water-soluble-graphite-portrait of a girl laying on a couch, with watercolor added

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Waiting for the Coffee to Brew – 8×9 Water Soluble Graphite & Watercolor
My friend JMC came over the other day with new art supplies.  We set up a still life and used water soluble graphite in a tin (made by Artgraf), and a water soluble sketching pencil (made by Derwent) [See below].  The products are quite different in saturation & lift-ability on cold press paper vs plate-finish illustration board.  The saturation was much lighter in value on the cold press, but very dark & rich on the plate finish surface.  The cold press paper also didn’t allow the graphite washes to lift or erase as easily as one might expect, but while re-wetting the graphite on the illustration board, it lifted completely, to stark white, so if you wanted to knock value back just a bit with a wet brush, that required some strategy to avoid lightbulb whites. Who knew paper would make such a difference in the performance of simple pencil lead?  Art-Brain-Aerobics.
Last night, I started another experiment with the graphite – again on illustration board – laying it down in thick and thin washes, and adding watercolor.  It was satisfying to drybrush the facial details today, while listening to an audio book.  I often wonder how Andrew & Jamie Wyeth work(ed) in drybrush on such large pieces, as it requires quite a bit of focus and concentration for me. This week, I found a video of Jamie painting a mass of seagulls and a figure on a huge piece of cardboard. You can see it below.
Have you found any art making videos on youtube or vimeo that inspire you? If so, please share the links in the comments.  The art above is available in my Etsy Shop.
Scumbling loose washes of color over the graphite
Testing effects of water soluble graphite on a still life using a pencil (by Dewent) and
graphite compressed in a tin (by Artgraf) on plate finish illustration board

The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston has a Jamie Wyeth exhibit right now. If I lived in New England, I’d go, but since I don’t, I’m very grateful for digital publishing, because we can all have a little glimpse & preview the exhibition here.  We can also watch this compelling short video (below) of the artist working with watercolor on a giant sheet of cardboard (!!). (If you get this blog via email, you can see the video here.)


Art Quote
I look at myself as just a recorder. I just want to record things that interest me in my life and so forth. These paintings are like part of a journal to me. It’s part of my life – I’m in Monhegan – it’s as if I’m drawing a diary. And again, I think a painting – I mean, what is it? It’s a piece of canvas, a stick with some hair on the end of it, and then there’s some sticky stuff called paint, and you apply that. And there’s nobody standing over you, saying “Paint!” every day. And I think in painting, much like music or a pianist or whatnot, you have to practice, and it certainly isn’t all inspired! I mean, many times, working with the gulls, there’s some sort of drudgery – but once in awhile – things really click, and that’s… that’s the opiate!  When that gull all of a sudden breathes and becomes a fire source, I mean that’s why you paint! That’s why I paint.
Jamie Wyeth

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9 thoughts on “Water Soluble Graphite & Watercolor: Waiting for the Coffee to Brew”

  1. Thank you for the link to the Jamie Wyeth video. Wow. The light and movement in that painting just blew me away. I was nodding my head vigorously when he was talking about why he paints; he articulated how I feel about painting so well.

    I love Andrew Wyeth’s work, but my favorite Wyeths are N.C. and Jamie. I wish I lived in New England so I could see that exhibit, too!

  2. I use the tin graphite at our once a week life drawing session. It’s great for quick gesture poses! Thanks for posting the Wyeth video! I saw this years ago in Paris when I had the fortunate opportunity to see a show with all three of the Wyeths. They were showing this video too. It was great to see it again! Watercolor on cardboard, just blew me away.

  3. @sonia, I loved what was happening in Jamie’s painting too – so much passion – and on cardboard! But the wetting of brushes in the mouth… eegads, I gasped when I saw that. Yikes is right!

  4. @debbie, thanks for the video of KJ – she is amazing. I think I’ll post that video in case others have missed it. And I did enjoy Jamie’s breathing, view-finding and musing – but not the wetting of brushes! 🙂

  5. Interesting experiments – I’ve not seen the graphite in a tin before. With reference to the Wyeth video, really liked the effect he was achieving using watercolour. Really not sure about the “tasting” – especially as that looked like cadmium yellow! Yikes…….

  6. Love this and the feeling of fatigue. You ‘re really tired when you lie down to wait for the coffee. Super video. Just astounding and the quote is right on.

    XOXOXOXOXO Barbara

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