Getting My Sketching Mojo Back with a Pumpkin and a Prompt

After eight months of sketching non-stop with my fountain pens and inks, my creativity finally went missing. For the last two months, I was hoping it would come back. It has slowly. I try not to force it. There are some days when I feel as though I should be doing something creative, but all I do is stare at a blank page for a few minutes. Then I would close my art journal and carry on with my other daily activities.

My Graphite Sketch

When I get stuck in a creative rut, I always fall back to sketching with my favorite art medium using graphite pencils. I used my mechanical pencil to sketch out an outline. I used my 2.0mm clutch pencil to create the dark lines and shading. I used my blending tortillon to blend/smudge the graphite onto my paper and to soften the harsh lines.

My Pen & Ink Wash Sketch

A few days later, I created a pen & ink wash sketch of my pumpkin. I used my Copic Multiliner to sketch the outline and also added contour lines to create the darker areas of the pumpkin. I used two fountain pen ink colors Oklahoma City and Steely Days for the pumpkin. For the stem, I used Kansas City and Melon Tea. For the shadow area under the pumpkin, I used Oklahoma City and then dabbed a bit of Thunderstorm and used my water brush to blend out and away.

My Watercolor Sketch

I was toying with the idea of getting back into using my watercolor paints for my artwork. Why not, right? I pulled out my Sennelier watercolor set and enjoyed my time mixing my paint colors. I used mostly a wet on dry technique since the paper I was using could only take light washes. For the last layer, I used a damp brush with my teal paint mix and created a few contour strokes to enhance the shape of my pumpkin.

Challenge: Find a pumpkin to use in your sketches. Use a picture if you can’t find a real or fake pumpkin. Use your pencil to create a graphite sketch. Then use your fountain pens and ink to create the second pumpkin sketch. If you have another art medium available (watercolor, charcoal, pastel, etc) create a third sketch.

My Art Journals:

Leda Art Supply Medium-size (5.7″x8.25″) with graphite pencils.

Stillman & Birn Alpha 7.5″x7.5″ softcover with fountain pen & ink.

hand●book journal co. 5.5″x5.5″ square with watercolor paints.

My Art Mediums:

Graphite – Pentel Energize Pencil with 0.7mm HB lead and Staedtler Clutch Pencil 925 35-20 with 2.0mm HB lead.

Fountain Pens & Inks – TWSBI GOs with Stub 1.1 nibs. Robert Oster Oklahoma City, Steely Days, Kansas City, Melon Tea, and Thunderstorm

Watercolor Mixes: Sennelier French Artists Watercolor Travel Set (12). Lemon Yellow and Sepia to create yellow ochre. Ultramarine Deep and Sepia to create dark brown. Forest Green and Ultramarine Deep to create teal green.

Watercolor Brushes: Escoda 1548 Versatil Series Artist Watercolor Travel size 4 & 6

Workshop Prompt – Quick Pencil Sketching/Drawing

I thought I would go back to the basics and work on pencil sketching with a simple mechanical pencil for this week’s prompt. Remember: no death grips, practice sketching quickly, and do not get caught up in the details.

Fruit Sketch and Drawing:

In my example on the left, I did a quick gesture sketch or outline of a pear. I used my mechanical pencil and a loose grip to create the light lines. My pear looks flat.

On the right side, is my final drawing. Here I’ve used contour lines to the give my pear a bit more depth. To create more depth or dark shading, my contour lines are close together. My contour lines follow the shape of the pear and shows the areas of roundness of the fruit. I leave quite a bit of white on my paper to show the highlights on the pear. I start out with light strokes from my pencil. The next layer is to go over the shadows again and adding a bit more pressure with my pencil.

Jar Sketch and Drawing:

On the left side of my picture, I used the same process of creating a quick sketch or outline of my jam jar.

On the right side is my final drawing. I added lines to show the glass has some decorative shapes. My label on the jar is curved a bit towards the ends of the label to help make the jar looked a bit more curved.

Notice I did not erase my unwanted lines. I keep my sketches/drawings “as is” so I know the next time what lines to leave out. It’s part of documenting my sketch journey and also building muscle memory.

Challenge: see if you can replicate my sketches. Practice sketching/drawing quickly. Also look around your kitchen and grab a few objects to sketch with. Practice contour lines.

