Embracing the Gray

If you live in Ohio you know that whether it’s cold or colder, January is 99.999% gray. No wonder we get cranky! Instead of fighting it, I decided to go with it.

All my art this month has been done in shades of gray. I started off the new year with a sketch done from my studio window as a cold rain was hitting the snow that was already on the ground.

I used graphite pencils and a blender with a kneaded eraser and an electric eraser. Anyone who thinks an electric eraser is frivolous has never tried one. You can go back into a darken area and get very precise whites. It’s definitely worth it.

My next sketch was from a photo that I have been considering as a source for a painting. I got out my gray scale to match the values. My first attempts were off by at least two steps so I wasn’t getting the contrast I wanted. I may use this study as the basis for a painting later.

Next I decided to capture some everyday things like this dollar store doll. The texture of her sweater was a real challenge and the print of her skirt was tedious.

I have a set of Prismacolor gray scale markers that I bought on clearance after I hear Joshua Beam talk about using them to create thumbnails for plein air paintings. I tried that for a while but it was too much trouble so I went back to just using regular drawing pencils for my thumbnails.

I decided to get out the markers to do a sketch. I saw a crow while I was walking my dog so I did a Google image search and found a pose to use. Turns out the image was from Australia, but it was close enough for what I wanted to do. I tested out the markers and found that the ones from about 60% on up to black all looked pretty much the same. The lower saturations had a bit more differentiation but partially because they lightest ones were almost dried out. It was still a good exercise in drawing and looking at relative values.

I decided to do the next sketch with Studio 71 gray scale alcohol markers on photo paper. I also plan to draw a face each day even if I draw it badly. So I started with an online photo of a famous person. Studio 71 markers are less expensive than Copic. The gradation of the values seems more accurate than the Prismacolor markers. The ink seems ok, but the nibs are junk. Mine have turned to mush in no time at all. Here’s the little sketch. I didn’t spend a lot of time on it, just tried to see if I could get a likeness with some big shapes and value changes.

I redid the same sketch with pencil the next day in a sketchbook. I continue to be amazed at how far off I am on values until I use a gray scale.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa

This little guy is an almost- likeness of sweet little kindergartener from a photo I took. I really like doing faces so I think I’ll continue drawing one each day.

More sketches to come this month. The value studies continue. So as you read this, be sure to have a GRAYT day!

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