Thursday, June 05, 2008
Occasionally, someone will write me asking what sort of pens, pencils and paper I use. And just as occasionally, I'll write back with a legitimate answer or gypsy curse. So I've decided to preemptively answer some of these future emails by posting an article, much like I did a few weeks ago with Entering Illustration, that will address some of these common questions. Of course, pretty soon into this article, I realized there's just too much to say for one piece. So I'll be examining my various drawing apparatuses over a series of articles, with this first part concentrating on...
As I've mentioned before, every drawing almost always starts as a pencil rough. While some of these eventually turn into ink drawings or paintings, a good percentage of them really don't progress past the rough stage, and just turn into a refined pencil drawing. For both roughs and refined pencil drawings, I generally only require the use of 2 or 3 specific pencils, and some supplemental tools.
Meet my oldest friend in the toolbox — the 3H Pencil1. We've been together so long, I'm not even sure when I got him. Or who made him. But the majority of drawings I've done in the past 5 years or so started out with him. I generally use him to "feel out" a drawing, lightly penciling in shapes and space at the start of a drawing. He's sort of the pencil equivalent of Lewis & Clark, venturing into the vast wilderness of the white page and returning to me with an important outline of what's there. For example:
See? Before 3H, I didn't even know Reginald existed. His sweetie, however, remains a mystery to all. Moving on...
While hard-hearted 3H and his ilk live long, steady lives, Mechanical Pencils tend to live fast and hard, and then quickly die out, their soft guts splayed across a hundred scattered sketches and drawings. So I find that I need to employ entire families of Mechanical Pencils in order to keep drawing. This is Red the XIV, from the Bic-Matic Grip Pencil clan. All the members of Bic-Matic Grip Pencil clan have served me well. Their soft #2 Medium graphite tips have stayed perpetually sharp, and provide most of the line and tone in every drawing. In the example below, we see Reginald has now been blocked in with a few Mechanical Pencil strokes. From this point I could either smear those lines to get tone, or go in with another pencil (whom you'll meet soon enough).
Sadly, I plan to abandon this particular Bic-Matic Grip Pencil clan once the last member of the clan leaves the box. I've decided to start using a Mechanical Pencil with refillable insides, so to be a bit more environmentally responsible. But I shall not forget their many contributions to my important work.
This is my second oldest friend — the H pencil. His chief value, for me, is his versatility. On occasions where 3H goes vacationing in the couch cushions or the bottom of my bag, good ol' H is willing to do the initial rough exploration on a new drawing. But he's not limited to that. H very often is used for hatching and shading, though the amount of darkness he provides depends very much on what paper I'm using. I've included a sample of H in action below, but he's also appeared in a couple other articles.
What we have here are rubber erasers, also known as a kneadable erasers. I use them for almost all my erasing needs, though it's not like I have anything against other erasers (for instance, I'll often use the little chap topping Mechanical Pencils). I suppose I use them because they last a long time, and their pliability means I can combine them into a supereraser for cleaning broad areas of a drawing, or I can tear off little pointy nubs for erasing tiny areas. Like noses. Or Elephants... in drawings of the Earth from space.
The only problem with these guys is that they tend to pick up every bit of detritus they touch. It's probably the filthiest thing I use on a daily basis, not including my aforementioned library of gypsy curses. Often I'll start to erase with one, and not realize a piece of mechanical pencil got lodged in its side, and dark strokes will suddenly appear where I'm supposed to be erasing. Their idea of a practical joke, I think.
These fellows are called Tortillons. I employ a number of these to create tone in a drawing, by smearing the loose graphite lines of the Mechanical Pencil. While they are probably my favorite tool, they do have a bit of a drawback, mainly the fact that the concept of dry paper rubbing on dry paper makes my skin crawl in the same way fingernails on a blackboard would affect someone else. Luckily, I'm able to tolerate it while drawing, but man... the hair on my arms is sticking straight up just typing this paragraph... let's just go to the samples so I can relax:
I would be negligent if I didn't mention the use of digital drawing tools, particularly Photoshop's paintbrush and brush shapes, when talking about drawing. I won't get too in-depth on the subject, at least not in this article.
Often, when something doesn't erase as well as I'd like, or if I'd like to add a line here, or a highlight there, I'll add these touches in Photoshop. I still try to get everything as perfect as possible in real-life, but to be honest it's rare to always get things just how you want them. And it's important to note, that in preparing a drawing or painting to be seen on the web, you'll almost never get a scan or photo that looks exactly how you're seeing it in the real world. Tools like Levels, Hue/Saturation, and Sharpen help you more accurately translate the real-life appearance of your art to the web format.
Well, that's about all I have to share regarding the tools I use for roughs and pencil drawing. Next time, I'll be going over pens I think. Or maybe hot air balloons. You can't do a drawing without a proper dirigible, right?
1In case you're unfamiliar with the naming convention for pencils, H stands for hardness. The higher the number, the harder the pencil (and lighter the line). As pencils get softer, a "B" is added. And then the higher the number before the B, the softer the graphite (and darker the line). I'm not sure what B stands for. Probably Bsoftness, where the B is silent.