Botanical Art and Natural Science Illustration- Drawing Tip#1

Drawing Tip #1 Not all pencils are created equal.

"A Pair of Pears" Graphite Tombow 2H Drawing Pencil on Strathmore 300 Series Drawing Paper     Mindy Lighthipe ©2010

Have you ever gone to buy a drawing pencil either on the internet or in a store and seen so many different brands of pencils that your head is spinning? I find that in general…. yes I am profiling…. most employees at art stores are clueless in helping you select even a simple pencil for drawing.  As an artist I am looking for something that is going to work for me, not against me. Fighting with my supplies is time consuming and annoying. Can you imagine fighting with a pencil? I have, not a pretty sight. I went on a "Quest" to find the perfect pencil……. some people are looking for the perfect pizza…. but in my case I am looking for the perfect pencil.

After doing many drawing exercises and using lots of different brands of pencils I came up with some insights that helped me decide what pencil and brand I wanted to use. The lighter pencils, 3H – 9H are way too light for me. They are scratchy and hard. The darker pencils 2B – 9B are too soft and messy for me. I end up with graphite all over me, the walls, the table, and the cat.

I found that I love the look of a 2H pencil because it has a delicate silvery appearance. Most brands of 2H are harsh and scratchy and saturate too quickly for me, without delivering enough punch in the darker tones. I have a bold style and if the pencil is too light I am liable to put a hole through the paper trying to get it darker. I stumbled upon a Japanese brand of pencils that deliver a beautiful dark rich, but silvery tone to my drawings. The brand is Tombow. I found out from one of my students that Tombow means dragonfly in Japanese. This made the pencil even more special since I am a major bug-enthusiast! The next problem I had was finding a supplier here in the United States. I live in the New York Metropolitan area. NYC is about 20 miles away. I was able to find a few Japanese book stores that sold them but who wants to travel into NYC to buy a dozen pencils? The time, tolls and train fare are not an option for a $12 purchase. I finally found Tombow Professional Drawing Pencils on the internet and am able to buy them by the dozen and have them delivered right to my door.

My advise to botanical and natural science illustrators:
Buy several different brand of pencils. Try them out. Make notes on what you like about them, and what you don't like about them. A 2B pencil from one manufacturer can be very different from that of another manufacturer. Find out which pencil you like best. Is it  2H, HB, F, 3B……. ? Once you have found the pencil that gives you the range of tone you are looking for…. make sure that you can buy it easily.
Don't forget to come back and visit when I will be discussing……

TIP #2……… Your sharpener is your new best friend.