Materials & Methods

A voice of experience: throw money at a problem and all you get is bigger problems.

So let’s say our problem is — visualization.  Pictured to the left, low-budget tools: 100 grit sandpaper, paper stomp (optional) , brush for brushing away erasings, pencils in middle of the road hardnesses, HB, F, 2B.  Solid graphite HB pencil in pencil extender (optional), solid graphite pencil (optional), graphite shavings in the cup. Value scale at the top middle — free.


The mighty HB.  The also mighty 2B.  A certain nostalgia to spending time with the old Ticonderoga.  Test.  Push the weights to their extremes — feather light to harsh blackness.


The Kum sharpener gives a long straight edge which allows you to use the entire side of the lead. Otherwise, try a pocketknife and make whatever kind of point you want, including carving and notching into the side.

Erasers & Smudging

Have you heard:  your eraser is as important as your pencil?  Let the graphite totally saturate cut up pieces of erase, and then use it to smudge around.  Or to avoid smudging,  sand the graphite off the eraser and get a perfectly clean surface.  A hard edgy eraser is excellent for scraping away graphite for hair and nature details.  If you need to clean up an area, first lift out with the kneaded eraser.  Rubbing around will shove the graphite into the paper fibers.

There are a couple of chamois cloths pictured at the top middle of the image.  The cleaner one can be used  for cleaning off, the dark one is full of graphite already, and has been used for darkening areas.  You can get a cloth from a hardware store and cut it up into different useful sizes.  Some drawers use tissue, paper towels, or even a piece of bread.

A Note on Methods

Masking tape is helpful.  Tape your drawing to the wall and step back as far as you can from it.  Be objective.  Maybe it’s great already — or as some great master said, “you’re perfect the way you are.  but there’s always room for improvement!”

Some like to relax into drawing like a favorite spot on the couch.  But these experiments are about engaging, exerting yourself, discovery. So if it feels familiar, get off the couch and try a less comfortable perspective.

You can also take your drawing outside and look at it from 30 or 40 feet away. One artist suggests not getting attached, so “step on it, stand on it, if necessary sit on it.”


Does the paper matter for these drawing experiments? If you’re into detachment, newsprint is ideal as it will self-destruct suddenly sometime in the near future. If posterity matters to you, then you already know what paper to get. Meanwhile some paper is less forgiving, while some high end paper will capture you (literally) with its uber eraseability, meaning your drawing never has to be  done.