Author: gwendoline  |  Category: Sketching

Understanding why you have various numbers and letters on your pencils, can allow you to choose one for a particular use.  The “B” is for black and the “H” is for hard.  Pencil leads are made from graphite, a form of carbon, which is then mixed with clay and fired in a kiln.  The more clay content, the paler and harder the lead (silvery tones), and the more graphite, the softer and darker (blacks) the pencil.  The higher the number, the softer or harder the pencil is.

A HB pencil is the one to use for general purpose, blocking in, getting an outline down.  A HB is neither too hard that it could dent the paper, nor too soft, that it will smudge and dirty the working surface.  I always start with a HB.  Try all the various pencils to see what marks they make and how they differ, from soft velvety darks to pale silvery greys.  I usually suggest the following as a kit for students:  7H, 2H, HB, 2B, 6B & 8B.

When rendering in tone, I always start with a HB and continue with the HB to block in the masses of darks.  The HB erases easily and I am able to lift off pencil lines to change and adjust shapes with either a plastic or kneadable eraser.  When I am satisfied with my shapes, I graduate to a 2B pencil to enhance and strengthen tones, breaking down the HB masses of tone, defining smaller areas.  The 6B & 8B will increase the intensity of darks as required.  For a smoother finish to the darks, run a harder pencil, either a 2H or 7H evenly across the top of them, this will get rid of any unwanted graininess.  The harder pencils are also perfect for very light tones, or making areas more solid over the top of a softer pencil mark.  Putting a soft pencil over the top of an area marked with a hard pencil, doesn’t always work, as  the pale silvery tones seem to be rather slippery and dont allow for any tooth to hold the softer pencils, hence it is always better to put down your softer marks first.

When using any pencil, explore it’s potential by using varying pressures.  Learning to use a light hand or one with pressure, will give a better result to your work.   Explore using a continuous line against a number of broken lines.  Lines can also be thick or thin

There are many different marks that can be made:  hatching, cross-hatching, stippling.  Hatching is a group of lines parallel in any one direction. The closer the lines, the darker the area will appear, as the lines block out the paper surface.    Cross-hatching is a group of lines drawn across each other to build a web of hatched lines.  Both hatching and cross-hatching can be drawn very precisely and controlled, or loose and randomly.  Stippling marks are made by tapping the point of the pencil onto the paper (creating dots) of varying pressure.

            Hatching                      Cross-hatching


I like to use mechanical pencils, where I can insert my leads.  I usually have a HB lead in a 0.5 (fine) and a 2B lead in a 0.7 (thicker).  The mechanical pencils are great for those wanting a controlled and fine look about their work, as it never goes blunt.  If you wish to read more about drawing, take a look at my entry for May 2010.

People Painting People Weekend

Author: gwendoline  |  Category: Uncategorized

A great success at the Victorian Artists Society over the weekend with some fabulous portraits being produced.  We had 3 hours, which included breaks for the models, to produce a ‘portrait sketch’.    I painted Kenneth Ryan from Qantas (above).