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Looking at my reference material, I was immediately drawn to the authentically disarrange d character of this male lion. Often lions are photographed as beautiful young robust males lacking the scars of the experienced predator; a skilled and courageous beast; a true testimony of survival skill in the wild. This is how lions should be…wild, untamed and austere with brewing “eyes of the storm”. 

The intense stare and details of this beautiful wild face decided my choice of drawing surface, namely, Grafix drafting film 0.004 microns matted on both sides. I do prefer 0.005 being a little thicker and more opaque but availability is a bit troublesome locally!

I chose A3 sizing for a full facial portrait. The double matte texture has better surface “traction” than Dura-lar (another Grafix product) and enables more layering capability. 

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Faber Castell Polychromos (PC) pencils with its beautiful colour range particularly for wildlife application and translucent quality, is a personal favorite of mine for drawing the eyes. I like Caran d’ache luminance(CDL) because they are softer, highly pigmented and provide a smoother laydown of colour as well as providing nice blending capability for Polychromos pencils. The Caran d’Ache Pablos (CDP) make burnishing a breeze as well a wonderful base layer for the Polychromos and CD luminance pencils.

My backing paper is a clean sheet of Hahnemühle Nostaligie 190 g/m2 behind the film. This part is important because your colour choices will need to be modified determined by the backing paper of choice. For example the white highlights here are amplified by the paper behind the film. Should you place a yellow piece of paper, then your highlights would exhibit in tones of yellow. I chose white for “Storm” 

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The eyes to me are my most favorite feature to start with and many artists would agree, adds an immediate identity and motivation to render the rest of the subject being revealed. The translucency of Polychromos provided the soft iridescent glow of the eyes which I intensified on the reverse side with dark cadmium orange and used caput mortuum violet closer to the rim of the eyes for soft shadowing. I often use this colour or blue indigo to make the black more interesting. I don’t usually note my colour choices because I like the spontaneity of what I see in the moment. 

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However, because the translucent quality of PC black can fall short with intensity, by reversing the film and adding PC black around the rim of the eyes, it provided a deep black softness when viewing on the RS. I intensified the black around the eyes further by layering Derwent drawing Ivory black which is truly an awesome black. This pencil is soft, waxy and highly pigmented; perfect for this application.

I wanted the fur to look “wild and brooding” like a storm brewing (hence the name) but I wasn’t sure about the approach I was going to take. I love the result and fell into this quite by accident! Here’s how:

Working in light layers, being aware that drafting film will not provide for extensive layering, and using the “flat” of the PC pencil, I applied burnt ochre as a smooth even first layer. My succeeding layers were applied very lightly using cinnamon, terracotta, burnt sienna deepening and moulding tonal values with each pencil layer ensuring nice even laydown and creation of “shapes” that I “saw” in the reference image. The lightest tones ie white was deliberately left devoid of colour. By reversing the drafting film and highlighting the “devoid”areas with PC white and light flesh, the highlights presented more white yet muted when viewing on the RS of the drafting film as seen in muzzle. Details were then added using the Tombow eraser. 

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With the fantastic Tombow mono zero eraser which works superbly on drafting film, I began to forge the erratically “fuzzy” shapes of the fur textures depicted. I used my eraser as my “drawing” tool making scrawling curlicues, varying pressure where I needed strong highlights and softer pressure for muted highlights. This technique is often referred to as “subtraction” – adding and then removing colour, manipulating it for highlight or definition as desired.

Once satisfied with my highlights, I placed my dark tones using PC caput mortuum violet, dark indigo , burnt sienna using small circular motions for a nice blend and finishing with PC black. Here, my pencil point was not necessarily sharp unless I wanted specifically targeted details. One of my favourite colours for Storm was the PC olive greenish yellowish providing that “dirty” kinda look in general as seen in image. The other dominant colours were PC violet and CDL Sepia 50% for shadows. 

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On the reverse side of the film, I applied either black, caput mortuun violet or blue indigo to deepen values and terracotta and orange flame to enrich warm colours as viewed on the RS. giving the work added depth and a “pop” of colour at randam. The superciliary (brow) whiskers were fashioned by using the tombow eraser. Same is true for the mystacial (muzzle) whiskers. I enhanced the colour on the reverse side with either PC white or Light flesh. For the black whiskers, I used CDP with a very sharp point. Being a harder pencil, this worked well.

To mute portions of the mane, I used equivalent colours and white from the Caran D’ache range which worked really well. For very fine wisps of hairs, I used the Slice tool and removed pigment from the surface. To soften some of the areas. I used a paper stump or a small water colour brush to move and feather out the edges randamly fading into the film’s natural surface. The two tools, the Tombow mono zero eraser and the Slice tool were key in creating texture and cutting down a huge expanse of time using drafting film versus hot pressed paper.

Happy with the results on the LHS, I needed to “get into” the nitty gritty facial details.

The “subtraction” technique was used for the facial details and again, the Tombow eraser did the magic with all the forehead and nose detail. 

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I “mirrored” the photo image for ease of reference when working with the drawing on the reverse side avoiding “flip flopping” allowing correct colour placement for depth where desired. However, I would occasionally flip back to confirm that all was well on the RS. I added more volume to the mane by adding deep tones breaking up the more unified look of the hair structure. I continued to work around the bridge of the nose (see video clip).

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I continued in this manner until I completed the drawing. At this stage, I set aside the drawing for a couple of days to provide fresh perspective when I viewed it again and make necessary changes iF deemed necessary which in this case, I felt it was by a side by side comparison using monochromatic imagery to check my tonal values . YIKES! there it was!… I needed to go in and do more. This is a classic way to determine if your tones are correct especially using film, because of less opaque nature of the surface. So back to the drawing board I went… 

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However, I did not deepen tonal values as much as the photo above (left hand side) indicates because I wanted to keep my interpretation of the mane. I strengthened only the tones complimenting the fur on his head, beneath the chin and the deepest recesses in his mane. I completed using a little more sub-traction technique and… VOILA!…he is complete. 

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Artist: Kati Graue
Photo: Mauritz Bausenhart/Unsplash

Polychromos colour pencils
Caran d’Ache Luminance
Caran d’Ache Pablos
Derwent Drawing


Faber Castell kneadable eraser
Tombow mono zero eraser
Slice Tool
Paper stump #1
Water colour paint brush #2


GRAFIX 0.004 double matte drafting film

Paper backing:

HahnemÜhle Nostalgie 190g/m2 hotpressed white

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