Ian Hodgson Graphite Artist - Brighton, UK

Ian Hodgson, Brighton, UK

Graphite has been used in art since it was discovered in 1564.  Ian Hodgson’s graphite drawings take us into the 21st Century.

Zoneone Arts brings Ian Hodgson to you…

What lead you to working with graphite?

I have always drawn with pencils but started using graphite blocks about 20 years ago. I find the versatility and expressive mark making potential of graphite both stimulating and rewarding.

Can you briefly explain the technique required to use graphite?

I use graphite blocks (Derwent XL very soft) which I use in their original state but also grind into powder and apply to the paper using using stencil brushes and fingers and remove and manipulate with erasers and chamois leather.

Discuss the layering of your work?

I don’t tend to plan any layering in my work it generally develops through the drawing process as I add and remove the graphite. As the drawing develops and builds, the application of different techniques and processes remain evident and can be seen as a kind of layering.

Your work is about less.  Discuss the way you rub, sand and use an eraser to perfect your work?

I’m not sure if my work is about ‘less’, I find that the actions of rubbing and sandpapering creates texture and the manipulation and erasure of the graphite opens up passages of space. I think that these processes add to the work rather than take away.

The ‘fingerprint’ expand on this in your work.

How did it come about?

Headside, Graphite on paper, 40 x 30cm 

Studying the ‘politics of identity’ during my art degree, the fingerprint became an obvious motif to visually represent some of the issues I spent time engaging with. I enlarged an image of my own fingerprint (left index finger) to be able to see it more clearly and then perfected how to draw it’s pattern and structure until I developed the stylised version I use in my work 

Is it always there? 

I do use the fingerprint a lot, mainly in my figurative drawings, but its not included in all works.

Is it always the same size?

Suspend, Graphite on paper, 40 x 30cm

As every fingerprint is hand drawn they always differ in size, I scale each one according to the drawing they’re a part of.

Compare two works one negative and one positive.

Black Star, 65 x 65cm 

‘Black Star’ and ‘I Feel Love’ are both drawings of the mirror ball, an object that I have often re-visited and re-worked and both have their roots in my music passion. As a youngster, the video to Blondie’s Heart of Glass had a huge impact on my psyche. I fell in love with Debbie Harry, the band and the mirror ball, a very heady combination! The decision to create the almost negative ‘Black Star’ in contrast to the light, sparkly ‘I Feel Love’ had been on the back burner for a long time but came to fruition at the time of David Bowie’s death and the release of the poignant video to the song of the same name.

I Feel Love, Graphite on paper, 65 x 65cm

Expand on your use of composition

For both pieces I was exploring angles of light and dark with reference to the concept of some kind of horizon or eye line. With ‘Points of Light’ I place the  ‘horizon’ high on the picture plane of the square composition to create some breathing space before reaching the compression and intensity where the light meets the darkness.

Points of Light, Graphite on paper, 40 x 40cm 

With ‘Gable’ the light contrasting with the blackness is placed midway within the elongated rectangular composition to create a sense of intimacy and draw the eye line to the suggestion of a rooftop and hazy horizon.

 Gable, Graphite on paper, 20 x 50cm

Discuss both ‘Boundary’ and ‘Wing and a Prayer’.

‘Boundary” and ‘Wing and a Prayer’ are both studies of the 1912 Peace Statue which is situated on the Brighton and Hove border just down the road from where I live and work. I have always loved the strength and elegance of the statue, the rendered detail and beauty of its wings and how it stands majestically high on the seafront facing my chosen home town.


Boundary, Graphite on paper, 100 x 70cm

Although ‘Boundary’ is a slightly more direct representation of the statue I still wanted to capture the sense of potential movement, as if the angel could come to life at any moment and take flight. The layering of contrasting lines, density and open passages give ‘Wing and a Prayer’ a less grounded feel and create a sense of ethereality.

Wing and a Prayer, Graphite on paper, 65 x 80cm

On a similar vein, discuss ‘Acanthus’ and ‘Blackboard Work’.

The neo classical architectural detail of the Regency Square where I live provided the subject matter for these pieces.

Acanthus, Graphite on paper, 65 x 80cm

‘Acanthus’ was given the usual graphite treatment but I wanted to see how similar subject matter would work given a different treatment and as I really enjoy working with chalk on blackboard I gave this a go.

Blackboard, Chalk on blackboard, 160 x 120cm 

I like the contrast of the white marks against the blackness and how easy it is to blend, erase and add more chalk. The inevitable impermanence of this kind of work adds an immediacy to the drawing and, as with all of my blackboard works the original drawing has long since been erased and only exists in digital format now.

Discuss the use of red in ‘Unseen’.  

On an aesthetic level the use of red in ‘Unseen’ provides a contrasting addition to the monochromatic grey tones of the drawing. On a symbolic level the colour red carries multiple meanings – a warning sign, seeing red, anger, alarm, danger, heat, love, passion, blood – and with its inclusion I hoped to create ambiguity in the reading of the drawing.

Unseen, Graphite on paper, 60 x 48cm

When else have you used colour in your work?

I find that I can express most of what I want through line, texture and mark making without the need to add extra colour to the many grey tones provided by graphite. The occasional bold addition of red or subdued golden hue may appear within certain works but as a general rule I steer clear of colour to retain the clarity of the drawing.

What grade of paper do you find works best for you?

I have found that Fabriano Accademia 200 g/m2 responds the best to all my demands.

Does the size of the paper limit your work?

I usually work with a fairly average 50x65cm sheet and when I occasionally find this slightly restrictive I expand on to larger sheets. Obviously there are limitations to whatever size of paper is chosen but I can work ‘big’ on small pieces and ‘small’ on large pieces so maybe the limitations are more psychological.

What type of fixative do you use?  Discuss the importance of finish in your work.

I use Daler Rowney Perfix Colourless Fixative, it holds the graphite in a reasonably stable state without any apparent change in appearance. Ideally, I would prefer my drawings to be seen in their raw ‘finished’ state with nothing between the viewer and the surface but obviously works on paper benefit from the protection of being behind glass so conventional framing is usually the way to go.

Comment on your portraits?

Band, Graphite on paper, 30 x 30cm 

Although I have done a great deal of life drawing in my time, the figurative/head/face pieces I produce are not portraits in the conventional sense, I am attempting, with the use of a generic a male face/body, to represent an emotional state or sense of identity through physical gesture or expression. More psychological landscape than portraiture.

Chalkboard, Chalk on blackboard, 120 x 80cm

Discuss a commission or exhibition that has both excited you and lead you to go beyond your usual boundaries.

A few years ago I was invited to submit a piece as part of a pop-up drawing show in London. All works were to be hung salon style and unframed so I chose one of my ‘worksheets’ (large scale paper I fix to my studio wall to work out ideas, almost like a big one-sheet-sketchbook) not really intended for public display.



Seeing the piece hanging unframed in the show in all its rough and ready state felt quite exposing but also incredibly exciting. This show made me realise that these worksheets, despite their preparatory and experimental nature, could also be considered as complete pieces. The space, where my ideas are unselfconsciously worked out can create drama, insight and narrative, and, ultimately, contain even more interest than my some of my ‘finished’ drawings. A cathartic and liberating experience.

Contact details:

Ian Hodgson



Contact details:

Ian Hodgson, Brighton, UK

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, September, 2018