Going with Graphite

I’m excited by the drawing work I’ve done over the summer. I’ve learned a lot, and most importantly I’m realizing how much more there is for me to learn when it comes to graphite pencils. For so long, I really thought that drawing was just about getting the lines and shapes right. I’ve come to see that there’s a lot more we can do with a simple pencil and paper.

I was especially pleased with this graphite landscape drawing I recently completed.

Framed Graphite Landscape 2018

As always, it’s not the best picture. I used my scanner, and it picked up some of the detail, but not all.

One thing I’ve learned from this drawing is that I can’t be afraid of the dark when using graphite. I’ve always been heavy-handed in drawing, so I’ve compensated by making my marks very light. In many places here, I should have deepened the shadows and created more value contrast. I probably won’t make changes on this drawing, but I will keep those thoughts in mind as I work on future drawings.

When I look at a drawing like this and compare it to my first attempts at pencil landscapes, I can see at once that my understanding of art has improved dramatically.

Early Landscape (2)Here’s one of my early landscapes, drawn probably in 2016. When I look at my old sketchbook now, I can see that drawings like this weren’t as awful as I first thought, and maybe I should have realized the progress I was making instead of becoming discouraged.

I am glad that I do recognize my recent progress, and I’m learning to love graphite drawing more each day.

Part of the process has been challenging myself. Time after time, I’ve looked at a scene from nature or a landscape reference photo, and I’ve dismissed the possibility that I could ever re-create the scene in my sketchbook.

But, time after time, I’ve plunged ahead, determined to simply do my best and not worry about the outcome. As often as not, I’ve been not only pleased by the results, but very surprised.

And right now, I’m excited about my new drawing pencils. For months, I had my eye on a set of Tombow MONO pencils, but again, there was that persistent feeling that maybe I didn’t deserve to own such a fine set.

Tombow PencilsWhen you read the description, there are those words: professional quality.

“Oh, I can’t use these,” was my first thought. “I’m not qualified to own professional drawing pencils.”

I’ve had that thought many times as I’ve looked at art supplies. That thought, in fact, is what started me on this journey in the first place, when I bought a set of Prismacolor Premiers and realized I had no right to own such a glorious set of artist-quality pencils


I first discovered the Tombow pencils at an art club meeting. One of the very talented artists there uses these in her graphite drawings, and she let us try them out. I fell in love at once, but then dismissed any thought of buying a set for myself. I just didn’t deserve them.

After my summer of drawing practice, however, I thought maybe I did deserve this set of pencils, after all. It was much like a reward for weeks of practice and a recognition of the progress I have made. So, one recent night, just as I settled in to bed, I suddenly sat up, grabbed my phone, and headed for Amazon. My new set of pencils arrived two days later, and I love them even more now that I actually own a set.

My next graphite challenge will be learning about powdered graphite and how to use it. I know I’ll make a big mess, but big messes can be lots of fun. And as I’ve said so many times, creativity means making a mess — and then cleaning it up. 

Have fun with your creative messes!



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