Happy New Year everyone,
2020 is finally here and I hope you are excited for what’s to come. I hope you will challenge yourselves to greater levels of creativity and learn new skills to further the gifts that you already have. I also hope you will set aside time to grow by stretching yourselves beyond your comfort zone. The key to becoming all that you were destined to be is to “Never say I Can’t!” Begin to declare that “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13) The Lord honors those who commit their works to Him and who strive for excellence in everything they do. (Proverbs 16:3; 22:29) So go forth and continue to invest in your future!
In this month’s blog post. I will be sharing tips on how I select the right graphite pencils and paper for creating professional fine art. There are several things to consider when thinking about the right graphite pencil to add to your collection. In fact, you’ll probably—like most artists—wind up using several different pencils depending on the effect you’re looking for. Rather you are a beginner or a professional, figuring out the right pencil and paper combination can bring out the best details in your fine art, sketches, and designs.
There are many brands of pencils on the market to choose from. Throughout high school, college, and even as an art teacher, Prismacolor and Ebony were widely used. They are well known as a general use pencil for sketching, drawing, layout or design work. They can be used with a gentle hand to get very light values or you can create a very dark graphite for heavy shadows and dark tones. Over the years, I began to explore other brands such as Derwent, Prismacolor, Faber-Castell, Staedtler, Tombow, Cretacolor, etc., that you can may give me better shading. I realized key differences in the pencils were the mixture of graphite and clay, which are the two components necessary to achieve smooth strokes and gradients. So, every time there was a 50% coupon at the local art stores, I would purchase as many different brands as a single pencil or a set to test out.
After testing out several different brands, take into considerations your drawing style. Technical drawing will be a little different from sketching and will require detailed lines verses shading. Keep in mind that most artists use more than one type of pencil. Buying a pencil set that comes with a selection of graphite pencils in different grades allows you to switch between different grades. The “H” in the set stands for hardness and “B” for blackness. A standard number 2 pencil corresponds to HB on this scale. The HB scale ranges from 9H, a hard pencil that leaves fine, light marks, to 9B, a soft pencil which a high ratio of graphite that leaves bold, dark marks.
Selecting Different Papers (board)
The surface of the paper determines the fineness and range of values which gives different results. Over the last 25+ years, I have used several different kinds of paper such as Arches, Fabriano Artistico, Strathmore, and Canson for my graphite drawings and have found each one to be unique.
I have found for my style of drawing that the Strathmore 400 Series Smooth Bristol Vellum Board. This is off-white paper is one of the most versatile, high quality smooth paper and with a uniform surface tooth when blended. To work out the blotches and make a smooth tone simply press harder with the pencil off to the side. But it takes some practice and time. It’s inexpensive and it’s consistent, and produces rich blacks without pressing too hard on the surface.
When you're just starting to draw the choices in paper and pencils can be overwhelming. There really is no right or wrong answer when it comes to choosing either. What is more important is which paper you enjoy working with for your particular style.
It may take some time to find the right paper for you and it's likely that you'll change your mind repeatedly as you progress. Until next time, be creative and draw!