That discussion I had with Eraser Girl about erasers also got me to thinking about the OTHER tools I use, so today I’m going to explore pencils.
For years, through out high school, college and a few years after, I used Staedtler MARS Lumograph 100 HB- 6B for sketching. Back in the 90s they were available just about everywhere for a decent price, these bright blue pencils capped with black, screamed artist. I was able to get them in the campus bookstore and Staples. For holidays and my birthday my family always knew they could buy me a tin of them and I’d be happy.
Sometime in college I found a few boxes of vintage Venus 4B drawing pencils in a salvage store, for $2 each. I bought a half dozen boxes of 12. Of course, now I wish I’d bought everything on the shelf. These have been my go to drawing pencil since my last year of college. 4B is a great grade for good shade and tone while being able to hold a point well. The core on these was nothing short of divine. I have just a few of these vintage pencils left. I did buy a half dozen boxes of the new version, now owned by Faber Castell… And they were just not as nice.*
For years, if I was writing in pencil it was with, gasp, a mechanical pencil. I’ve had a nice Koh-I-Nor Rapidomatic since my second year of high school. I’ve never been shy about using BIC mechanical pencils, though their disposable nature bugged me. However the soft dark lead in them was really nice.
Lately, I’ve been very fond of testing out all kinds of pencils. Partially because I like to see and feel what they are like but also because I’m really enjoying writing with pencil. It’s really interesting to test out each pencil to feel and see the difference in the core as i write and draw. Lately I’ve been doing a lot of sketching, no finished drawings. But the pencils I’ve been reaching for (are of course pencils that don’t have reviews up on the site, but will soon):
These three pencils are all distinguished by being soft and dark. With minimal pressure I get a strong dark line, with light pressure I can get lighter lines. Because they don’t need a great deal of pressure to make a dark mark they are also well suited to writing. A downside to writing with these pencils is that they all tend to smudge. A side effect of their smudginess is that when you write on the reverse of a written page, that writing tends to transfer to the facing page. Because I’m sketching and not doing complete drawings I don’t need softer or darker pencils.
Of course this list will change in the next day…
*The Venus drawing pencil was bought by Eberhard Faber, now Faber Castell. During the first part of the purchase they were “Venus Design” Pencils. Now they are simply Design Drawing 3800. They keep the familiar green two tone crackle finish of the old Venus pencils but lack the little white plastic cap on the ferrule end of the pencil. Now the pencil is simply bare, no paint or finish on the tail end. What was once a really sharp looking pencil lacks something. The core inside seems very similar, it’s more the outside of the pencil that I feel misses something.