I started learning to draw properly recently, mainly because I was bored with photography, had some time on my hands, and liked watercolour pencils. After some interesting attempts at buildings in Dublin, and especially the Neues Rathaus in Munich, I decided a bit more effort needed to be made on basic drawing skills, perspective and all that. It’s like scales for music; practice isn’t exactly the most scintillating activity ever but it makes the nice and fun things easier.
Most of my non-coloured pencils in my art box are watersoluble graphite and when I started trying to draw things with it, I found they were very, very soft. Fantastic in a way – 10 year old me loved soft pencils – but not so much for drawing. So I gritted my teeth and went back to Kennedy’s to see if they had harder Caran d’Ache pencils, or Faber Castells as a second choice. I’m nothing if not brand loyal and to be fair, while they aren’t appropriate for trying to draw the nose of an Airbus just so, the Technalos are lovely pencils, the ballpoints and fountains are lovely pens and the two lots of coloured water colour pencils are sublime. Kennedy’s had a decent whack of the Grafwood pencils which are not water soluble. What little I knew about pencils suggested I needed H variants rather than B variants, so I bought four of them, I think H, 2H, 3H and 4H.
Having tried all four of them at this stage on varying things like faces of very scary people, aeroplanes, more aeroplanes and bits of aeroplanes, specifically wings, I have to say I like them a lot, and especially, I could see myself having H and 2H on hand all the time. They are much harder than what are in any of my mechanical pencils (which I suppose I could also use) but they are a pleasure to draw with. The 4H is very, very hard, and I can’t see myself using that very much, but then, I didn’t think I was going to need pencils like these in the first place so who knows. On my desk, there are a handful of other wooden pencils, 2 crystal Faber Castells which are three sided and I also have some of the special woods collection Caran d’Ache, the 3rd collection I think.
I’m having ethical issues with those pencils. They are gorgeous – I mean seriously gorgeous – but once they are gone, they are gone. So do I use them or not? My instinct is to say yes.
In the meantime, because they were bought specifically for the purpose, and especially because they are nice to work with, the Grafwoods will be the top sketching pencils. I need to do something about storage for them and I haven’t thought about it yet.
If you read any pencil reviews at all (I do sometimes), lots of things matter to people who are serious pencil experts. I’m not one. The Grafwoods come painted with a sort of metallic looking lacquer, and the colour varies with the lead weight of the pencil which makes them comparatively easy to identify quickly. I like this. It makes the lacquer have a second more utilitarian function rather than look pretty. They are a nice weight in my hand. And of course, they feed the brand loyalty which I have had since I was 15 for the company that makes them.
In the meantime, no one is getting to see the actual sketches