Awesome Graphite Landscapes

Awesome Graphite Landscapes

by E. J. Gold


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Covering all types of environments, this inspirational handbook is an invaluable tool for landscape artists of all levels. With helpful hints and illustrative images, this compendium will strengthen both the emotional and physical abilities behind drawing beautiful, appealing, and deeply satisfying landscapes.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780895562548
Publisher: Gateways Books & Tapes
Publication date: 03/01/2009
Pages: 136
Product dimensions: 8.40(w) x 10.90(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

E. J. Gold is a teacher and the author of more than four dozen books, including American Book of the Dead, Darkside Dreamwalker, and More Color, Less Soul. He lives in Nevada City, California.

Read an Excerpt

Awesome Graphite Landscapes

By E. J. Gold

Gateways Books and Tapes

Copyright © 2009 E.J. Gold
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-89556-414-6


Let's just start with a simple tree and a rough line for the ground. Note the light graphite lines for distant hills in the background. The wiggly line in front of the tree tells us that there's a bit of water reflecting the trunk of the tree.

A Simple Tree

Now a seashore, with a rough sail-shape for a boat on the left, and a roughly sketched lump of hillside. Remember when drawing or painting a seashore that water always seeks its own level and that it never ever runs uphill or downhill — however, don't obsess about getting it exactly right, nobody ever does.

At The Seashore

Now a bit of water in the middle — not quite exactly in the middle, however, and we'll see in the book on composition why that is. A bit of vegetation and some lumps of hillside complete this simple picture. Don't get hung up over detail, just get the feeling of the piece in your copy.

Rushes By The Pond

Try drawing the trunk of this tree with the side of your graphite LYRA 9B pencil and then dig in with some heavy pressure to create that feeling of dark shadow ... keep the light source in mind as you draw. In this case, it comes from the upper left and quite far forward into the distance. The wiggly lines indicate that the weeds on the far bank are reflected in still water, perhaps a small pond.

Two Leaning Trees Over A Pond

Another pond with even more vegetation, rather wild and uncultivated, with the lines of earth drawn so as to suggest a rolling slope. Those directional lines are a very good way for a beginner to indicate mass and form, and the furrows are perfectly believable around a body of water or where water would run in rivulets.

Untamed Vegetation By A Pond

Now try copying this crude drawing of wind-blown pines in a snow setting. The blobs on the snow could be animal tracks or human footprints. The hillocks in the near distance sport similar pines, but of course, being further away, they are much smaller and less detailed.

Wind-Blown Pines In The Snow

Here's a rough, crude drawing of a hut, wigwam or teepee. Of course the shape is totally wrong, but that doesn't matter. What counts is that it will help you develop skills for later, more ambitious projects.

Hut, Wigwam Or Teepee?

Now try this deeply etched pencil line drawing of weeds around a small body of water. Really dig in and get the graphite to respond with rich, dark tones. Don't worry about what it's supposed to look like — you're merely getting used to what graphite does and how to make it do what you want it to.

Thristy Weeds At The Pond

This very rough house and little hill are drawn without ever taking the pencil off the paper. Try it as an exercise in attention as well as a challenge to your drawing skills.

One Line House And Hill

Here's another single-line drawing of a house and roughly indicated treeline in a rural setting. Remember, the pencil never leaves the paper until the single-line drawing is complete, and the hand keeps moving all the while.

House Among The Trees

Another single-line drawing of a sailboat on a small body of water with a bit of bank and hillock on the right, and perhaps another boat, maybe some weeds. Keep it ambiguous and you'll never tire of the drawing. Always give the mind of the viewer some work to do when viewing one of your art efforts.

A Single Line Sailboat

Here is another single-line drawing of some weeds reflected in a very small puddle, surrounded by earthy banks and more weeds. Keep it simple and remember that it doesn't have to look like ANYTHING at this point.

