Step-by-step: Making marks by Emma Wilde


In this exercise we’ll be looking at the wide variety of marks and expressive qualities you can achieve through drawing. Mark making is about texture and shape. The texture of your material can affect how the marks you make appear on the page whilst the shape of your tool can alter the thickness of your lines.

Trialling this is a great way to begin when you start working with Graphic Pencils.

Begin by using a HB pencil to draw a rudimentary apple shape and its adjoining shadow. Don’t worry about creating a perfect shape at this stage, as with shading, blending and tone, we will add shape.

When adding your shadow, remember that light source must sit constant and as such, positioning your shade will change the drawing’s next stages.

For my apple, my light source is behind my apple and my shadow comes towards you but you can select where you want your light source.

At this stage, we have just shaped the apple with no internal colours and it’s just an outline.

From here, partnering Graphic Pencils with a few other essential items will help add to the variety of marks you can make.

Using a ‘Grate and Shake’ and a XL Graphite Block you can make a fine powder or dust. By using your Graphite ‘dust’ ,which can be applied to your paper with cotton wool pads in a light spherical motion, you can create a mid-tone.

Working from the darkest point of our apple towards the light source will create the illusion of light and shape, before we begin create tone through our blending.

Your mid-tone of the apple creates main shape before you begin to sharpen up your shaping and colouring. Sharpen up the edges of the apple with an eraser, preferably one with rounded edges similar to Derwent’s shaped erasers.

The rounded surface on the eraser will get you a smoothness to your shape, perfect for an apple fresh from your fruit bowl.

Once your edges are sharpened, use a softer malleable eraser and take away the highlights of your apple. By working in a spherical motion, you’ll give your apple form.
Form will not only create definition of your shape, but will also establish how light hits your shape.

Moving back to Graphic, use a 3B Graphic pencil to add your darker tones. We’ve selected a 3B as it sits near the middle of the dark range, but doesn’t make your focus blend into the backdrop.

Using the side of the pencil will give you a broader connection between Graphite and paper. As this is where little light hits, broad strokes allow you to cover a wide area. Using the pencil on its side will also increase the life cycle of your pencil

At this point, turn your 3B onto its point and create small curved dashes onto the stalk. The finer detailing adds greater texture, giving your stalk a prickly, rougher texture, compared to your smoother apple skin.

Pressing harder on one side of the apple will give some directional detailing to your light source and create a three dimensional shape to the smallest part of your apple.
Moving up a grade to a 4B, begin to work in curved marks into the hollow around your stalk.

This directional movement shows light moving away from the body of the apple as the hollow gets darker.

You can continue to use the 4B pencil to add shadow at the base of your apple. Working away from the apple in individual tones is a great step to show the light re-emerging, but you can also use your thumb to sweep graphite across the paper and soften the edges, showing a more natural re-emergence of light and a more natural, less blocky spectrum.
At this stage, your apple is complete but you don’t want your apple to look like it’s floating!

Adding a foreground and background not only makes a more lifelike scene, it adds a sense of depth and scale.

Drawing a line around 2/3 of the way up the page (or a 1/3 of the way down!), begin crosshatching your foreground with a HB pencil diagonally, then horizontally. This can overlap into your apple’s shadow.

Overlapping into your apples shadow, will add a further smoothness into your shape whilst the crosshatching adds a light texture to your table or sitting surface.
At this stage, cover your foreground with a piece of paper to protect it and use the flat edge of your pencil to cover wide areas. As this area sits furthest away from our viewer, it will have minimal texture and detailing.
The darker shades will make your apple stand out.

Making marks is all about experimentation. It’s important to remember that a pencil is 360 degrees and that each surface will create a different mark; be it tonal, shape, texture or style. Keeping your pencil sharp adds a further dimension to your graphite.
Also, don’t forget to trial your Graphic pencils with other mediums, and don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. Not only could you create a masterpiece, but you’ll definitely have fun!