Air Dancing Gulls, graphite drawing

When we lived in Maine there were probably more “atmospheric” days than not – with gray skies and heavy fog out at sea.  This scene reminded me of those times, the air cold with a moist dense fog and seagulls air dancing at the shoreline for food ~ a typical great day at the beach.

Air Dancing Gulls, a graphite drawing (9×12) was done on Strathmore Bristol Vellum (the smooth side) paper using 4H, 2H, HB, 2B, 6B and loose graphite powder.  To manage the foggy atmosphere a tortilium was mainly used (in application and blending), rather than a sharp-pointed pencil – the tortilium keeps things a little fuzzy which gives a misty appearance.  Pencils were used for the foreground and the gulls.

The challenge was to keep the background dressed in a heavy fog, but light enough to show-off the middle-ground waves with thick foam, and then to work the values light and dark enough allowing the seagulls to take center stage.  If you look into the distance both left and right you just might see a couple of gulls off on their own – they were used to draw the viewer’s eyes into the fog.

Between the gulls dancing and squawking, and the rushing waves – well it’s a scene to get lost in, thanks for stopping by ~ click onto the image for a larger view.


About Mary

Oil Pastelist
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86 Responses to Air Dancing Gulls, graphite drawing

  1. You are the value queen! So well done!

  2. such lovely movement of the seagulls…you are very gifted!

  3. restlessjo says:

    This is brilliant, Mary! You’ve totally brought it to life. I have to echo Madhu (never a bad person to echo 🙂 ) It’s like a photograph. 🙂

    • Mary says:

      Thanks so much Jo, you are very kind. There is something very magical about fog-filled seascapes and this scene worked out beautifully in graphite. Seagulls are fascinating creatures to watch, kind of float on the bands of wind.

  4. Madhu says:

    That is a fantastic piece of art Mary! It’s got the feel of a vintage photograph.

    • Mary says:

      Thank you Madhu, that’s what I thought once the piece was. I think the vintage part comes from the fogginess of the scene both in the background and the middle-ground waves. Glad you enjoyed the drawing.

  5. texastom46 says:

    Sensational, Mary! This is the first time I came across one of your graphite drawings. You have to have a lot of patience, skill and draughtsmanship to pull a drawing like this off!

    • Mary says:

      Great to hear from you Tom. This was an exciting piece to draw using graphite – it took a bit of time to consider how to get the look with graphite, but once I got a feel for technique the piece came together. Really appreciate your reaction and generous feedback – I really enjoyed working the scene.

  6. Hey Mary,
    Oh I really like this one! What a great touch the gulls add to your already beautiful ocean scenes.
    Great sense of movement… the birds add such an added wonderful dimension to your work. Terrific!

    • Mary says:

      Thanks Rita – I loved working on this seascape. The whole atmosphere reminded me of typical coastal scenes found in Maine, especially the gulls dancing around diving for their food. Thank you for your encouragement with this drawing.

  7. artbyisabel says:

    I love their dance and those waves are stunning! Beautiful, once again.

  8. Seagulls, fog, sea wow this is so beautiful, so atmospheric, so special…

  9. Wow the seagulls are so very lifelike. Totally fantastic.

  10. Jet Eliot says:

    Wow, Mary, I am really impressed. You bring the sea to me here, and I am grateful.

  11. Painting for Joy says:

    Totally awesome as always. My sentiments exactly on all the previous comments!

  12. anna77dennis says:

    Lovely atmosphere you have created that I can imagine Maine has to offer, with her wild seas and sea gulls!

  13. Beautiful atmosphere set up by the fog Mary, which is really hard to translate onto a sheet of paper, not for you. You handling some difficult challenges with such elegance and determination, that is most inspiring indeed! Love how you managed to build up the scene, soft and somewhat obscure the background, more definition for the middle ground which is perfectly executed (when it comes to waves it is your forte medium) and some real definition and contrasting of the seagulls, the stars of this piece. I especially love the walking seagull, he is such a character, made me smile, somehow he managed to take over the lead and make me wonder what is he up to, he seems to be in rush for something…hm just wondering what that would be… some delicious crab perhaps… 🙂 Fantastic work Mary!