Weeds And Reflections

This single-line drawing of a house on a lakefront uses lots of pressure on the graphite and a nervous, squiggly movement of the pencil to achieve the result you see. Try it and see why I recommend it for the beginner. It's not nearly as easy as it looks, and yet ... after some practice, you WILL be able to master this technique, a requisite to what's coming up soon.

House Hiding On The Lake Front

Now try a light, barely visible sketch of landscape just to get the difference in FEEL between the heavy strokes and the lighter strokes of which the graphite is capable. Notice that the light gray suggests fog or distance when used in this way.

Lightly Touched Landscape

Another example of a light graphite touch, again suggesting fog along a country road. A house or outbuildings could be added here, but let's keep it very, very simple for the moment. More difficult and ambitious projects are coming up really soon.

Fog On A Country Road

Now I want you to try this simple landscape with a simple, easy to draw house just over the hill. Note that you can't quite see the bottom of the house, because it's hidden behind the rise. That's the point of this exercise, to see how to cut off portions of things that are behind other things.

The House Just Over The Hill

Now we'll try a bit more toning and the use of scribble technique in construction of the house and little hillock to the right of the road. The weeds are quickly scribbled in as well, making sure to decide from which direction the wind prevails and also remembering that plants tend to grow toward the sun.

The House Across The Road

This study of cat-tails by the road helps you to understand that plants change direction as they grow, based on position of the sun from one season to the next, and to understand how to leave lots of white space in your drawing. Lots of detail does not necessarily help to tell the story, and the whole point of a drawing, painting or sculpture is to tell a story. Don't forget that as you go through this course.

Cat-tails By The Road

Now we'll experiment with houses drawn lightly in the distance on hillsides, combined with a more strongly drawn foreground of trees reflected in the water. The squiggly lines are the reflections of the trunks. Note the use of bare white paper in the extreme foreground for added effect. At this point, don't struggle too hard with the shapes of the houses; the concept of how to put a house together comes much later.

Distant Village

Now I want you to try this single-line drawing of plants and water and distant ground. It looks simple, and is simple, and simplicity sometimes is the best teacher.

Standing Still By The Pond

Here's an example of the use of white space to indicate sand, a single weed on the left and a beach house with a drying net to its left, with a bit of water to indicate ocean. Keep it very simple, and don't try to insert detail where none is necessary. The exact shape is unimportant at this time — just get the feel of how white space can work wonders for you.

Beach House In The Sand

Now try this very rough sketch of a couple wandering along a tree-lined road. Again, don't attempt to make this photographic or to fret about perspective or scale. You're still feeling out how graphite works and what it does when you scratch the stuff across a piece of paper.

Stroll In The Forest

While we're at it, let's try another rough landscape with silhouetted figures, this time, a person on a horse-drawn cart — don't forget to sketch in the horse's legs, the axle and the wheels. Keep the vegetation wild and free.

On The Market Road

Now a couple riding a horse-drawn carriage through a tree-lined road, often called a "bougherie", which is the source of New York City's famous "Bowery" district, no longer tree-lined.

Cart Ride Home

Here's an easy sketch of two shadowy figures fishing from a bridge. It may look daunting, but actually once you start analyzing the drawing and sketching it in, you'll see how easy it is. It may take several attempts, but keep at it until you feel that you've gotten the idea, because later drawings will depend on what you've learned from this one.

Fishing From The Bridge

This figure in a landscape is a little tougher, but don't obsess over it, just get the basic idea of putting in a figure to establish the relative sizes of things, which we call "scale".

Summertime Pleasure

Is it a wreck, or a boat in drydock? Keep it simple, keep it ambiguous, but get the idea across that we're at the seashore.

Abandonded Vessel

Try this lightly sketched graphite drawing of a small pond with vegetation all around it to get the idea of how to establish groundworks and landscape elements with a grey-ghosting fog effect.

