Tonight I was watching The Wire and doodling the occasional character, and thought I’d explain why I mostly sketch with an unusual tool.
Mechanical drafting pencils are awesome. They give you the softness and flexible line weight of a wood pencil. But unlike wood pencils, sharpening them has way less mess, and way less “dangit!” moments of breaking the lead right when you have the sharpness perfect. And who needs sharpening? These babies give you the instant lead benefits of a mechanical pencil. You can also use a favorite technique of mine for mechanical pencils: extend the lead overlong, shade at an angle, and the long lead will force you to draw light or break the tip. (This, IMHO, is an awesome way to learn how to draw on a bumpy bus ride.)
Nowadays I don’t often sharpen thanks to an economy of strokes. Here’s a McNolte caricature, and at this point my lead’s gone blunt.
At this point, I don’t grab my sharpener; rather, I start blocking in with an angled pencil.
(This is a blatant homage to J.C. Leyendecker. My theory is he blocked in to resharpen his tools as well.)
Once I’ve done a first pass I go in closer, refining my edges to be crisp. And what do I have at this point?
An incredibly sharp pencil tip, perfect for refining the silhouette and adding the final details.
There’s two downsides to mechanical drafting pencils. First, they’re expensive ($8) so don’t lose them. I bent this one’s arm out so its awkward shape would keep it conspicuous. Second, their lead choice is limited at most art stores, no darker than 2B. But I was able to find 4B lead on the internet, and that pack has lasted for ages.
Anyhoo, I’m writing and posting this from the WordPress android app, so forgive any horrible quirks.
You only do this for sketching though, right? Do you ever use darker pencils for finishing?
Usually no. If I’m gonna fix it in post, I figure I may as well fix it in post via computer.
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