    • Mary says:

      Thank you so much Eva. This was a scene where initially I wasn’t going to include any seagulls once the water was completed – I had such a connection with the ocean in this one. But the gulls brought some life into the scene that gave it some interesting elements. Ah like the walking gull? He reminded me of the ones I’d find on the beach in Maine always on the lookout for their next snack. Thanks again and hope you have a wonderful day!

  14. ĽAdelaide says:

    hi Mary… I am out and about tonight and wanted to say hello. I’ve been offline for the most part of the past 6 months. This is another wonderful drawing and I am always so stunned at how beautiful your work is. I have no idea how you do it and when I see how many pencils you use when I’ve never really noticed what “B” mine is, well, I guess I have lots to learn about the art. I hope you are doing well!

    • Mary says:

      A wonderful surprise this morning to see you Linda – I think of you often and hope you are well. I know the rains will make your crops, grapes and flowers/roses flush this year. Thank you for your thoughtful response to this drawing and your beautiful compliment. I truly enjoy working with graphite it’s a relaxing form of creating (will be moving on shortly though to charcoal). You are so funny – your art work is magical, creations that I wouldn’t have a clue how to paint/let alone manipulate watercolor to build such wonderful paintings. If only ………

  15. Ogee says:

    This one is truly magical, Mary. Just beautiful.

  16. i echo Cynthia’s comments and will just add that your work, Miss Mary, never disappoints..
    Big hugs

    uncle john

    • Mary says:

      Hi Uncle John, thank you always for being present and generous with your reactions to my work. I’m glad you enjoyed the sea! Hope you have a wonderful week ~

  17. You captured the action of the waves and the birds very well. Very different from the calm seascapes I see around here. It is almost like a photograph – I mean that as a compliment but am not sure how an artist would take it! And I can feel/see the grey day. Looks like one of our Jan. days.

  18. Nicodemas says:

    Very beautiful Mary.

  19. Leya says:

    A scene very much alive with sounds, Mary! Love it.

  20. Alok Singhal says:

    Always a pleasure seeing your work 🙂

  21. What a fabulous scene, Mary. I can almost here the crashing of those wild waves and the squawking of the gulls. 🙂

  22. Jackie says:

    Beautiful work, Mary! 🙂

  23. Beautiful drawing, Mary. You captured such a wonderful feeling with this sketch. And the soft background really sets off the sea gulls.

  24. You’ve captured their dance so beautifully, my dear Mary! 🙂

  25. I love the gull walking on the beach. He looks preoccupied, as though he’s on his way to a meeting.

  26. Well, you certainly met the challenge of dealing with the heavy fog, Mary. Excellent!

    • Mary says:

      Thanks so much Jill – the fog was interesting to develop, how much is too much, when to stop so the scene doesn’t get too dark. But always with those moody days in mind along the Maine coast. Thanks again ~

  27. Amy says:

    I love this drawing so much, I lost words…

  28. You know an artist is masterful if she can draw fog! This one could be used by an art teacher, Mary, to illustrate many principles…..about values, foreground-middleground-background, the dynamism of diagonals, etc. A wonderful work!

    • Mary says:

      Hi Cynthia, you’ve made my day with your very generous feedback and compliment. Is it possible to put into words a proper thank you? There was a lot of planning, before and during, which to be honest I couldn’t have done the drawing without considering the vision, tools, techniques and technical principles as you mentioned. If I drew this again there would be several changes, one for sure – notice the farthest seagull on the left, the little guy is leading the viewer right out of the drawing. I’d changed his direction for sure. The only reason why it wasn’t changed after the fact is too much dark graphite to take down w/o causing a tear in the paper. It was a great scene to work out with graphite, thank you again for your continuing support and encouragement it means a lot to me.

  29. Resa says:

    Phenomenal! I did get lost in the image…. perhaps even a bit wet! ⭐

  30. How do you do it? Where is your magic wand? Can I borrow it? This reminds me of one of those old B&W photos of Ocean City from the old days. Really wonderful, Mary!

    • Mary says:

      Ah Laura, thank you – the graphite and pencils were really talking to me with this one! I know exactly what you mean about an old photograph, the final scene reminded me of that and especially the middle ground. Thanks really appreciate it!

  31. ramaink says:

    The atmosphere is wonderful! It is indeed a scene to get lost in.

  32. Beautiful work….and indeed you have captured the atmosphere of Maine….a place i have spent much time. Wonderful. Janet.

  33. Wonderful portrayal of frolicking

  34. Heartafire says:

    amazing artwork!

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