I have had such a great couple of days of recuperating from weeks of packing.
Sunday, I crashed. My head hurt, I was congested, and I just couldn’t do much of anything. Jeff let me sleep in. My sister-in-law pampered me with a healthy breakfast. And everyone gave me some time to just lay in bed and rest. By the afternoon, I felt like I was coming around.
Today, I got to sleep in again, had time to catch up on work stuff, and Jeff gave me a chance to drive around and do a little shopping. I bought a few small things, but the point was more to get out and start to refill my creativity well.
And it was awesome. I bought a few magazines and books to digest later.
It’s still going to take me a while to get back into some sort of a groove, but I feel like I’m on my way.
Today, I’m picking up a post I planned to write months ago. When I shared some of the sketches I had been working on, I received a lot of questions of the kind of pencils I use, etc, so I thought I would share some tips as well as my favorite tools (so far.)
Now, I’m going to put it out there right off the bat that I am still learning all of this myself. I am definitely a novice artist. But I think there is value in learning from those who are learning. We can learn and grow together, right?
So, the first thing I’m learning is that practice really does improve art! Yes, there are people with natural ability, but art is something that can be learned, honed, and improved. That’s such an encouragement to those, including me, who don’t easily whip out a perfect sketch right away. I always have to fight through the self-doubt and look past the imperfections.
The second thing I’ve learned is that studies of other sketches help me sketch better. Katie, my “artist friend”, let me borrow some books of famous artist’s sketches and it was so helpful for me to go through the exercise of copying them. I could mimic pencil strokes, which is much easier than drawing from real life.
These studies also helped me relax! Some of the Rembrandt studies I worked on were very simple with stick animals and people and indiscriminate scribbles. Everything doesn’t have to be detailed and perfect.
I have also learned that I put less pressure on myself if I am sketching or painting in a journal. If it’s in a journal, it’s just for me and just for practice. If it’s on a piece of paper or a canvas, I feel like it has to be worthy of a frame.
So, let’s talk about tools.
I have become a big fan of sketching on tan-toned paper. Katie introduced me to it and it really does make sketches look better for some reason! Maybe it’s more forgiving? I don’t know, but I like it much better.
Here’s a sketch I did on white paper in comparison…
(I need to practice eggs more!)
The sketch book I like is the Strathmore tan-toned soft cover journal.
As far as pencils, I started out with the budget-friendly ($3.71) Daler & Rowney Sketch Tin. I’ve used these pencils quite a bit and, for someone who is just learning, I thought they did pretty well for the price.
I did upgrade my pencils once I was sketching more, though. I wanted more hardness options, so I read some reviews and bought the Caran D’Ache 15 Grafwood pencil set. At $35, it’s a much higher price point, but still not outrageous when compared to some art supplies.
The thing I like most about them is that the exterior of each pencil is colored to match the hardness of the pencil. (The harder the graphite, the lighter the shade it makes on paper.)
In other pencil sets I have, the pencils look identical and you have to read the side to see what number it is. I’ve also been pleased with the variations in values I’ve been able to get with these pencils.
Another set I like is the Cretacolor Monolith Woodless Graphite Set. It comes with a great holder, which is nice when they are little nubs. I use these to cover a bit more paper than the “regular pencils”.
And I’ve become a fan of adding some white to graphite sketches on the tanned-tone paper. For that, I use General’s White Charcoal.
I even bought some black paper to test the white charcoal on! That should be fun.
For erasing, I use a kneaded eraser a lot, but I also use a Mono Zero eraser by Tombow for finer erasing jobs.
And lastly, even though it has cream paper and not tan-toned, I love this hand-made leather-bound journal…
It is just beautifully made…
…and filled with loads and loads of pages for sketching, journaling, and doodling.
I hope this inspires you to do some sketching of your own! Having some good tools at the ready is definitely good motivation.
Do any experienced artists have more to add or share?
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