines and softening tone as you have a lot more control than a generic rubber. Using a patting technique you can gently lighten areas which are too dark, or to harmonize incongruent tone. (Or you might find it a complete waste of money, as personally, I hate kneaded erases, they are too malleable, and when molded to a fine point never stay that way.)

Your papers’ texture can drastically determine the kind of drawing you will create, and may require different pencils. Drawing realistically, with plenty of details requires smoother paper, characterized by not very much tooth (texture) so that the individual pencil strokes are barely evident. Rough paper holds more graphite than smooth paper, allowing your drawings to have deeper shadows, and more contrast, though the grainy texture of rough paper makes it difficult to render fine detail. Drawing on smooth paper requires softer pencils to create dark shades.

Medium paper give the best of both worlds (purchase it if you are unsure of your own preference), paper with enough ‘tooth’ to grasp the graphite without producing a metallic sheen, but smooth enough to allow for the application of relatively fine detail. I draw on 100% cotton Rag paper, which is long lasting and gives me the freedom to watercolour my drawings.

Holding Your Pencil

To draw with a pencil skillfully you must be able to hold your pencil in a comfortable position where you have optimal control. If you have pain in the hand or shoulder after a long drawing session, it could be an indication of holding your pencil ‘incorrectly’. Don’t grip relentlessly to your pencil, and drive it into your paper with your entire body weight! The paper is not your enemy, soothe it with delicate, beautiful pencil stokes and it with reward your poise with a lovely drawing.

There is no real ‘correct’ way to hold a pencil when drawing; it is a matter of personal preference, and comfort. Experiment with different grips (perhaps the way you hold your fork or maybe in a similar way to how you hold chopsticks).

Drawing Techniques

The technique you use will habitually be determined by the initial purpose of your drawing, or the aspirations you have for the illustration. Sketching for a watercolour would require an entirely different technique than that for a detailed photo-realistic drawing. You have most likely seen the techniques cross-hatching, circles, scribbles and contour lines and you may have even experimented with a couple, but have you ever completed your final work with these techniques?

Before you start experimenting make sure you know…


It won’t hurt to go over them

Objects appear smaller as they move back away from your eye and equally objects drawn larger appear closer!

Lines and surfaces are their largest closest to the picture plane.

Lines or edges that are parallel appear to meet as they recede from the picture plane.

All vertical lines are parallel when using one point perspective (the viewer is not looking up or down at the objects)

Objects drawn in front of one another appear closer (overlapping!)

Images further away will appear lighter, with less contrast and detail.

For more information on perspective visit ‘Perspective’ by Scott E. 'Sven' Johnson

Cross Hatching

Ideal for sketching, cross-hatching is predominantly used by pen artists, but creates tonal depth and can produce realistic textures when employed with pencil.

Cross Hatching is ideal when creating a ‘light map’ for your piece. By ‘light map’, I mean the paths in which light takes across your subject. By using different directional strokes, you leave an indication of the different light sources and their strength. Using a compact and meticulous crosshatching technique one can create breathtakingly realistic art. When the individual lines are tightly woven they can be undetectable, and the overall impression smooth, realistic and accurate. I highly recommend visiting Michael James May’s Gallery, if you are interested in the amazing capabilities of this technique. Check out ‘Beast’ and ‘Beast Detail’, they’re unbelievable!

Circles and Scribbles

Are wonderful techniques for loosening up your drawing hand. The movement itself is relaxing. Circles and scribbles are a great method for making a distinction between objects of similar tone, by creating contrasting textures. The overall effect is dynamic, with its unique texture and energy. The technique is wild, and inspires you to release your creativity by using intertwining and overlapping circles. And best of all, it’s simple!

Contour Lines

Give shape and volume to your drawings using simple lines! Contour lines follow the hills, slopes, curves and edges of your shapes and are a great way to explore the scope of the space, and the dimensional capabilities of your paper. Creating a contour line sketch can greatly aid and enhance your definitive work by planning the direction of your pencil strokes.

Smooth Shading

Apply continuous tone, varying your pressure gradually to create smooth shade. Create a ‘wash’ with your pencil and make the transition from light to dark in one continuous stroke, using the side of your pencil may help in the initial coat. At random, vary the stopping and starting point of your strokes to avoid unwanted bands running through an area of shading. Repeat the action, until the values are dark enough, and you have shown the most delicate, subtle areas of tonal change with different pencils. Start with your lightest pencil, as it is easier to make your drawing darker than to make it lighter but do not force the pencil to make values out of its limits. Pushing your pencil to make darker shade will create a metallic sheen, very undesirable in areas of shadow or could cause dents in your paper. Smooth shading can use combinations of circular shading and contour lines to bring more depth into your drawing. Practicing this technique is imperative to create realistic shade, and allows you to use ultimate scope of tonal values with the highest degree of accuracy.

Now lets apply these techniques to create a finished product -->>

Book recommendations
   Sketching With A Pencil: For Those Who Are Just Beginning
Hamilton explains, in a fine text accompanied by many simple sketches and finished drawings, how to sketch. He succeeds in encouraging development of competence and increasing satisfaction for amateur artists using the simple materials of paper, pencil, and eraser. Concentrates on fundamentals: how to hold a pencil and compose a drawing; and creating the illusions of depth and distance.
[More info!]

   Pencil Sketching, 2nd Edition (Paperback)
The complete, classic guide to the art of pencil sketching. So many art books give long-winded descriptions of what to do, and even how to do it, yet they fail to capture the essence of what makes a drawing good. Wang concentrates on simple elements and rules of thumb, providing a wealth of wisdom in a few words and pictures.
[More info!]

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