I have just spent the last two days drawing, needless to say time went fast. I am working on some gift drawings for my pencil mentors Johnny Gamber, Andy Welfle and Tim Wasem. One has been sent and has made it to its destination which I am glad to know (it is the Super Koala at the bottom of this page). The other two (Wrigley Field and the Cats) have been my task. Drawing is a pleasure that I can’t do without and I admit that I wish I had two more days to sit and create.

I thought I would take a bit of time to go through what I have been using and some of my methods. I have, admittedly, too many pencils which can make choosing tools hard. As many know pencils come in various grades. I believe that there are too many. I have reduced my main selection to three for most projects. The brand may vary but I now usually have a 2H, a 2B and a softer pencil like the Palomino Blackwing (not the 602).  The 2H is a recent addition for me. I was taught never to use hard pencils by art education purists. I smile when I think how annoyed my old drawing teacher would be. I sharpen with my knife and never a sharpener. That is one of the old rules do I believe in. I will cover that again in a future post. A long sharp point with a concave taper is standard. I have started using paper stumps to blend. This is because I am working small and the finger smudge is not accurate in many cases. A paper stump is simply a roll of paper sharpened at both ends just like a pencil. They come in a variety of widths. They are very useful.


The key to every drawing is the composition. There are many ways to compose but I stick with the rule of thirds, this is also known as the golden ratio. I will not go into the details of this, but the link will give you an idea. Even when drawing from life or photos, I will adjust all elements so that they fit the page and balance nicely. The 2H is used here to make very light guide marks. I will only put down the 2H when I can see a visual harmony with the placement of all the elements in the composition.


My style is somewhat realistic, but I stylize as I do not want to be photo-realistic. It is of course an amazing skill to be a total realist, but I have no desire to become a camera. As a child I loved cartoons and comics. That is very much still part of me and I do use elements illustration as part of my work. When working in graphite, a tonal balance is another key factor. All this means is using a light next to dark placement that creates harmony. I will divide the composition into a light and dark grid of sorts. There must be the same amount of light to dark with even distribution to make a drawing work.

Then I draw. And I keep drawing. Sometimes it works and I am happy, but many times I am not pleased with what I do and start over or change tack to attempt redemption. It is a struggle that I love and need. Many things come into play and if you want to try drawing for the first time I have some handy pointers;

1. There must be a foreground and a background. Even if you wish to focus on just one object, there must at least be a shadow to put the drawing somewhere.

2. The eye does not focus on all things it sees, so do not render everything. Leave unimportant elements fuzzy or out of focus.

3. Use the eraser only as a last resort. I have told students to not use it at all which can cause anxiety. The key is not to rely on the eraser. I use my eraser to create highlights and work with my imperfections when I can.

4. Be yourself and do not try to emulate others work. Real style comes the individuality.

5. No, I am not going to say have fun. Struggle and get frustrated with the process. Fight until you have something that you like and please do not rely on the opinions of others. You are your best critic.

Below are my last few efforts. Some are more successful than others in my opinion and there is more that could be done. Although they could be called finished drawings, they are still sketches as each has had less than a days work. It is good therapy to put them up when I am not entirely satisfied as I can now look at them and find all the flaws that bother me. The koala one is finished (and gone), the other two will be updated.

My next post may have to be a step by step with more process pictures. As well as being informative, it will help me solidify my methods and I may find better ways to work in the process. I am always up for learning experiences.



Scan 2




2 Replies to “My Drawing Process

  1. Pencilism, thank you for this glimpse into your process–lots of thoughtful advice here–you make Wrigley such an inviting place (fingers crossed for 2015!).

    One thing that works for me if I get stuck (on any kind of problem) is to walk away and come back with a fresh eye.

  2. I’ve recently started using lead holders for most of my artwork, and was wondering if you’d tried any. I quite enjoy the feel of them.