I thought I might share with you my process for the graphite wash technique that I get asked about quite often. All these pieces are done with powdered graphite and pencil, some have very thin oil washes on their surface.

Imperfection 7, 8 x 10″

I’ve been pushing this technique for about 2 years now and I can say with conviction that its not the easiest process to work with, or the fastest by far. It will fight you through almost every step until you get used to it, and then it gets a bit harder, hah.

Magus, 8 x 10″

It all starts with the preliminary process that I use to generate the backgrounds. I begin on the Ampersand Claybord and use a mixture of Cretacolor and General’s Powdered Graphite applying it with water and brushes, sponges, cloth or anything I like that will get me the texture I want or eventually see on the board. It is never the same thing twice. Oh and a heat gun or hair dryer to quicken the drying process a little.

Ampersand Claybord and Cretacolor and General’s Powdered Graphite

In general I don’t favor one powdered graphite over the other, one day I just happened to throw them both into a box I had for easier access with the brushes and sponges and I now work with that mixture.

Various brushes, sponges and palette knives

Dried “Landscape Surface” on Ampersand Claybord used later for the background of a piece

After I like the landscape or background I have created I brush the excess graphite off the piece with a wide very soft brush and/or burnish the board with a soft cotton cloth. I may lose some contrast but I can bring it all back out with the pencils.

This is a very subtractive technique in the beginning and then it is a push/pull between erasers and pencils to achieve the image I have playing in my head. I will use kneaded erasers, Faber-Castell Perfection 7058 Abrasive Erasers, Mr Clean Magic Erasers and my Sakura electric eraser, even steel wool and Exact-o blades for pinpoint highlight work.

If you want to try this make sure you purchase the regular Mr Clean Magic Eraser WITHOUT the ridging on it or cleaners in it. The other kind just makes a mess of everything.

Faber-Castell Perfection 7058 eraser used at the beginnings of Nightbloom

It is at this point that I have to stare at the board for hours, a day, a week maybe, I usually have a few boards in process waiting for me. I transfer the image I have decided to use onto the board either by transfer paper or projector. These are the lines you see on the image above.

As for pencils, the softer leads work best on the clay surface. I like the Tombow Mono100 4 and 6B and the Mitsubishi HiUni 10Bs. The Mitsubishi feels like drawing with oils, almost like butter.


Nightbloom, 8 x 10″

The “glow” from the pieces is me working back to the white of the board, not any additional white added. It is all about managing your values in the piece and this graphite technique gives me a middle grey to start.

It does get more manageable with practice… it is my philosophy that practice does two things: Makes you better at doing the thing and it makes you get accustomed to how hard it is to do that thing. That second part may be the real value of repetitive practice…

that you get so used to the effort, that you forget that it’s hard…. sometimes.

Mr. Kind, 8 x 10″

If there are any questions feel free to speak up in the comments.

I would like some suggestions about what you may want to see from me on MC. Input is always welcome. One of the topics I plan on addressing is content and (personal) narrative.

…and of course I’ll also write about my sharpeners…I have a few 😉