Fog On The Pond

Now we'll try a stronger treeline on the other side of a small pond or slow stream, using a slight jiggle in the graphite lines to give the impression of rippled trunk images reflected in the water. Again, don't obsess over the details, they'll come later. Just get the general idea and move on.

Time For Reflection

Another very rough sketch with a small body of water and some reflections of trees on the opposite bank, together with weeds growing out of grassy mounds and some trees in the distance. Not a lot of detail here and virtually no development, meaning shading and such. That all comes later.

A Riot Of Growth

Here's a slightly more challenging water and earth landscape with a strong structure or thick tree-trunks on the right. Note that the earth areas are cut somewhat, with rivulet grooves from past storms and water runoff.

Old Stumps By the Pond

A much stronger reflection study will give you practice at getting the idea of what still water can do for your drawing. Note that the water is just the off-white Strathmore paper, with no other indication than the reflections that it is water.

Trees On Hennesy Pond

A telephone pole on the left could also easily be the mast of a small vessel on a marina. The well outside the house is deliberately skewed so you can see that photographic exactitude is not necessary in order to achieve this effect.

Old Homestead Well And House

Same idea; telephone pole on left, house on right, drawn strongly and broadly in pretty much a single-line technique.

House Among The Trees

Very powerful graphite strokes and following the curvature of the planting furrows yielded this strong farm image, yet it is very very simple and really very easy once you let yourself relax with it and don't try to copy exactly.

The House That Hides

Log cabin with pine trees on a snowy slope. Looks really easy — actually, it is easy!

Log Cabin With Pine Trees

Here's a bit of a challenge ... a road divides two rows of houses. Try to get this, but don't sweat it if you can't quite make it work. We'll be hitting this kind of thing soon, so this is a taste of what's coming, but it's not critical that you "get it" at this point.

Village Road

A small country church on the left leads off a row of houses on the side of the road. Houses on the other side hug the curve which is just out of sight.

Small Country Church

A calm, serene setting such as this needs very little to coax it into the consciousness of the viewer.

Beachfront Solitude

Cabin in snow is always a great subject and animal tracks or human bootprints give some idea of scale to help orient the viewer.

Footprints In The Snow

Snow is just white space, unadorned paper. Try to understand how little you actually need to put down in order to charge up the effect.

A Deep Winter Snowfall

Here's where we start putting some time into a snow scene. The tree might be a little advanced for you right now, but don't let that stop you from trying!

Snow Tracks & Tree

This is an example of a very advanced level of snow-scene drawing.

Mountain Cabin Retreat

An equally advanced snow-scene with a fast stream and some rocks on our side.This was used as a demonstration in class.

South Fork Yuba

The same technique could easily be applied to a sea-scape or shoreline with beacon lighthouse such as this one. Rocks are made by laying the graphite on its side and pulling across rather than creating a line.

Nantucket Lighthouse

Morning at East Hamptons is an exercise in using the flat of the pencil rather than the tip. It starts with a scribble to establish the ground and clouds and then you'll want to fill in the darker areas, then work into the medium grays to suggest folds in the land.

Morning At East Hamptons

Here's a way to suggest hillsides in this Grand Canyon sketch, but it's also a perfectly good technique for expressing folds in cloth when doing drapery for still-life or draped human figures.

Grand Canyon

Rocky Pass, Montezuma Beach — Taking the drapery concept a bit further, we can suggest cliffsides at a seashore. The water should be as level as you can get it, but don't lose sleep over it, just do the best you can.

Rocky Pass, Montezuma Beach

In this Grand Canyon overview I allow the distant areas to fade completely to white, while meticulously finishing the foreground rocks — this process took me about four hours to complete, so if you're only ten minutes into it, don't think you're epic failing.

Grand Canyon Overview

In Brighton-Battersea, we're tring to get the rolling cloud effects and the sweeping rolling hills that are so weather-torn and eroded by North Atlantic storms, yet rich with loam and vegetation.


