Graphite sketches in Watercolor Painting

In my previous blog post, I wrote about having a sketchbook as an integral part of daily life.  In this article, I would like to talk about the function of graphite sketches for watercolor painting. Before I began my journey in watercolor medium, I used ink or graphite sketches as the primary media for my creative endeavors in architecture. Here are some of my sketches from the early days of my career.

Trained as an architect, all of my sketching at the beginning of my journey tended to be precise; they served as a series of sketches for design inspiration rather than seeing them purely as an art of their own.  They lacked mood and feeling because they were intended to convey factual and accurate dimensions to serve architectural purposes. Back then when I sketched, I aimed to capture every element as precisely as possible. After many years in my journey, I began to realize that my sketches were dull and simply reported what I literally saw in front of me, and that my sketches did not provoke anything further than fact and information.  Back then I knew that there was something missing from my work, but I did not know how to go any further. Even though my work in the early days of my career may not be as good as I hoped them to be, they helped me as an opportunity to practice. Most importantly, the ability to create a perspective sketch became useful when I began to develop my plein air watercolor work.

When I recently began to pick up watercolor as a medium of painting, I noticed a shift and improvement of my sketches. Since these current sketches serve as the initial point of my watercolor painting, they aim to visualize light and mood in my painting rather than acting as finished works of their own. From a hardline pencil sketch in an early day, I shifted to use soft graphite, 2B, 4B or 6B as a tool for sketching. This is my 4B pencil that I normally carry around with me as a handy companion.

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The graphite sketches not only help test out the tonal value of my drawing. During the act of sketching, graphite also reacts to emotional state of mind very well. I press very hard when I feel the weight and heaviness in my work, yet I lightly draw when I feel the gentle light that touches the surfaces of the subject of my study. Most importantly, I feel that my current sketches have begun to convey the mood and feeling that I had been searching to achieve for a long time. The cover image of this post is the initial graphite sketch that I used to study the tonal value, composition and perspective of my work before I began the watercolor sketch

Additionally, the time to create this initial sketch did not take long at all. Most of them take 10 -30 minutes and it depends of the amount of detail I add to them. Since this kind of sketch does not require much of my time, I simply begin again if I’m not happy with the composition or light in the sketch.