Challenge +: do not erase your lines. Leave the good and unwanted lines in your pencil sketches and drawing. Move on to your next sketch.

Mechanical Pencil: Pentel Energize Pencil with 0.7mm HB lead

Journal: Canson Artist Series Mixed Media spiral bound

Sketching with Graphite

(Edit: Added additional information & pictures of the graphite leads used with my clutch pencils)

I have to confess. I did partake in one of the sales on Fountain Pen Day. It was not a fountain pen purchase, but a clutch pencil that I had my eye on. Who knew that one of my fave fountain pen shops carried clutch pencils. More on that in a few minutes.

To make sure I was keeping with the fountain pen theme on that day, I purchased a bottle of Van Dieman’s red ink that was on my wish list. It’s part of their Original Colors of Tasmania ink series. It’s a gorgeous reddish ink color and I paired it with one of my Leonardo MZ fountain pens. Ink swatches will be in my next ink review post.

Back to my non-fountain pen purchase. I have a thing for the Koh-i-Noor clutch pencils and I have managed to collect a few in different colors and styles. This new one is quite unique and it did not hurt that it came in a beautiful blue color with gold trim. It’s absolutely gorgeous!

Can you see why I was attracted to this pencil? This metal clutch pencil holder has some heft and weight. The weight reminds me of brass. It is chunky looking and easy to hold in my hand. I noticed I have a looser grip with this style of pencil. Here’s a picture of my new blue pencil sitting in between my two standard looking clutch lead holders.

My clutch pencil holder uses the 5.6mm graphite leads and they typically come in the softer lead offerings: HB, 2B, 4B, 6B, and 8B. I pulled out the included lead from my pencil and could not find any markings and I assumed it was an HB or 2B.

I used my new pencil to create this initial grape sketch. Yes, I’m still in the grape sketching phase.

This HB/2B lead produced some hard lines in my sketch. I used my two other clutch pencils with softer leads (e.g. 6B) and was able to blend the hard lines and soften the grapes. You can see a difference in the following picture.

Graphite Leads:

I wanted to add that the Koh-i-Noor graphite leads come in two lengths: 80mm and 120mm. Each box contains six (6) leads and you’ll notice the longer leads need extra protection and come in a plastic box.

Here’s what the leads look like outside of their boxes.

Here are the leads next to my clutch pencils. My Koh-i-Noor Versatil 5340 Clutch Pencil (bottom) can take both lead sizes and retracts them fully into the clutch holder.

My new clutch holder can easily take the 80mm lead size and retracts fully in the clutch holder. The 120mm lead can also be used, but when fully retracted the lead will still show/protrude from the clutch. For me it’s not an issue as I store my pencils in a wrap case. It might an issue for those who carry their pencils in their pockets or in a purse/backpack.

I really enjoy using my clutch pencils as I can easily swap out different lead types. I can use sepia, charcoal, and chalk leads as well as metallic and “magic” leads for sketches that require color.

Clutch Pencil: Koh-i-Noor Mechanical Drop Clutch Lead Holder in Blue with 5.6mm x 80mm Lead (HB or 2B)

Journal: Leda Art Sketch Book

Graphite Sketch

When my sketching mojo disappears and comes back, I will spend some quality time sketching with my graphite pencils. I enjoy using my pencils as it helps me focus on the basic sketching techniques and also learning to look at the shapes I see. I also look for the highlights and the shadows.

Here’s a warmup sketch I did from a still life. A few of you from my workshop will recognize the veggies. I took some creative license and changed the shapes a bit.

Here’s my initial sketch and what I started with. I sketched loosely the outline of each object. I sketched around a few of the highlighted areas and included the base shadows. I added curved lines to show the curvature of the objects. You can see my lines consist of short strokes with a light hand.

In the next picture I used a blending stump to smooth out some areas where my lines were heavy. Blending the dark areas around the edges added some depth and made the highlights show a bit better.

In the final sketch (first picture), I used my 8B pencil to darken the objects further and used the blending stump to smooth out the darker areas to create additional depth and contrast.

Pencils used: Derwent Graphite in HB, 2B, 4B, and 8B

Journal: Leda Art Supply Softbound size Medium (A5)

Clutch Pencils (updated)

(Edit: I have updated this post to include additional pictures and a quick graphite sketch using my clutch pencils)

Happy National Pencil Day or NPD!