Taos Summer Storm is the very opposite in many ways. It's a dry high desert area with few rainstorms, yet one can see the effect of long-term erosion from wind and the remants of glacial ages past. Work those shadow areas slowly, take your time with them. Again, this is a four or five hour project when done really right.

Taos Summer Storm

Pyramids at Giza offers another four-hour drawing project that absolutely MUST be done on your Strathmore 400 Series natural drawing paper. There just is no other way to get this great pebble effect without years of experience, so use the right paper and get great results. You're trying to EXPLOIT the natural crevices and breaks in the paper, working the graphite into them slowly and with great patience and attention.

Pyramids At Giza

In these Blitz Ruins just outside London you'll discover the means to really lay into the forms and get some solid mass modeling under your belt. Use the side of your pencil, not the point, to establish the masses, then exploit the forms by working your SHARP point into the crevices in the Strathmore paper.

Blitz Ruins, Outside London

In Ravages of War, you can use the same technique to exploit the masonry forms and the tree forms; yes, they work the same way and are essentially the same problem, although at first glance they might not look the same.

Ravages of War, Outside London

In Ruined Abbey, you have the opportunity to really exploit the paper by first using the side of your pencil to establish the forms, then working, working, working that SHARP point of your 9B Lyra pencil into the crevices of the paper to expose the brick shapes ... hundreds and hundreds of them. Don't be alarmed, but this project can take anywhere from four to eight hours of very serious, very dedicated application.

Ruined Abbey, East Of London

Old Ruined Abbey, East Grinstead, gives you a breather; it should only be about twenty minutes to an hour of drawing time at this stage in your skills development, but it offers a chance to use the paper crevice exploitation gimmick with furrows of soil, roadway and masonry, all in the same piece.

Old Ruined Abbey, East Grinstead

Ruins at Teotihuacan gives you another little breather; this should be about an hour's work at this stage in your drawing skills. Note the tropical tree-line and the fuller development at the pyramid and its immediate vegetation surroundings. The work here is in keeping it all together and working your very, very sharp pencil point, making certain to sharpen often or you may prefer to use ten or so pre-sharpened pencils in your pencil easel.

Ruins At Teotihuacan

In Valley of Mexico Ruins, you have several opportunities to exploit the graphite/paper relationship, as well as exploration of wood textures in the rotting logs on the left and the rocks and bricks and cut stones scattered across the landscape.

Valley Of Mexico Ruins

This view of Mezar-e-Charif Afghanistan comes from experience as an archaeologist. You will find many opportunities to commit to graphite and paper places you have seen and enjoyed. The roadway is an element you really need to master, and again, the folds of mountains could just as easily be folds in fabric on a draped model or still-life. Don't push the clouds at this time; we'll deal with them in great concentration later on.

Mezar-e-Charif, Afghanistan

In Trail Near Santa Fe, you'll want to concentrate once more on the forms, established with the flat of the 9B Lyra pencil, then with the sharpest possible point, SLOWLY work into the forms to find the worn rivulets eroded by millions of years of wind and water.

Trail Near Santa Fe

The True Path offers an opportunity to understand that obstacles, sometimes in the form of fallen trees, sometimes boulders, sometimes mud, can be very much a part of the path. Again, establish the basic forms with the flat of the pencil, then dig in with the point, slowly, ever so slowly, until the crevices and dips and crannies are revealed.

The True Path Is Almost Unseen

In this Mine Car sketch, we'll just spend a few minutes establishing the forms with the flat of the pencil, and darkening the entrances to the mine with the flat used rather strongly. We don't want to dig into this too much — it's just to get used to the idea that we can put a boxy sort of thing in the picture without too much trouble, not fretting at all about exactitude of perspective.

Mine Car


Excerpted from Awesome Graphite Landscapes by E. J. Gold. Copyright © 2009 E.J. Gold. Excerpted by permission of Gateways Books and Tapes.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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