Graphite is the least expensive and easiest medium to use to satisfy the urge to draw. It is limited to one color - shades of gray tones and black, but there is a great advantage in this mono-range limited discipline. This medium affords the artist an almost infinite number of textures, techniques, patterns, and affects to explore. Stark black on white, or a combination of techniques and processes causes the student to focus on achieving and perfecting a certain look, or detail of the subject matter, for instance creating on paper the sheen of velvet or satin, the shininess of metal, the smoothness of a baby’s skin, the shimmer of sunlight on a lake, the dappling of light through trees, the texture, patterns, and highlights in a cat or dog’s fur.
Typically, the darker the value the shinier graphite pencil appears to the eye on the paper. It is the nature of the medium. I haven’t done enough of it to master that and hope with experience, I may encounter solution, for it tends to distract the eye from the intended subject. That still doesn’t diminish the great value that pencils bring to the student artist.
Graphite comes in a variety of forms – compressed into sticks, and embedded in wood is the most common. Today woodless pencils are available. They can be sharpened, or broken and the piece used on its side for broad flat strokes to cover large areas or create a certain effect. Dark and light shades in graphite range from black to light gray, soft lead, 2B – 8B and hard, 2H – 8H. The softest, 8B creates the darkest value, and the hardest, 8H creates the lightest tones. HB rank in pencils is a value in between the H and B ranges. Each number lead has a scale of light to dark, depending on the amount of pressure used.
Blending stumps and tortillons may be used to soften strokes. These are strips of paper rolled up and sharpened to a soft or hard point. Kneadable erasers, (putty like, moldable material), are affective in blending, creating a 3-dimensional look to the subject by erasing away or dragging through the applied graphite to create a soft smearing. An electric eraser is useful as a drawing tool. One must use one with caution, for it can wear a hole in the paper surface. Beveled X-Acto knives can also be used to scrape away unwanted pencil marks to create a desired texture.