This National Pencil Day showed up in several social media outlets and I thought it would be appropriate to publish this post about my Clutch Pencils.

There is something enjoyable and rewarding about using graphite pencils for creating sketches and drawings. For me, it’s the most basic and much needed tool to create quick gestures or outlines for most of my artwork. For many years, I used mechanical pencils that came with leads in .5mm and .7mm sizes.

My graphite version of my Rose

When I went through my Kaweco fountain pen phase, I noticed they carried something called a clutch pencil lead holders and they came in two different sizes: 3.2mm and 5.6mm. I decided to do some further research before jumping on Kaweco clutch pencil band wagon.

So what is a clutch pencil? It’s one of the oldest type of mechanical pencil. They are also referred to as lead holders. They differ from the modern mechanical pencils in that only one piece of lead is used in the body of the pencil and the lead is not advanced via a push-button mechanism through a sleeve. Instead, the lead is held in place by a spring-loaded clutch mechanism. When the push button is pressed, this operates the internal clutch by opening the jaws of the lead holder and allowing the lead to drop freely from the pencil until the button is released. As the push button is released, this closes the clutch mechanism and the jaws hold the lead firmly in place. This type of clutch pencil is known also as a drop clutch pencil.

The “jaws” of my clutch pencil (5.6mm) and where the lead is inserted and held in place
The smaller “jaws” on my 2.0mm clutch pencil

There is also another type of clutch pencil called the incremental clutch pencil. It has the similar clutch mechanism and jaws like a regular clutch pencil, but by pressing and releasing the button, the lead advances incrementally and does not fall out.

There were several criterias I was looking for in a clutch pencil. The first was to find common lead sizes. In my research, I kept seeing several different size leads from 2.0mm to 5.6mm. I had to figure out which size would make sense to use in my artwork. The second criteria was how comfortable the lead holder would be in my hand. Based on my experiences with fountain and ballpoint pens, I knew I had to stay away from thin and narrow grips. The third and last criteria was quality/functionality of the holder as in how easy was it to install, advance, or remove the lead.

I held off getting the Kaweco brand and decided to go with a few well known graphite pencil brands. Additional research lead me to the KOH-I-NOOR brand. I knew I wanted to use the 5.6mm leads as I could get various line and shading coverage. I also knew I wanted the lead hardness to be in the “B” range or soft lead so I could get light and dark shading when applying various degrees of pressure to the lead on my paper.

I started with the KOH-I-NOOR Versatil 5340 model with a matte blue finish. It’s an aluminum shell over a brass octagon shaped body and with a weight around 46grams. This classic style holder is well balanced and most importantly fits well in my hand. This is a drop clutch design with a sharpener in the cap.

My clutch pencil collection. The top four lead holders use 5.6mm leads. The bottom holder uses 2.0mm lead.

When I was doing my initial research, a multicolored Versatil 5340 version kept showing up on my radar. It’s called “Magic” because the single piece of lead contains a variety of colors that run the length of the 5.6mm lead. This is the same model as my matte blue, but with swirls of green, orange, and yellow colors on the body. Oh my! I’ve used this colorful pencil lead to create greeting cards and write colorful notes. What a fun pencil to use!

I came across a much smaller pencil with a metal clip (rare design) at a fantastic price and added the 5311 model to my collection. This is the shortest clutch holder I have and it appears to be a mix of a modern and retro design. It’s a nice black matte metal triangular shape barrel with indents running most of the length of the holder. This allows my fingers to rest in the indents while holding the pencil. There’s a lead sharpener in the cap.

Another pencil caught my eye. This interesting clutch pencil had an unusual body design with an ergonomic looking grip.

My Cretacolor ergonomic clutch pencil with top down view.

I can say this Cretacolor looks a bit weird, but it is one comfy writing/sketching tool. The holder is made of light resin or plastic and feels great in my hand. In my picture you can see how the grip has unusual curves. It is molded to fit the contours of my hand and wonderful to use even with my finger joint issues. A sharpener is built into the cap.

Shading and writing samples from each clutch pencil

Here’s a slideshow of pictures to show how the clutch pencil advances the lead:

Eventually, I picked up a Staedtler 780 clutch pencil that uses 2.0mm lead. I was curious to see how well the 2.0mm lead would fit in with my sketching tools. Now I know I said I dislike thin and narrow writing tools, but this special holder has a lovely textured grip and I hardly notice how narrow it is. This 2.0mm style clutch pencil is great for sketching in finer details. This is a drop clutch with a built-in sharpener located in the removable push cap.

