A Pencil That Dances

November 27, 2010 12:23 pm

Dancing Pencils

I probably tried my first woodless graphite pencil somewhere around 12 years ago. It had a very different feel in my hand than traditional pencils. It was pure graphite encased in a very thin plastic liner. The woodless pencil had a very smooth natural feel in my hand. It was also slightly heavier in weight. With no wood the usable tip of the pencil was exposed and more variety in stroke was also possible. They also came as soft as pencils come, 9B. I really liked them.

Over the years I have fallen in love with these pencils. I have learned that using a 9B with just the right pressure I can get the lightest or the darkest of strokes with 1 pencil. I have learned that the subtle difference in weight and the velvet like texture of the pencil make it my perfect dance partner. At times starting slowly and building to an intense feverish frenzy as we move across the paper like lovers across a ballroom floor. Other times just a gentle slow dance moving slowly to the soft sounds of Patti Page or Jane Russel. There are times we playfully hop and skip singing along, times we move along intently, times we tango and times we waltz. Tori Amos, George Winston, Miles Davis, African drums, techno and many others we dance to. My fondest moments are spent with these pencils hand in hand dancing late into the nights.

There are subtle differences between the few manufacturers that make these slim graphite beauties. Some use more of, or a different bonding agent in the graphite. Some are thicker, some lighter, some have a different plastic sheath. My favorites are usually softer, slightly thicker and heavier. The best I have used was the M. Grumbacher. In 2006 when the company was acquired by Chartpak they stopped making them. I was forced to use Creatacolor brand woodless pencils. They were thinner, not as soft and lighter. I was devastated. Shortly after I was able to obtain woodless graphite pencils made by Faber-Castel. They are my current favorites.

Make no mistake there is a high cost to pay for such beauty, they generally run around $2 a piece and I can run through them very fast. I have found buying them in bulk helps bring down the cost some. They also tend to wear and tear pencil sharpeners because of the plastic sheath. I have gone through quite a few. Most pencil modern sharpeners don’t work well with them. They are cheaply made. I currently use an older Boston electric. Its made sturdy.

Our dances and our love affair continues…

Agave – First Line Studies

November 20, 2010 4:56 pm

Agave Line Study
Agave Line Study
Agave Line Study

I think I first fell in love with and truly began to understand the beauty of line when I was younger and studied Matisse’s and Rembrandt’s drawings. I sat in the library of my local community college for hours on end and just poured over page after page of drawings by these two artists. Others as well but I think it was those two that best communicated to me the power of line in art.

I began to realize that the most subtle of differences in a line could greatly alter the appearance of a work of art. I learned that line weight could also be used to convey different things. I also learned the absence of line could be used as a tool in art. These concepts were further reinforced in my own work by drawing the same drawing over and over and studying the different ways they looked and understanding why they looked different by understanding the differences in their lines.

Most times, though not all, my work is very process orientated. I start with a fairly basic sketch while working with a model. After the model has left I draw those sketches over and over trying different things. There are pieces I have sketched literally hundreds of times before moving them to canvas or pastel. There have been times though when I do get a sketch I love first off. There are some that are drawn a hundred times and none making it as a final piece.

These are some of my first line studies for my newest work titled “Agave”. Nothing here I am wild about so I’ll keep doing line studies before I move on to things like tone, overall composition etc.


November 10, 2010 3:22 pm


New sketch. Just trying to get warmed up again.