Holy Graphite Batman

Grab a cup of tea or coffee and lets get cozy.  One of my goals this year is to start making pieces in pencil.  As you may know by now, pen and ink is my bread and butter.  However, graphite is slowly starting to steal my heart. 

If you were to ask me a year or two ago if I would ever draw in graphite, I would have said "HELL-TO-THE-NO"!  But this year, I wanted to be more open minded and try to use graphite as the beautiful and valuable medium that it is.  Three months ago, I went to my local art store and picked up a shit ton of graphite tools.  I didn't want to limit myself so I went 'whole hog' and bought one of everything in the aisle: mechanical pencils, regular pencils, erasers, tracing paper, smudgers, everything and anything I could think of that was graphite related. 

Now that I am about to hit the three month mark of my pencil endeavor, I can say that I am really enjoy the process.  It's a much slower process than ink, but now I find it relaxing and almost meditative. There is something quite romantic about building up lines and gradients, unlike ink where you instantly get deep blacks with the flick of the nib.  Graphite really makes you work for it, which I'm discovering to be not such a bad thing.

Another reason I wanted to work more with graphite was to develop a more relaxed and loose approach to drawing.  In my mind, I imagine myself as a loose illustrator, but by relying on ink for a number of years, it really stiffened my technique and I wanted to loosen up and draw more fluidly -- this is easier said than done.  It's quite difficult to unlearn something that seems so natural.  I think every artist or person for that matter, has a vision of how they want to be and most of the time, their dream self doesn't match up to their real self.  I am a firm believer that if you can dream it, you can make it happen.  So dammit, I will make this happen -- Fluidity Here I Come!


A few things I've learned so far:

  1. Patience is key.  I've always considered myself a patient person, especially in the studio.  But after picking up the pencil, I realized that I may not be as patient as I thought.  I feel really ADD and my concentration is much shorter than when I work in pen and ink.  The worst feeling is when you feel as though you have been building up the same area for what feels like an eternity and you can't stop until it's done. 
  2. There's a reason why there are so many different forms of pencils, anything from H's - B's use them. They are necessary even if you feel like a hoarder.  Buy them all--mechanical and regular.  Also, if you are asking if you need a regular pencil and a mechanical one the answer is -- Yes, you need both. They are uniquely different tools and produce different marks, which you will figure out and develop more control of the more you use them.
  3. Mistakes are great.  Go with the flow when you make sketchy lines. They are perfection in their imperfection.  Remember every line that comes from you is unique, so embrace them!  Also, graphite is much more forgiving than pen; use that darn eraser!
  4. Have scrap paper lying around so you don't smudge.  I never realized how messy I was until I started to work with pencil.  I can smudge like nobody's business and that can be a bad thing, unless you like your pieces a tad bit on the blurry side.
  5. Spray fixative is a god send--- seriously. 
Butterfly closeup

Do you have your own graphite tips, techniques, or tricks?

I would love to know?