Materials + Methods

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Through trial and error I have arrived at a very specific set of tools. I draw almost exclusively on Strathmore Artagain, a recycled, toned paper. The texture of the paper is ideal for the way I work. I use an architect’s lead pointer with Berol Turquoise E -0 leads (a specialized lead made from a combination of carbon and polymers initially designed for drawing on film) to build up my darks, and white charcoal to add the highlights. The problem with the E series leads is that they, and their counterparts from other companies, were discontinued over a decade ago, so I am constantly online hunting for, and buying large quantities of them.

I also use several tones of gray pastel pencils to build up my mid-tones and highlights. Finally, I use powdered graphite and a kneaded eraser in a very specific way, which I will explain in the Methods section.

Here is a photo of my drawing materials. They are:

  1. Sharpener for an architect’s lead holder
  2. Architect’s lead holder and Berol Turquoise E-0 leads
  3. Kneaded Eraser
  4. Mechanical plastic erasers
  5. Wide Chinese bristle brush for clearing away powdered graphite
  6. Soft pastel pencils
  7. Koh-I-Noor “Gioconda” Negro pencil (to create the darkest areas)
  8. Paper blending stumps
  9. Organic Textured Objects
  10. Powdered graphite pounce


I rough out thumbnails in a plain 5” x 7” sketchbook until I get a silhouette that I like. Then I move directly to the finished drawing on toned paper. I use a pounce (a cloth pouch about the size of my fist filled with powdered graphite) and dab it repeatedly on the paper to establish large areas of darks.

Using my Chinese bristle brush I wipe off the excess powder.


I have a large kneaded eraser made up of six or seven store bought erasers that I mashed together. I press the eraser firmly into one of my textural objects.


These texture objects are various rocks, shells, and fossils that I have picked up on my travels, or have been gifted to me by others.


The texture objects create unique organic impressions in the eraser, which I then press into the powdered graphite on the page.


The graphite that is picked up by the eraser leaves the negative of the texture on the page, and gives me a starting point for rendering of my subject.


With this foundation in place I build up the darks, and let the texture of the paper guide me through the detailed areas of the piece. I sit back and squint at the page frequently as I work to make sure my tones are working, and to see some new shapes that may not have been evident while working close up. Finally, I bring up my brightest highlights with the light gray pastels.