I’ve got a new sketchbook nearly full of a bunch of new experimental graphite sketches and wanted to share a few here. For these, I’ve been using mostly graphite – both pencil and powder, sometimes with water and sometimes dry – and combining either gesso or white acrylic too in many of them. All the sketches are abstract and layered on the pages of a small moleskine sketchbook that has off-white toned pages.

Doing this sort of abstract sketching is a way for me to experiment with the layering of varying opacity and texture, composing shapes of value and allowing for a malleable quality to the process and buildup of each sketch. I try to change up the approach or aesthetics on different pages, usually using the two-page format to sketch across, turning it either horizontal or vertical. Some sketches are started directly on the off-white pages, and some pages are covered first with a thin coat of gesso before drawing on them. The gesso and acrylic can also be applied in thicker application to make for various texture effects too.

You can see some of the texture in these details :

The tools I use are fairly limited – a graphite pencil, sometimes graphite powder, gesso, white acrylic, a few brushes, a couple erasers, paper towel, and my hands. The off-white pages are a warm tone that’s great to utilize in the sketch and composition as well, and when gesso or white acrylic is added to the page or mixes with the graphite, it turns the temperature to a cooler tone, making for a nice variation in temperatures in the image too. Though these sketches are limited mainly to graphite, the discoveries I make while experimenting definitely find their way into the other work I do in other media such as oil painting as well.

Here’s a quick video of one sketch, as an example.

Here are a few of the other sketches, showing different experimentation with layering and composition, textures, and temperature and value shifts:

I still continue to experiment with ink sketching (as I’ve shared in other articles like this and this here on Muddy Colors) and have been enjoying doing some translucent layering with acrylic in those as well. The results have been pretty interesting, and I hope to share some of those here soon too.