The #2 Lead Pencil

Let me introduce you to the worlds' finest overall drawing instrument . . . the ubiquitous and ever present #2 lead pencil. Its virtues include :

  • Cheap and readily available
  • Easy to use
  • No smell
  • Relative cleanliness
  • Capable of great range of expression
  • Erasable
  • Smearable/blendable
  • Fine detail work possible


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rawing is the first step in art (also occasionally the last because completed works are sometimes possible in this medium)

For those who wish to learn how to draw, you will need the following tools:

  • Lots of #2 pencils (don't bother with other numbers they're just a waste of time . . . and never use colored pencils . . . those are for kids. If you want color there's oil paint but that's another story)
  • A decent pencil sharpener and sharp knife (for occasional use like stabbing a burglar, etc.)
  • Some of those "paper pencils" that you use to blend tones.
  • Various erasers (yes you DO erase in pencil drawing . . . instructions to the contrary notwithstanding)
  • Sand paper of various grades (with this you can obtain a super fine point for those exquisite details as well as a supply of graphite dust which you can dab on your work with the afforementioned paper pencil to obtain various shading effects).
  • You must have Bienfang drawing paper. (If you cannot obtain this brand you must give up drawing and find something else to do.)
  • One handheld mirror (to be discussed further on)
  • Clean "junk" paper to place over part of your work so you don't smear it while working on some other part.
  • Some tissue paper and clean rags (not many . . . we're not oil painting)
This is enough stuff


The How of it

The basic plan is to draw a preliminary sketch of whatever you wish to draw on a page in the Bienfang tablet. You work this sketch until you've FUBARed it, then you exaggerate your best line by making it darker than the rest of the messed up drawing.

Now, you put the first drawing under the next page in the tablet and trace your best line onto the new paper. Work this till it's fubar and repeat the procedure. After about a dozen pages and very many hours of work your output will look quite professional.

If you are unable to "zero in" on what you want by this procedure, you are truly an idiot and should straightway go out and kill yourself or give up art altogether.

After a few years of practice, if you are truly motivated and dilligent, you may become a one paper guy like Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael, Rembrant (but don't hold your breath . . . I have some experience in this and I'm still at least a 4-paper guy ... if I get in the groove).

Also, when you get a little experience you can try those excellent India ink pens (the special drawing pens which have a very thin wire in the barrel where the ink comes out . . . this keeps it from clogging and keeps the ink flowing smoothly . . . great for cartoons & stippling . . . expensive, but worth it).

As you work, occasionally look at your work in the mirror to see if it's OK. This is my method and Leonardo DaVinci's as well. It works. When you think you're really doing historic artwork a quick look in the mirror will pop your balloon. (When you look at your own creation for a long time, it takes on the stature of a standard of measure . . . by definition -- great. But it's not. It's just an illusion. Get over it and get on with it or else you'll experience the embarrassment of trying to pass off crap as quality.)


Functional Advice

Never, ever settle for less than the picture that you have seen in your mind. There is always the temptation to do this . . . to draw the easier pose, to pick another animal you are familiar with . . . this is a matter of integrity. Time spent struggling is good time. It prepares you for greater things (and greater rewards) to come.

When you begin a drawing, first get the body lengths and body masses right. If you fail in some fundamental at the beginning, subsequent work will go for nought. (This presupposes that you have already some general mental picture of what you want.)

As you work, don't sweat the minor details. A work in progress will always reach a point where you no longer have to think so much. The work itself will "tell" you what it needs. Then you just have to follow directions to finish. This is the wonderful, easy, fun part.

If you don't know how to draw something, by all means get a photo of it. But, don't settle for other than the picture you had in your mind just because the picture doesn't match the pose you wanted. You're never going to find something exactly like what you want. And be thankful that you don't.
Accept what you find as a "structural guide" and nothing more. This is your correct attitude.

Protect your work. Watch out for oil from your fingers or hands. This can destroy your work. Spilled coffee will get you sooner or later.

Lastly, remember that the human body is the most diffucult to draw because . . . it is very familiar and it has no fur to cover up your anatomical drawing mistakes.
Two or three interacting humans are most difficult to draw because, not only do you have to get the individual body correct, you must now get two or more bodies to match up (relationshipwise). At around four or more bodies the difficulty decreases because nobody can tell what arm or leg goes where anyhow (see some of Rubens many body pictures then look at his "Rape of the Daughters of Lucippus" and you see what difference it makes).











"The artist must first learn diligence"

Leonardo DaVinci


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