Art Unboxed The Pencil
The pencil is probably the second writing instrument I ever used, the first being crayons. While I don’t use crayons much anymore, the pencil is something that I use regularly in some form. My top pencils are my favorite mechanical pencil, Prussian blue pencil, white pastel pencil, and my Apple Pencil.
Because of the nature of its makeup, there is a uniqueness to a pencil drawing. I have found the easiest way to shade any piece is when it’s in pencil. From adding additional layers, to the old fashioned blurring with your thumb, there are so many methods to shade in pencil. One of my favorite is by removing areas of shading with an electric eraser. This allows the shading you leave to stand out.
Another important aspect of a pencil drawing or sketch is the fact it’s been a building block for countless famous pieces of art. Whether charcoal or graphite, a pencil drawing allows you to get an idea of tone, (which means the to the relative lightness or darkness of a color), composition, and correction.
Using one color, or even multiple colored pencils allows you to determine what areas of the image will need to be darker or lighter. Drawing with one color or shade is wonderful practice to understand how to properly color an image. It is why some paintings, when shown in black and white are so effective. If everything is one color, and you can still tell what everything is, you’ve been successful. A pencil drawing is great practice with this.
It is much easier to undo a pencil drawing than to scrape a painting, this helps with composition. If the tree in front of the barn doesn’t work in pencil, it’s easy to erase and move the tree. Many artists will make three or four thumbnails, (small versions of the image in optional box squares), to see what composition works best for a scene.
Correction is similar but a little different. Sometimes an idea for an image just isn’t working. Learning this in pencil before doing a larger piece in another medium, allows you to either save what you are working with, or to start over. Correction also happens in the form of practice, the more you draw a scene, the better you’ll draw the scene.
Just as pencils can be used in different methods, different types of pencils can be valuable. Whenever I needed to shade one of my fountain pen drawings in Prussian blue ink, I found the Prussian blue marker I used would seep through the page to other side. Switching to a Prussian blue pencil solved this issue, and added another textural option.
White pastel pencils are wonderful for either writing on toned paper, or adding small white touches to a finished, dry, watercolor or gouache painting. I have written before that I do not have the patience for masking fluid typically, so it’s a great option for me. It also helps fix a goof when I was trying to use negative painting and I accidentally added color to an area i shouldn’t have.
Lastly my favorite digital drawing device is the Apple Pencil. Before you say it’s not a pencil, I would suggest it is much like a mechanical pencil, while not a regular pencil, is a pencil. I agree with the term Pencil in this case because in a very real way it removes the barrier of technology from the tactile use of it. You know the technology is there, and makes it possible, but it keeps it from getting in the way. I’ve used my Apple Pencil to successfully draw digital sketches, paintings, and digital concepts.
No matter what pencil you use, I would encourage you to pick it up more often. I keep a quick sketching kit in both vehicles. They may not get much use, as I gravitate towards my favorite supplies at home, but in a pinch I have used them because they were within reach. That is the beauty of a pencil, it can stay in a pocket, glove box, or trunk of a car without fear of leaking or damage. A pencil can also, in a very real way, help draft new possibilities.