Sharpening Pencils

I finally feel like I’m getting the hang of using a single-edge razor to sharpen pencils. They really do work so much better to have a variety of line, but I’m still fond of cheap mechanical pencils too – nostalgia is a strong force. And of course a consistent line weight has its advantages on occasion.

I feel a little silly, showing fundamental drills/practice work like value bars, but honestly, even if they don’t look very special, putting the time in on simple exercises really does make a difference. I’m getting more confident with graphite, but dip pens are still rough. The ink feathers so much on most paper. It seems like only Bristol holds up well, but I don’t want to ‘waste’ Bristol paper on drills and simple sketches.

That and every time I re-dip the nib, I feel like I can’t easily control the first few lines; they end of being much heavier than intended. I suppose that’s why it’s important to use a test sheet nearby, but it adds an extra step. I’m already impatient with the slower process of needing to load the nib with ink every so often. But the line quality is so much more sensitive than a felt tip liner. Everything is a trade off!

Pencils ontop of a sketchbook, with a razor and sandpaper to the right
Razor-sharpened pencils on a sketchbook
Close up of a razor-sharpened graphite pencils
Close up of razor-sharpened pencil tips
An open sketchbook ontop of a drafting table, with drawings of value practice in pencil on the pages
Open sketchbook spread with graphite value scales. I use tracing paper to avoid smudging the graphite, because I don’t like the smell of fixative. That and the paper is cheaper and might not hold up to spray fixative without warping.
A single sheet of Bristol paper with drawings of dip pen hatching practice
Dip pen hatching practice on Bristol paper

My two favorite videos on how to sharpen a pencil with a single edge razor are from Proko (“Drawing Supplies I Use in My Videos“) and Alphonso Dunn (“How do I sharpen my pencil“). I found graphite a little easier than charcoal or pastel pencils, though I did have the lead break on my a couple of times.

I’ve been reading more books on keeping a sketchbook (currently An Illustrated Life by Danny Gregory, but I’ve also read Everyday Matters by Gregory and How to Keep a Sketch Journal by 3dtotal.).

I have found I keep procrastinating drawing in my sketchbook, because I can’t find a subject I think is “interesting” enough. I know a subject doesn’t need to be super interesting to be good for practicing (like the tissue box I was sketching earlier this morning). I just keep feeling the pull to wait, telling myself “not yet” or “later today”.

Part of me really wants to distract myself from committing to making mistakes and “bad” drawings, which is the only way to learn. But alas, that is so hard to remember! Sketching outside or at a cafe is still trickier – I am way more insecure when drawing in public. But here in my apartment I’m trying to make a point of drawing more, even if it’s a “boring” subject matter.

I am at least trying to be mindful about what I decide to draw, rather than just glancing around and begrudgingly settling on something random. Yesterday I dug out a decorative sea shell I had and that made a great little subject to study, with lots of curving lines.

I’m currently chilling out to Jackson Browne music and about to clean off my computer desk (it is definitely my clutter magnet in the apartment T_T).

And of course *beings to slightly hyperventilate* only one day left until season 8 of Game of Thrones.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.