Why do I like using clutch pencils?

  • With regular wood pencils, they are sharpened over time and get smaller in size. While using the clutch pencil, the body/barrel remains the same size.
  • Ability to advance the lead length to use more lead for sketching broader strokes and shading larger areas
  • Thicker or wider clutch pencil body is easier to hold
  • Create consistent line widths
  • Can swap out the leads to change the graphite hardness or even use colored leads
  • When not in use or storing, can open the clutch and let the lead slide back into the barrel. No need to worry about protruding lead messing up my pencil pouch or interior pockets.

What do my clutch pencils have in common?

  • Drop clutch: Push the cap to open the clutch of the holder. Slide in the new lead into the holder and release the cap. To advance the lead, hold the clutch pencil at an angle and carefully click or push the cap to let the lead drop down and adjust to preferred length. If you hold the clutch pencil vertical with the clutch facing down and click on the cap, the lead will drop out.
  • Sharpener: Unscrew the cap. A lead sharpener is built into the base of the cap. The Staedtler is the only one that has a hole at the top of the cap (remove the cap to sharpen the lead.
  • Common lead sizes with a variety of lead hardness available

Tips/Tricks:

  • After sharpening the lead into the cap, dump the lead dust into a small container. Can reuse the lead dust/shavings to create some interest artwork using your finger.
  • It takes some practice to work the cap and clutch to advance the lead. If I push down on the cap all the way, the clutch opens to it’s maximum position and the lead will drop out. If I gently push or click the cap, the clutch opens part of the way and the lead will slowly release incrementally.

Clutch Pencils Used:

  • KOH-I-NOOR Versatil 5311 (5.6mm)
  • KOH-I-NOOR Versatil 5340 (5.6mm)
  • KOH-I-NOOR Versatil 5340 Magic (5.6mm)
  • Cretacolor Ergonomic (5.6mm)
  • Staedtler 780 (2.0mm)

Quick Sketches

A quick sketch (pen and ink) in my Stalogy journal

It’s raining outside and so I had to turn on my natural light lamp to brighten my studio a bit. I do enjoy listening to the rain and the steady drops of water hitting the roof, trees and plants outside. It would be a great day to lounge and read some art books (to entertain my right brain) or go find my Raspberry Pi book (exercise my left brain) that I’ve misplaced. Will do that after this post.

I was sorting through some photos and thought this would be a good day for something art-related. Like share some sketches I’ve done over the past few weeks.

We had a special rose bush that was still blooming into late October. I had cut a few roses to bring into my studio. Who doesn’t like the sweet rose scent filling a room? Then I started to sketch

Here was the setup on my desk:

A rose sketch using graphite

Sometimes I will wander outside and do a quick sketch:

We have this tree that has an unusual trunk. Graphite.

It wasn’t until mid-summer of this year that I started using shimmering fountain pen inks. I was hooked. I did a few sketches with the shimmering ink and loved the results.

Can you see the shimmers in my pen and ink sketch?

Then I stumbled upon the world of metallic watercolor paints. Oh my! So grateful that Daniel Smith carried tubes and in such beautiful colors.

Here are three metallic colors I have layered on top of my regular watercolor painting. Cool, huh?

I am having too much fun! I have to be careful with the metallics and not go overboard or overwork my paintings.

Enjoy your day!

Warm Thoughts for a Cold Morning

I am up early as usual. Before the crack of dawn. It’s a lovely 26 degrees outside. I have coffee in hand and I’m ready to start off our day with some artwork.

I have to caution you, my reader. I am all over the place with my hobbies. Everyday, I get to play with my fountains pens and inks. I am always writing about something. Writing out tasks in my daily journal. Writing about my fountain pen/ink experiences in another journal. Creating writing samples to share on social media. There is something wonderful about putting a beautiful nib with beautiful flowing ink onto a blank page or sheet of paper. Sigh!

I have days when I want to play with my watercolors. Or I have a need to sew a few masks. I have my tools within an arms reach and when the mood hits me I’m ready to go.

