The Joy of Drawing
Over the decades, I've worked in so many different media and, though some were more difficult and frustrating than others, I've loved them all. But drawing - simple pencil drawing that is - remains my favorite. This is the drawing I did for the cover of my first book, Tales of Love and Courage at Milkweed Manor. I went on to add color with washes of transparent acrylic. I chose transparent colors to allow the pencil marks to show through, as I wanted the look of a tinted drawing, something that preserved the character of the original drawing.
My first art memories are of drawing. In third grade, I drew horses in the margins of my arithmetic papers. In high school, I drew my little sister sitting on the floor watching TV, and I also remember trying to master the surprisingly complex forms of a bouquet of daffodils from the garden.
I know there are many painters who profess they can't draw, but to me, drawing in the basis of everything. That's just my point of view - I know it's not true for everyone.
Here are a few reasons I like drawing so very much.
1. The equipment is inexpensive and readily available.
2. The supplies are so simple, dry (no pesky water or other mediums required), and portable, you can draw just about anywhere.
3. You don't have to be right the first time, thanks to erasers and papers that are very resilient, which means you can just keep going until you get it right.
4. Drawing serves multiple purposes. It can be a roadmap for another form of finished art - a painting or sculpture, for example - or it can be a finished art piece on its own.
5. Even though the pencil is such a simple tool, it's possible to achieve a wide range of value either by the amount of pressure you apply or by the grade (H, HB, 2B, etc.) of lead you use. A line can vary in value as it goes along.
6. Lines can be relatively thicker or thinner, again due to the lead size you use or how sharp - or dull - your pencil is. A line can vary in thickness as it goes along!
7. Drawing forces you to pay attention to value which, at least to me, is maybe the most important factor in the success of a piece.
8. Drawing is an aid to planning. Of course, there are those dreaded thumbnail sketches. But when words just don't help, a sketch or schematic can be invaluable.
9. A drawing can suggest, although it needn't be, an unfinished piece, a step in the preparation for a grander effort. And, as such, it has an intimacy about it. "This is what I was planning."
10. Then there are my beloved mechanical pencils - no sharpeners needed. One can just keep going. And, you know, even the thinnest mechanical pencil lead can create a variety of strokes. If you keep turning the pencil as you use it, the tip remains uniformly thick (or thin, however you want to look at it). But if you don't turn it, you develop a thin and thick portion - thin using the far edge, or thicker on the flat.
But MOST OF ALL, pencil is a transparent medium, which means you can build your image layer by layer. But unlike other transparent media (watercolor, for instance), if you mess up, you can always erase. Perfect!
So, here's what I mean by transparency and working in layers. By the way, a simple way to think of transparency is that each layer adds to those beneath whereas opaque layers cover what is beneath.
Here, I've completed the first layer with an H pencil. But I've then continued to add a second layer, this time with an HB pencil, to the rat on the left.
And now, I've added HB to the rest of the elements, and also added more HB "texture" - like the grass - to the rest. If I were intending a finished pencil piece, I'd continue with softer leads such as 2B and 4B. But in this case, I'm going to add washes of color, so I don't go further with the pencil. I apply a fixatif to the pencil before continuing with any water media as the water can smudge the pencil, and more so the softer the lead.
If you haven't done much with pencil, I urge you to give it a second look. You might very well end up liking it best of all!