Drawing Unknown Faces, part 39

13 Apr

I was wondering why a technical pencil –which really isn’t meant for artist’s drawings– for me gave so much better results than wood-encased artist’s pencils. Today I happened to see a diagram in “The Pencil” by Henry Petroski, which completely changed how I sharpen my pencil points from now on.

I don’t use a regular pencil sharpener, because it cuts away too much of the pencil wood, which I think is too wasteful. I rather cut away the wood, exposing the pencil lead, with a sharp hobby knife, and grind the lead to a point with some sanding paper stapled on a block (you can buy those blocks in an art supply shop).

However, not knowing better, I did my grinding left to right, relative to the length of the pencil, rolling it around its longitudinal axis. Petroski describes in his book with a diagram (I haven’t read the text yet), that the pencil lead becomes brittle if you do it like that. The proper procedure for grinding a point to a pencil lead is to move the pencil forwards and backwards, while rolling it around its longitudinal axis. I confirmed that the point now hasn’t any of the brittleness I experienced before, and remains sharp much longer than with the “wrong” procedure.

Enthused by this finding, I found a photo of a woman on Flickr, and started sketching her. Although I had to re-sketch some of it, and the sketch took me 60 minutes, I only had to sharpen the HB lead three times, roughly every 20 minutes.

Drawing Unknown Faces, part 39

So, now I have a renewed interest in the wood-encased pencil. Not that I’m getting rid of my mechanical pencil, because it has served me well and is very predictable. That is because, unlike wood-encased pencils, it has a fixed length. A specialized artist’s pencil, however, draws much smoother and gives finer control over the markings than a mechanical pencil.

The sketch is based on a photo I grabbed from the Flickr public photo stream.

That is all.

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