One day. Over the summer. I picked up my graphite pencils and drew this shell:

A sketch of a shell that Hubs and I found on a beach in Antigua. Faber-Castell Graphite Aquarelle

It only took a few years to get enough nerve and several attempts to draw a shell. From a picture. From memory, as well. The ridges. The shiny and smooth edges. The shadows. All those curves.

I squinted a lot when I created this sketch. My mind likes to play games. When I see something I immediately see all the beautiful colors and then scratch my head to figure out how put this on paper. Using a pencil.

I started with a quick gesture sketch to get the outline of the shape and placement using an HB pencil. I like using my Pentel Energize retractable pencil with a .7 lead. I have several of these scattered around my house. It feels good in my hand.

You can see from my sketch there appears to be some light washes over the shell. I used my Faber-Castell Graphite Aquarelle pencils to create the various shadings and lines. I took my damp watercolor brush and applied a bit of water to soften the lines and also to create the pools of dark color for the shading. While squinting all the way.

A few years ago, I had an art friend look at my sketches. He mentioned that I needed to be bold and go darker with my pencils. Make the artwork…pop! Hahaha! I’m still working on it.

I learned a valuable tip in my charcoal class I took two years ago. Do not erase my initial lines until I’m happy with placement, shape, and composition. I could not figure out when I tried to draw two same size ovals, one would be wonky. I would erase the bad oval and try again. Same wonky oval would appear. Erase. Draw. Another wonky oval. My teacher said to leave the wonky oval and sketch over it. Now, erase the bad lines. A second oval appeared. My light bulb moment.

Enjoy your day!

A Few Practice Drawings

I took a picture of a floral pitcher that I had sitting on my mantle.  It was the shape of the pitcher more than the floral design on it that spoke to me and said “draw me”.  Well, the floral design was keeping me from drawing the darker tones of the pitcher correctly.  So I squinted.  Oh, there’s a shadow on the handle.  You get the picture.

Here’s my graphite interpretation:

art_pitcher_graphite_8723

Then I decided that I needed a charcoal version of the pitcher.  I squinted some more and produced this:

art_pitcher_charcoal_8642

I left the charcoal lines in this drawing to show the contrast better.  Otherwise, I would have smeared it to soften between the light and dark areas.

Before I decided to take a class this year, I was making a few attempts at drawing.  Here’s a barrel done in graphite:

art_barrel_graphite

I have always been fascinated with pictures of glassware.  I never thought I would venture into drawing it.  I studied a few pictures I took over the years and figured it could not be too hard to draw.  Kind of like draw what you see.  Right?

With that in mind, here’s my rendering from my picture:

art_champagne_glass_pic_graphite_8520

I still need quite a bit of practice with drawing perspectives and mostly with circles and ovals.  The only way to conquer this is to keep drawing and learning.

Papers used:  Canson sketch paper

Peppers Anyone?

My plan is to draw/sketch from the many pictures I have taken in the Caribbean.  I have too many to count in my stack of “to draw in the future”.  Many of them are landscape pictures from the beautiful beaches I have visited and some are from my snorkeling adventures.  I will eventually draw all my favorites.  I draw from my own pictures that way I do not have to worry about copyrights.

In the meantime, here’s a drawing of peppers from a market in Grand Cayman:

art_peppersGC_graphite_8896

When I first saw these peppers, I was drawn to how they were displayed, the odd numbers in the group, and the brilliant colors.  It is hard to visualize the colors when the drawing above shows only my graphite pencil.  Here’s a picture of my source photo with my drawing:

art_picture_peppersinGC_graphite_8894

Remember I had mentioned in a past post about re-drawing favorite still life or scenes?  I have a feeling this photo will be reused for other future drawing experiments.

Paper used:  Canson sketch paper

A Flower

Personally, I think flowers are a difficult subject to draw.  I have a few hundred flower pictures in my archive.  When I get ready to draw, I always pull out a flower picture first.  It could be the composition that catches my eye or the the colors.  Then I put it back in my stack and pull out another picture not related to anything floral.

Today, I decided to grab a flower picture and just draw it.  I started with a loose outline of the flower.  I then sketched in the darkest values first.  The background came next.  I could have done more, but less is better.  I like how this one came out.  My motto:  Just Do It!

art_flower_graphite_8853

I left my remaining loose outlines on the paper.  That way you can tell where I started from and it also lets your imagination run wild as to how you would finish the flower.

Paper used:  Canson sketch paper