Saturday, February 28, 2009

100 Posts, One Year

I've been blogging for just over a year now (I missed the official blogiversary by two weeks - oops), and this is my 100th post. Wow, the time flies. Thanks to all of you who read this, and I hope you find it interesting.

The new poll will be closing in a few hours, vote if you haven't already! I can't wait to try out the sepia Conte pencils. Hopefully it will lead eventually to more colorful drawings.

And here's a taste of something I'm working on now: a pyrographic drawing of my two cats.

pyrography drawing of cats

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Drawing Tip #20: Erasing Tools

eraser effect on charcoalErasing is not just for removing mistakes. You can create texture with erasers, you can make white fur overlap dark fur, you can add highlights, and a number of other things. But like the blending tools, each eraser will give a different result. Here I used three vertical stripes. The far left is a 6B charcoal stick. The middle is also a 6B stipe, but then I smudged it with a chamois and pulled some of the charcoal to the right side. Then I tested four erasers.

On top is the quintessential kneaded eraser. I went over the area twice, first dabbing it, then dragging it (just below dab). Dabbing appears to pick up more of the material in the unblended charcoal. This is the eraser I use the most.

Next, I used my Clic eraser. This one is the best at erasing all the material and leaving the space as white as possible, which is why I use it for any total erasures (aka: mistakes).

The next eraser I hardly use, but only because I'm not comfortable with it yet. It is the Staedtler Mars plastic eraser that comes in a rectangle half wrapped in waxy paper. I think the biggest reason I don't like it is because it's so cumbersome - to get into small areas I'd have to cut a wedge off.

And finally is the Faber-Castell eraser pencil - literally a wood-cased pink eraser that you can sharpen to a point. I only use this for fine detail. The cons to this eraser are that it leaves pink eraser pieces on the paper which I have to pull off with the kneaded eraser, and that it is very hard to sharpen. I use a knife.

There are still other erasers out there that I don't have, like electric erasers and pink pearl erasers. They all leave different marks, or rather, remove marks differently.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


African penguin drawingI've been keeping this one a surprise, and I guess it's for the best since it has taken me over three weeks. Last November, I visited my family back in Massachusetts. One thing I really wanted to do while I was there was to take my daughter to the New England Aquarium. She loves fish. I also brought along my camera for reference shots. The Aquarium has a wonderful penguin exhibit which is home to three species: macaroni penguins (rockhoppers), little blue penguins, and these African or jackass penguins.

Of course their habitat consists of fake rocks in a pool of water, but I wanted to put these guys outside. After viewing the landscape of Dyer Island, an island off the shore of South Africa which is a popular home to African penguins, I settled for a rocky shore right on the ocean. I drew the penguins first, with charcoal and a tortillon, then added the rocks with graphite. The sky is charcoal applied with chamois, and the water is charcoal with graphite waves and kneaded eraser highlights. And finally, the sand between the rocks is charcoal. There were several times I felt that things were going well and wanted to finish, but I just put it away for a day or two. I really like how it turned out.

The original and prints are available.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Happy Birthday, Darwin

I haven't posted a science article in quite a while, and what better time to do another than the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birthday. Actually it's not an article so much as a statement. Darwin, as most people know, was the man who developed the theory ("theory" as defined as the best explanation of a phenomenon developed through rigorous and repeated application of the scientific method) of evolution by natural selection and wrote On the Origin of Species. Even 150 years after that critical book, evolution is still one of the most debated scientific theories. In fact, according to the Gallup Poll, fewer than 40% of Americans "believe" in evolution. I put "believe" in quotes because science is not about belief. Science is about utilizing the scientific method to develop a working theory of a phenomenon. Here's a run-down of the scientific method:
  1. A phenomenon is observed

  2. A hypothesis is made about how the phenomenon occurs

  3. A test is developed and performed to determine if the hypothesis is valid

  4. The results are analyzed

  5. The hypothesis is revised if necessary and the cycle starts again

Science is not random. Evolution and natural selection have been tested again and again and remain the strongest explanations for the observations we have regarding the origin of life on Earth. Happy birthday, Darwin. You remain an inspiration to scientists everywhere.

See the official site of Darwin Day 2009.