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In this blog post, I will guide you through the process of drawing a stunning coastal landscape. Sketching and drawing play a vital role in my painting process as they help me create engaging compositions and design my paintings. Additionally, sketching gives me a sense of the tonality of the landscape I wish to paint.
The coastal landscape depicted in this drawing is inspired by Taupo Bay, a picturesque location in the far north of New Zealand. Using graphite pencils and various materials, including a white pastel pencil for highlights, I have drawn this scene on grey card. Drawing on grey card adds an element of depth to the artwork, as the dark value sets a unique dynamic and allows the highlights to truly shine.
This is one of the reference photos I used for the drawing. Feel free to copy it if you want to try drawing this landscape yourself.
I have modified the composition compared to the reference photo. I have incorporated an ‘S’ composition, where the stream leads the viewer’s eye towards the headland, which is the focal point of this drawing. By moving the large rock to the left, I have anchored the entire composition. To balance the weight of the cliffs, I have positioned heavy clouds on the left side of the drawing.
Here is a list of essential materials you will need:
- Sketchbook (A3 size is ideal)
- Grey card or paper
- Pencils (4H, 2H, HB, 2B, 4B, 6B, and 8B are recommended)
- Mechanical pencil (HB)
- Mars Lumigraph black pencil (8B)
- White pastel pencil
- Craft knife (for sharpening pencils)
- Sandpaper (for filing graphite)
- Pencil wiper
- Eraser pen
- Ruler (optional)
Pencil Mark Fundamentals
When using pencils, there are various methods to achieve successful pencil drawings. Personally, I find the Ted Kautzky ‘broad stroke’ method of drawing to be effective. I learned this method from his book, “The Ted Kautzky Pencil Book,” which I highly recommend.
The broad stroke method allows you to create uniform wide marks that effectively portray realistic forms found in landscapes. To achieve this, sharpen your pencil and file the graphite at an angle to create a flat wedge. Hold the pencil evenly against the paper and make marks at an angle. The image below demonstrates this technique.
How to Sharpen Your Pencils
Start by sharpening the pencil with a craft knife, leaving about 1/4″ of graphite exposed. Then, file the tip on sandpaper to create a flat wedge. Use the flat side of the wedge to create broad strokes.
Filing the pencil on sandpaper enables you to achieve broad strokes or hatching marks, as shown in the image below.
If you need finer marks, you can use the tip of the lead. However, remember that you may need to file it on sandpaper again if additional broad strokes are required in your drawing.
Demonstration – Taupo Bay Drawing
I start by outlining the composition on a piece of grey card using a 4H pencil. I keep the outline faint and light to easily erase any mistakes.
Next, I establish the dark values in the drawing. I begin with the cloud shadows using a 4H pencil since their value is relatively light. For the headland, I use a 2H pencil to create a darker tone, but I also ensure it blends well with the rest of the composition. The shadows in the cliffs require even darker values, so I use an HB pencil and apply a hatching technique where applicable.
As we move closer to the foreground, the cliffs on the right side of the drawing become progressively darker. This is because the shadows become darker as the distance decreases. I continue using the hatching technique and incorporate cross-hatching to add texture. I leave blank spaces for areas of foliage and ridges that are in direct sunlight. An eraser pen can assist in outlining the sunlit areas of cliffs and foliage.
I shade the sea using a 2H pencil, as the value here is lighter. I also leave some areas untouched for the highlights, which I will add later using the white pastel pencil. The darkest shadows are found in the foreground, and to achieve the desired effect, I use a combination of 8B graphite and 8B Mars Lumograph black pencils. For finer details, I switch to a mechanical pencil.
Now comes the enjoyable part of the drawing—adding the lightest values. Using a white pastel pencil, I create highlights that depict a sense of light, three-dimensionality, and atmospheric perspective. I reserve this technique for the sunlit clouds, white water, wave crests, and the sparkles in the foreground stream.
Thank you for reading. I hope you found this guide helpful in creating your own coastal landscape drawing.