Recently, I began sketching in pencil after being strictly a charcoal artist for just about my entire career. Why? While I love the ability to block in large areas at a time with charcoal, I don’t love getting really dirty before attending receptions or dropping off paintings at galleries and exhibits. I need to make the most of my time when I am in the city, by combining exhibit business with sketching days, I get a lot more accomplished.
But getting used to the “pointiness” of the pencil was definitely a challenge–pencil is so linear. I am used to using the side of the charcoal to block in an entire area of dark and middle values, with pencil, I also use the side a lot more than the edge. I am also going to get myself a chisel point (carpenter’s) pencil, which will definitely help in defining those large areas of shadow more efficiently.
I currently am using a set of Staedtler Mars drawing pencils–a range of hard and soft, but I have to admit I primarily use the soft ones because I like to get my darks established from the beginning. I do use the full range when I am working on larger drawings, but if I just have my little Moleskine sketchbook (pictured above), then I can usually get away with 3 pencils (an HB, 4B and 7B) to create a sketch with a good range of values.
Sketching on site, regardless of the medium you use, is such a valuable exercise. Even if you are primarily a studio painter, you observe so much more on location rather than relying completely on reference photos. So grab a pencil and get out there, it’s fun and will really improve your observation skills!