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DRAWING SKETCHING COURSE: Drawing tools: Pencils

The simplest tool for drawing is a pencil

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If you want to train drawing, the usage of pencils of different degrees of hardness is recommended. You get them in every stationery shop. In Germany hard pencils are signified with H1 to H6 (H6 are the hardest), soft ones with B1 to B6 (B6 are the softest) and HB is the middle degree of hardness.

Generally it is recommended, not to erase lines once made (remember §1). My teacher categorically forbid the use of erasers in his courses with the words “we don’t make art here”.

He meant, that there is nothing to say against using erasers consciously as an artistic graphic means or to eliminate disturbing lines. But when training, the "wrong" lines help to see, where the right line should be. The “wrong” lines are forming a kind of “helping shape”, guide-system or grid which helps you to see the positions, where the right lines should be.


First the "rough forms" are sketched with a hard or very hard pencil. These pencils make light-grey, weakly visible lines. When becoming more concrete the softer pencils are used. In this way the drawing develops from bright hardly visible lines to dark accents.

Of course one can draw also simply with a pencil with a middle degree of hardness. Then the bright lines are drawn with very little pressure and when coming to concrete forms the pressure is raised, the lines are becoming stronger and darker. This technique however requires more exercise. On the one hand you have to concentrate to perceive and grasp the motive (which is hard enough at the beginning) , to find the right position of the lines. On the other hand you have to control the pressure of the pencil and at the same time.

I for myself like to draw with all-point pens. With low pressure I can draw light-grey lines with these pens, with stronger pressure pitch-black lines. And these pens have “document-quality" according to DIN whatever (DIN = German Industrial Norms, so I can be sure, that the lines won’t lose their colour the next some-hundred years :-)

These hints about drawing techniques only apply to the exercises. It is great fun to develop drawings from dark parts to light ones or to draw totally chaotic.

And here also is the most important rule §1!

Picture 1:
The upper pencil was sharpened with a cutter knife.

Picture 2:
This sense-free scribbling was made with a pencil.

Please consider the extreme brightness differences, which are realizable with a pencil. The pencil was sharpened with a cutter, not with a "normal" pencil sharpener. Many teachers insist on this kind of sharpening, because the drawings become automatically "more alive". The line strengths are automatically varying with every change of direction of the line. That is well visible in the lower red circle. The pencil behaves like a calligraphic quill, when changing the drawing-direction to the left the line became thin automatically.

In the upper circle you can see a line becoming thinner and brighter without changing the direction. Here the intensity and width is a consequence of the pencil’s pressure when drawing.

A beginner normally is troubled with the problem to bring the motive on the paper. Therefore he forgets to pay attention to the brightness or width of his lines. In order to sharpen the sense for these qualities and to receive a certain sensitivity for the "line", you should simply draw and scribble “senseless figures (with a cutter-sharpened pencil).

The characteristic of lines being drawn with a pencil-sharpener sharpened pencil (huuu...) is a little bit similar to a normal writing quill or ink-pen, it is easier to control the width of the line while drawing. A disadvantage is, that the peak is sanded off very fast, the line becomes wide and diffuse. If the pencil is sharpened with a cutter knife, this effect is not so disturbing. Mostly you can find a sharp edge simply by turning the pencil and you have again a small line.



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