Saturday, July 13, 2013

You Get What You Pay For (or do you?)

edge of a canal done with graphite pencil
We have all been told that we get what we pay for. You have to spend money to get a quality product. And sometimes that is true. A good brush makes painting details easier because it will hold a fair amount of paint and keep its point. A piece of handmade watercolor paper is a joy to work on, producing images you've only dared dream about. But sometimes it's just about the process and expensive is not always the best choice. This week I learned a valuable lesson from some very talented students.

When I began teaching field sketching, I wanted to provide my students with the best possible drawing tools I could afford to put into their drawing kits. So I included good drawing pencils along with the pad of drawing paper and other tools for working in the field. I personally use an inexpensive mechanical pencil, not because of the price but because I like the fact that it is always sharp and I can get a wide variation of shades from it. But for my students, I wanted the best.
sketched with water soluble graphite pencil

Part of my class involves sharing my personal sketching tools. I like to let students try different things so they'll know if they like the effects and if they want to invest in the items. One of the pencils I share is an inexpensive, water soluble, graphite pencil, my all time favorite sketching utensil for field work. And time and time again, each and every one of my students latches onto this pencil, falling in love with the softness of the lead and the richness of the tone it produces. The professional drawing pencils I have included in their kits are quickly put aside.

 I have stopped ordering drawing pencils and am now including a mechanical pencil like the one I use and a water soluble graphite pencil, along with an eight count pack of crayons, yes crayons. They're fun to use and produce gorgeous layers of color. Lesson learned. Thank you students.

"If you will stay close to nature, to its simplicity, to the small things hardly noticeable, those things can unexpectedly become great and immeasurable."
                        Rainer Maria Rilke

working with the water soluble graphite pencil


  1. so tell me more about this water soluble graphite pencil - would like to try it

  2. It's called, General's Sketch and Wash pencil, and can be found at After drawing with it, you can add water and it will produce beautiful washes AND it becomes permanent - no smudging, ever! You will fall in love!

  3. hmmm, I will be fairly close to Jerry's Art-A-Rama in Virginia Beach tomorrow - maybe I can find time to see if they have one