Sunday, June 8, 2014

Rediscovering the classic pencil, and a cobbled-together table easel.

Ever since starting this blog I've been trying out all kinds of drawing implements, ways of holding them, and techniques - drawfromtheshoulder, sharpen your pencil with an X-Acto knife and sanding sponge so the lead protrudes 3 inches and has a ridiculously long point, all sorts and types of mechanical pencils, brush pens, and ad infinitum. Pretty much everything except that good old standby classic, the humble wood-encased pencil pointed in a standard sharpener. It's really my one true love - we go way back, and I always knew we'd end up together no matter what else I tried along the way (all this artsy-fartsy stuff.. )

Well I finally got tired of mechanical pencils and decided to bust out the true classic - in this case a 4B (had to search for a while to turn up anything with actual honest-to-goodness graphite in it!) There's just nothing that I've found yet that has the same qualities - using just one pencil I can start with extremely light construction lines and keep ghosting them out and restating gently until it looks just right, and then I can bear down more and more as I develop the lines and the shading to perfection. This allows me to give each stage of the process exactly the time and attention it needs - to let the drawing develop in stages with great control (never managed to achieve anything like that with all the fancy-schmancy carbon pencils and charcoal pencils and mechanical pencils).

And I built this contraption partway through this piece, which is contributing most excellently to the unparalleled precision I'm getting. I got really frustrated with balancing either a sketchbook or a drawing board on my lap leaning against the table. The thing that really tickles me is that I built this in about 10 minutes without ever getting out of my chair!! Literally everything I needed was within arm's reach and after picking up a 2 x 2 and holding it in various positions against the table leg to spark ideas it came together quickly. Just a few pieces of scrap wood, a few clamps, and I covered it with black paper (also within arm's reach - made me literally laugh out loud - so were the scissors I trimmed it with). The whole thing can be put up or taken down in 30 seconds or less, and can be adjusted for angle and side-to-side (I wanted it to aim directly at the monitor, which sits at an cockeyed).

Now I'm really drawing with the right tools, and it feels like a major triumph. This drawing is going to be a big turning point. But I also feel like I've now had my getting-acquainted period with a few other tools and materials that I'll keep coming back to and getting better with - chiefly charcoal pencils on smooth newsprint for gestures and quick figure drawings. And the mech pencils and brush pen etc will be great for comic book type drawing.

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