It’s been a while since I wrote a post on what’s happening with my art, so this is the first of a few, as I have been quite busy!

This is my current WIP (work in progress) and my first foray into using graphite for some considerable time!

The pencils I have used are the 9000 series by Faber Castell and the paper is the Strathmore Bristol Smooth Vellum which I find really lovely for using with the graphite pencils. To achieve the very dark areas, I used a Mars Lumograph pencil in the 8B, although I find this little set of 6 quite useful as an addition. The Mars Lumograph pencil also has the added advantage of covering some of that graphite shine you can get when you’ve worked a dark into an area.

Some artists don’t mind this at all, but I like to be able to minimise it where I can and this pencils does seem to dull this right down. It will also work fine over the other graphite pencils.

Step by Step Stages of Drawing the Snow Leopard

As you can see from the image above (taken in various lights with my phone camera, so apologies for that!) I started with the eyes, as I always do, because I can’t seem to be able to focus on the rest of the portrait if I don’t have the eyes completed first.

I know many artists leave the eyes until last, but for me, they go in first and then I start to work everything around them. They don’t need to be absolutely perfect at this stage as I tend to go back and refine areas whilst working on the rest of the piece.

Now, working with graphite can be a bit messy and you should try not to smudge your work. The Strathmore vellum seems to hold the graphite on the page well and I haven’t managed to make a huge mess, as I would normally do. I do use a sheet of glassine paper to rest my hand on (but sometimes stray off of it). And if you are right handed, it makes more sense to work from left to right and visa versa for left handed. This is just an extra measure to ward against smudging your work.

That said, I am right handed and started this piece on the right hand side. Was there any particular reason? Nope, I have absolutely no idea why I did that! I now have the left hand side of the leopard to complete, along with his paws and I am leaning on the completed right side to do this – so yeah, that was dumb!

How Long Does it Take?

Well, being the stickler for detail that I am, and still learning how to use graphite correctly, it takes me a loooong time to knock out something like this! So far, I’d say that I have spent a good 40hrs + on it and I have at least another 10 to go, probably more.

It’s all of the minuscule details that make all the difference between it looking OK and it leaning more towards realism, which is kinda what I aim for with my work. I can spend a couple of hours on a piece like this and it probably not look hugely different, but I will have been adding subtle shading, tiny hairs and various shadows and highlights.

So it really depends what you are aiming for as an end result, whether you are commissioned and on a time/budget scale or whether you are drawing independently to sell your work.

I’ll share the final piece on here when I have completed it, or you can keep up to date with all my WIPs over on Instagram. After this, I will be doing a couple of commissioned pet portraits, where I will be using a mixture of pastel pencils and soft pastels.

How do you find using graphite pencils in your work? Or is it something you are yet to try? Drop me a comment below – or come and find me over on Facebook at my art page, or join the friendly group for artists.

Please be advised that some links I use are affiliate links to products on Amazon, this means I get a few pennies if you buy the products I recommend, but please be assured that it is ONLY products I use and love and it will incur no additional cost to you.

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