Tag Archives: pencil

My Brief History of Sketching Trees

As a young child, you likely learned to draw a tree by using a few circular shapes to symbolize masses of leaves supported by a narrow rectangle to depict the tree’s trunk. And if you were in a creative mood that day, a few angled lines could be added to suggest its branches.

1992 San Clemente, California. Winter branches outside my studio window. 9B pencil.

Of course drawings of trees could vary widely depending on where you lived as a kid. Tall triangles symbolized towering conifers. Or a long and curved line topped with serrated, curved shapes became a palm tree. It was easy and fun to draw a tree.

Unfortunately, the joy of drawing trees—and everything else—is abandoned by many kids as they become immersed in the rigors of writing, math, and reading. Most people leave childhood drawing behind to pursue life’s more grown-up callings. But not me.

2017 Santa Cruz, California. Fall leaves in the parking lot outside my studio. Micron pen, watercolor.

Drawing became my livelihood and a continuous source of joy. And as an adult, trees have remained one of my core subjects of interest. Various species of trees have been tapping their roots in the pages of my sketchbooks for several decades. It is like having my own forest of drawn memories bound together.

Following are some of my sketched moments with trees…

Continue reading My Brief History of Sketching Trees

2B or Not 2B?

Which pencil should you use for drawing? That is the question.

2B-or-not-2B-4

During the early 17th century, as Shakespeare’s Prince Hamlet first gazed upon a skull and questioned what to be in life, the country of England was busy mining a valuable carbon material. This dark, powdery material eventually became known as graphite (derived from the Greek word ‘graphein’ meaning ‘to write’). Artists soon discovered graphite to be extremely useful for the process of drawing.

However, the big technological breakthrough for drawing came in 1795, when a French scientist named Nicholas-Jacques Conte invented the pencil. By mixing clay with graphite, Conte found ways to alter the hardness of pencil leads which produced darker and lighter shades of black. Modern-day pencils are available in a wide range of black shades—such as 2B, 2H, HB—enabling artists to achieve endless combinations of drawing techniques and styles.

How to choose the right pencil for the job at hand? Here are recommendations on basic drawing pencils I make to students that can help you get started: Continue reading 2B or Not 2B?

Getting Sideways With Your Pencil

The very first thing my students learn is how to hold the pencil on its side while drawing basic lines and shapes. The overhand grip, as it’s called in the art world, is a bit awkward at first. But with practice, it quickly becomes second nature to sketchers. One advantage of the overhand grip is how much easier it is to create sweeping pencil strokes and large shapes. Another advantage is that you gain control and flexibility of your wrist when drawing angled and curved lines. You’ll also see increased sensitivity and control when varying line widths and adding tonal values (shading). And the overhand grip is less fatiguing, allowing for longer, more relaxed drawing sessions. Continue reading Getting Sideways With Your Pencil