Pen or Pencil?

I generally draw with a pen.  I like the strong lines, the effect of vertical lines creating values and the clean look of black and white.   Pencil is great, you can smear it, soften it, create smooth gradations and of course, you can erase it.  My drawing students all prefer pencil.  It’s easy to use and forgiving.  I usually encourage beginners to draw with what they’re comfortable with.

Yet, I’m starting to think that perhaps I should promote the use of the pen more.  When you know you can’t erase, it makes you look closer, draw more deliberately and throw caution to the wind.  So what if you make a mistake?   Just draw the correct line where it should be, ignore the wrong line and keep on going.  It’s called restating.  I do it all the time. Can you find the restated lines in this picture?  I can’t.

Bond Road Relic

There is one subject I really enjoy using pencil for – portraits.  Right now I’m thoroughly enjoying my new toned paper sketchbook.  Using a white charcoal pencil for highlights, and a range of graphite for the darker values, faces come to life on the gray paper.


Experimentation is an important part of drawing.   With time we discover what products like and what works best for our unique voice.  Isn’t that what art is all about?

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