I didn’t plan on spending 12 hours with this raven but I did. I mostly used a mechanical pencil with a fat HB lead. The fat lead can be sharpened with the little steel head of the pencil but I found it easier to use my 3-sided pencil sharpener on the side with the half-length blade. Even right after sharpening, the tip of my fat lead was always a bit rounded and I enjoyed the slight softness of its marks both for sketching lines and for shading. I enjoyed the feel of the lead on the paper so much, that each day that I worked on the raven, I looked forward to spending an hour or two adding a little more graphite. I drew the bird’s outline first and then shaded in the eye. As I shaded the beak and added feathers, the kind, wise, glossy eye looked at me while the raven became more and more raven-like.
I did a lot of erasing because I had trouble keeping track of which feathers I was drawing. For future raven portraits, I will outline all the feather groups before adding feather shading. And maybe I’ll use a grid to draw the outline… this will make it easier to get the shapes and proportions closer to real life. And I’ll try the fat lead on heavier paper (80 lb instead of 50 lb). And maybe I’ll try a 2B or 4B fat lead…
My reference photo was taken by Steven Kessel, who takes beautiful photographs of wildlife, mostly in Arizona.