Tombow Talks To: Caroline Palmer | Tombow

09 November 2023

Tombow Talks To: Caroline Palmer


How did you first discover your passion for graphite illustrations, and what drew you to this particular medium?

My dad was an artist and graphic designer and I used to love seeing his drawings.

I drew two pieces after leaving school and then had a 15-year break while I raised my family, returning to drawing after the sad loss of my own horse in 2015. I’ve not stopped since!

I tried various mediums in school but found that graphite was my go-to, I love monochrome. I find graphite easy to use and love pencil drawings for their simple complexity.



Have you received any formal training in art, or are you self-taught?

My drawing techniques are self-taught.



How do you navigate the art industry and stay motivated to continue growing and evolving as an artist?

I’m more of a ‘stay in my own lane and run my own race’ kind of person!

I try not to get too caught up in the industry and social media. My motivation is progression, and sharing my work with others gives me great joy and satisfaction.



Are there any specific subjects or themes that inspire your artwork the most?

Horses first and foremost, as they are my greatest passion and I have been involved with them most of my life! Dogs a close second!

I have plans to create some big pieces and want to draw birds, flowers, landscapes and still life among other things, when I have the time!


 Can you share your process for creating a graphite illustration, from the initial concept to the final piece?

A quality reference photo is an important starting point, I LOVE fine detail!

Once I have sketched the outline, I start to build layers with hard pencils, the Tombow 100 2h, with a nice blunt end is my go-to starting pencil.

It’s all about blending! Layer upon layer gradually getting to the darker values, while continuously lifting highlights out with the Tombow MONO Eraser (an ESSENTIAL tool for me!)

Throughout the process I take photos of the drawing and use an app to put it alongside the reference so the highest level of accuracy can be achieved.

I’m a perfectionist when it comes to my drawing so won’t settle until I’m completely happy with it!


How do you approach selecting reference images for your artwork?

I work closely with clients to help select the best possible image of their beloved pet. I often photograph them myself. Sometimes though, the animal is deceased, and I work with what we have, using my artistic licence to recreate detail otherwise missing in older photos.



Graphite drawings often require a great deal of patience and precision. How do you maintain focus and motivation throughout the creation process?

I’m generally very self-motivated when it comes to drawing, it quite easy when you enjoy what you do. I start between 8-9am and have regular breaks, getting out with my 4 sausage dogs and seeing the horse is important, and coffee with friends of course!

I do a long stint every evening till the small hours, I have music on, or podcasts, and I’m a patient person so enjoy the creative challenge.


Are there any challenges or obstacles you encounter when working with graphite? How do you overcome them?

Working with poor quality pencils is a big no! Graphite pencils are mixed with a binder of clay and some pencils can be very scratchy/gritty and don’t glide over the paper/blend easily.

A lot of artists struggle to get the dark tones with graphite. This is where the tombow mono 100 comes in to play. I like a good tonal range in my drawing and the 6b is blacker than the 9b of other well-known brands, their smoothness is unsurpassed, and they are durable and strong holding a good point when sharpened.

Graphite can be more challenging on large scale works because of its small mark making surface, making it hard to cover a lot of area smoothly, and is very time consuming. I find that challenge rewarding!

Graphite glare can be a problem especially when photographing it, lots of layers with the dark tones can eliminate that rather than just pressing harder, but again take more time.



Can you describe a memorable or meaningful experience you've had as an artist working with graphite illustrations?

Earlier this year I did a large drawing for a lovely jockey called Daryl Jacob, of himself and Top Notch, a horse he rode and loved that sadly passed away. It was my biggest challenge to date, taking 140hours, and I got to hand it over to Daryl at York Races which was really memorable!

All my drawings are meaningful to me as the majority are pet portraits. They are a touching tribute and a lasting reminder of the love and joy they bring to people's lives, and working closely with the owner during the process, right through to the end result is very rewarding.


What advice would you give to young artists who want to excel in graphite illustration?

First of all, a desire to learn! Choose a subject you like and would enjoy drawing! Play around with sketching to start with. Get some good pencils!

Drawing is a skill set that can be learned by an absolute beginner. To progress you must have patience, time to practice, and perseverance!

Watch tutorials to learn how to blend and layer, which is the most important part of a graphite drawing becoming realistic.


Quick fire

Mechanical pencil or graphite pencil?

Graphite, but I do use mechanical more recently for tiny precise details.

Small drawing or big canvas?

Both have their place for me depending on the subject!

How would you describe your artistic style in three words?

I would say my drawing style is

  • Realistic (hyper-realism is my goal)
  • Passionate (love for what I create)
  • Personal (putting my heart and soul in to each piece)

If you had to choose one artist, dead or alive, to collaborate with, who would it be and why?

I’m fascinated by an artist called CJ Hendry. She works in colour pencil now but has done monochrome in the past. The level of hyperrealism is incredible.

Favourite animal?

Tricky as love all animals, horses and dogs have to be first though!

Last song played?

Sky full of stars – Coldplay

Night owl or early bird?

Both! Permanently exhausted pigeon!

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