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  • Writer's pictureElizabeth De Cicco

Refined Graphite Rendering, Week 3

My last Graphite Rendering class at NYBG went really well. I had collected a variety of specimens for this class and my Pen & Ink finals. I chose a large bolete , Boletus oliveisporus and applied pastel dust with a soft paint brush. I was working on Bristol plate again, which allows graphite to shimmer on the surface. I mixed my pastels on a scrap of sketch paper to create a warm-cool shift with a limited color palette.





I completed the entire illustration in class starting with the initial sketch and transfer. I used harder graphite pencils for the first layers, pastel dust, and some Prismacolor Verithins in the stipe. The graphite layers provided all the tone I needed, so they served as a grisaille. I lifted the highlights on the cap and stipe with a kneaded eraser. I found myself using a #6 and #0 brush for graphite and pastel dust more than my blending stumps. The soft pastels blended very cleanly and the drawing has an extremely smooth, matte look of a vintage illustration. My teacher suggested that I do Renaissance fakes next.


I also started my final project for this class on the recommended paper, Strathmore Series 500 Bristol Vellum. I normally like this paper for graphite, but I noticed that it did not give the same glow to my illustration. I still have a few days before I need to submit the assignment, so I'm setting it aside for now. Technically, though, it is complete. I want to accentuate the flower of the waterlily, so I shouldn't add much more detail to the leaf. The pastel technique left a clean resist in the veins. If I were to completely start over, I would have erased the transfer in the waterlily entirely rather than blending it into the shadows of the petals. With no lines, I would have had gleaming white edges around the pastel.


My range of graphite was 5H in the petals and 2H with a smudge of B in the stem. I used pastel chalks for most of the color. The stamens needed more intensity, so I used lemon yellow-yellow ochre Polychromos with violet Verithin as a shadow. I lifted some final highlights and took a risk with white Prismacolor and a colorless wax blender in the petals. This should seal the pastel in place, but ironically it darkened areas that I hoped to lighten. The drawing is extremely soft and airy, with pastel floating on the textured surface.


If I do any editing, I might brighten the green in the sepals with Cadmium yellow lemon and add one more layer to the leaf and stems. The pastels on this toothy paper have such a unique, vintage effect that I don't want to over-render the illustration. I couldn't emulate this in watercolor, it would be too clean. It almost looks like I stole this from the Biodiversity Library.

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