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Introducing the Art Material of the Month: Pencil

Someone asked me recently, “What draws you to creating illustrations in an analog technique vs. the digital options that are popular today?” and it really got me thinking about how valid this question is in the very technologically driven world we exist in today.

My answer? I am an old school Illustrator!
I went to Art Center in Pasadena, CA from 1989-1992, so my training comes from traditional media and although I am teaching myself Procreate and mostly know Photoshop, there is something different that happens when you’re creating with pencil to paper. Your mind thinks differently when it’s pencil to paper, and allows for more opportunity to explore and play. Even when the media you’re using is being unpredictable- for example when using brush pens, ink, or watercolor paints and the color bleeds into something else- there are so many exciting things that come from these happy accidents.

Using pencil gives me the freedom to just start without a set commitment. I can apply pressure on the lead as much as I want to control the intensity of the line. I can create a faint line to loosen up or push harder to commit with a darker line. It allows me the space to explore.

I use a mechanical pencil most of the time and my favorite is the PenTel 0.7 and 0.9 lead. I also like to use Black Wing pencils because they give me a nice, dark lead. I also love to use Prismacolor’s Verithin pencils in black which give me a nice consistency with a varied weight. When I am picking a lead weight, I am usually using an HB weight which is the perfect balance of line weight, but my go-to is always the PenTel mechanical pencils.

For anyone considering exploring pencil but possibly brand new to traditional techniques, I recommend purchasing a set that has a range from 6H (H’s are the harder leads) through 6B (softer leads) to help in the discovery process and narrow in on which look and feel your art is more drawn to. Conte Paris has a great variety kit with the multiple weight options. A great and simple exercise is to create squares on paper with each weight (6H, 5H, 4h, HB…) and see which weight works best for you. HB has always been my fave!


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