My drawing - Two Foam Moulders

This is of two friends in their workplace.
Size is A4 smooth 'Bristol Board' paper (29.7 x 21cm = 8.3 x 11.7in)

It is my first artwork that was for someone else from the outset.
I wanted it quite dark and for the figures to not stand out from the background because that sums them up. Their workshop lighting is quite subdued and the dominant colour of the clothing, moulds, walls etc is a dark grey brown.

I used an A4 laser print to do the sketching from and an 8x6" glossy print from Max Spielmann (shown) for the shading.

I've tried different methods as I've gone along. For the background and first figure (on the left of the picture) I used charcoal overlain with 8B pencil to create the blacks and near blacks. I then used pencil to work towards the highlights.

For the second figure I started the same way but messed up the mouth using charcoal. I found that I couldn't erase the charcoal fully so I stopped using charcoal for the rest of the figure. 

At the very end I tried a Koh-i-Noor 6B graphite stick for the dark parts. I liked this better than the charcoal which seemed too dull and gave a rough speckled appearance.

I did not put the holes into the racking and made the tattoo lighter than the source because I thought they would be too distracting.

You may see some scratches on the bottom section, I think they were made by my watch buckle - lesson learned.

Photography was annoying throughout as it always seemed too blue and too high a contrast. I seem to have fixed this for the final photo by including my home-made shading scale and taking the bottom left grey as the white balance in RawTherapee.

I'm OK with this as drawing no 4 and have learned a lot.

Feel free to critique or make suggestions. I don't take anything personally.

Cheers, Owen

ps the pink thing is my pencil sharpener ;)


  • edited June 13
    I have no suggestions. I love the character captured in the work in terms of the personalities and their craft captured in raw black and white. I like your sensibilities of capturing the skilled trades, a place of labour and skill and delight in places most people visit rarely in their lifetime. I love the dignity of those who have skills - so much pride and craftsmanship was lost in the industrial era, and this is a second one of yours I've seen capturing it today.
  • Owen, I fell your pain on finding out graphite over charcoal just doesn’t work for anything other than making a mess.

    Here are a few tools which I found out the hard way are very useful for drawing and I think you will love.

    General Pencil Co. KIMBERLY 525 9XXB. It’s a fat one so it won’t sharpen in pinky but is a 5 second job in a good electric pencil sharpener like the one I keep mentioning. 

    A kneaded eraser. Lots of videos on how to properly use it out there.

    Tombow Mono Zero elastomer eraser. This will make short work of cleaning up smeariness from charcoal debris and allow you to fix your friend’s drawn mouth so he doesn’t look like a drooler. Tombow also has larger sized elastomer erasers if you want to clean up the whole business - friend’s shop and all, in keeping with your wish to have them not stand out from their environment too much.

    You could ruin your nice gift and good drawing with fixative. I’ve done this several times. They can ruin everything.

    Gift yourself,and your drawings, with the only one I’ve read is benign - SpectraFix Degas Fixative. It’s been said you need to find a good fine atomizing sprayer for it as it’s sprayer is unreliable. I believe it. I gifted myself with a bottle but haven’t used it yet as I’m buried in a sea of unfinished work. If you want me to I will test it for you before you invest. It’s expensive.

    Cheers back at you!

  • Owen as drawing no4 I am blown away! I have nothing to add in terms of critique, my drawing skills are amateurish at best, but feel your frustration with the charcoal. I am looking forward to seeing no5 and more hopefully.
  • @Abstraction you've crystallised my developing thoughts. I like working people and working interiors. It's not what I was expecting to get from joining this forum but, hey it's a win.

    @Suez    "buy a big eraser" is possibly the harshest critique I've ever had 😆. Thanks for your guidance here & elsewhere. I have a £10 per week budget on supplies so I value guidance from people that actually use the products.

    @jay80 I watched a woman on YouTube who avoids lines, building form through shading instead. Tried some exercises and they worked. She also advised the charcoal thing so nobody is perfect. Koh-i-Noor for now and maybe a 9xxb when I've saved up.

  • Beautiful, you are a renderer for sure. looks like the pencil equivalent of the DMP method.
  • Folks

    A piece of natural chamois is a fine eraser for charcoal. Buy a car wash chamois and cut it up. Used portions can be laundered. Do not buy a plastic look alike.

    An even better fixative for pastel and charcoal is nonfat skim milk (casein) in three fine spray coats.
    Automotive suppliers have pressure pack devices that can be filled with the skim milk (or whatever) and pressurised with a bicycle pump.

    The best tutor for pencil drawing is Darryl Tank at It takes a bit of time and patience to work through what he carefully teaches. In a week or two you will notice a huge difference.

    Here is a sample of Tank’s work:

  • I use a chamois for several things in drawing. As an eraser it’s inferior - especially for small corrections.

    The fixative I mentioned consists of casein, denatured high proof alcohol, and distilled water. It’s named after Degas because Degas invented it. It is also available concentrated if you want to add the diluting agents yourself.

    The best bottle for spraying an atomizing mist is branded “Flairosol”. It is superb. Read all about it on Amazon. 

  • Suez

    Thank you for your suggestions.

  • You’re welcome, Denis.

    The Tombow mono zero ultra-fine eraser is 2.3mm.
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