The Process of: Enduring Attention

It’s not often you hear an artist is really pleased with the way one of their pieces turned out. This is one of those rare instances when I can say I am really happy with the end result! Don’t get me wrong, I am proud of every piece I do. But, sometimes there is that one (or quite a few) piece(s) that you are super happy with.

For this piece I used Strathmore drawing paper, graphite (for the base), charcoal pencils and sticks, and a white charcoal pencil for the highlights/details. The only grip I have was with the paper. I did more detail than normal, trying to push myself in that (yay Project Warrior), which made me have in issue with the paper. It simply didn’t have a lot of tooth to hold a lot of layers. But all in all I made it work, lesson learned 🙂

The reference photo I used is of the beloved Max from Safe Haven Rescue Zoo. Sadly, last year he passed away due to health issues but lived peaceful life at Safe Haven. Read more about Max here.

For blending, I am using a blending stump. Once charcoal goes in later, I also use a cotton ball (lightly).


As usual, I lightly sketch out the piece. Here you can see the reference photo I am working from. Starting with graphite I zero in on Max’s eye. I love working on eyes first, they are the gateway to the soul of any creature. Once I have the basic eye in, with enough detail, I feel good about moving forward.

Cougar 3
I start slowly putting in detail around the eye. Over time this detail strengthens, for now I am just getting an idea of where I want to go.

Taking my taking, I take the graphite down throughout the face. I am going in fairly lightly still. Graphite has different levels of softness and hardness (basically how dark the graphite is). Throughout the piece I am using between 3B and 6B, both soft graphite. These are excellent for blending. I work back and forth around his face really paying attention to the complete form. When dealing with fur, always pay attention to the direction. In certain areas the direction changes abruptly, slow down at these points. It’s so crucial to get that correct.

Cougar 4
When using a combination of graphite, carbon and charcoal it’s really important that you go in light. Once you start pressing and thickening up that graphite, the charcoal won’t take. Good paper helps too!

Now I am bringing in more charcoal areas. Before I go in with charcoal, I actually lightly go in with a carbon pencil. Throughout this process I go back and forth between blending and detail. It’s kind of a balancing act, the way I personally prefer to work. If I can get one area detailed fairly well, I know where to go from there. White charcoal pencil is also being used slowly at this point too. I save this for last since it really pops things out, and can over pop if I’m not careful.

Cougar 6
Afraid of smearing your work? Use acetate paper over the completed section, it won’ smear or make a mess of your hand.

Here is the detail mania portion! A lot has happened. Once the basic shadows of graphite is down, I go in with the carbon and charcoal more. When doing detail with fur, keeping a sharp pencil point is important. Also, you don’t want hairs springing in random areas. Starting with the charcoal, I go section by section for the detail of the fur. Once I feel it’s good to go, I bring in that white carefully before moving on to the next area. I am also filling in the body. The body is out of focus, and I am keeping it this way as well. Make the image that much more powerful.

Eduring Attention 11x17 graphite and charcoal
Enduring Attention; 11×17; graphite and charcoal; SOLD

And here is the finale. The background is kept blurred, but you still know what is going on. To achieve this, your are looking at basic form and shadows. Squinting your eyes helps a lot, just don’t do that for too long. Once the body is in, I went to complete the whitest parts of his face and last minute details. Bringing out those stray hairs and whiskers is probably my favorite part to do. Simply because it’s that icing that really bring the animal to life. After I am done, I sprayed a few layers of  fixative to keep the drawing from smearing.


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