Book Review: Pencil: Make More Art

“What kind of pencil do you use?” is a question artists hear all the time. When we share a drawing on social media, inevitably somewhere in the comments someone will ask what materials we use. Some artists will tell you that it doesn’t matter—that art can be created with whatever is at hand in the moment of inspiration. That feeling does have value, but I believe that the tools we use absolutely do matter. Using the right tool for the job is the foundation of great work, and that includes the humble pencil. I usually use four different types of pencils in my illustrations (see the gallery at the end of this article), and each one has a specific task and way of handling it to create the effect I’m aiming for. If you’re only familiar with the bright yellow, often bitten, wildly erratic #2 from school, you’re in for a real treat.

Pencil: Make more art, by Eve Blackwood & Selwyn Leamy (128 pages), is a clear and concise guide to exploring the wider world of graphite possibilities. In fact, the entire range of options is huge, with lead brands and “hardnesses” ranging in dozens of different styles.

Your first trip to the pencil aisle at the art store can be completely overwhelming. It’s literally an entire store full of hundreds of pencils. 6B? 4H? Blackwings or mechanical? Where do I even begin? To help you get started on the right foot, A pencil starts with a simple focus on the basics and recommends a small range of just four lead hardnesses that are perfect for starting out. Other materials and tools are available, such as types of paper and erasers, and in a few short pages you’ll be introduced to everything you need to start experimenting.

After the introduction, the book is divided into three sections covering technique, pencil alternatives and drawing surfaces. The focus is on markup and process. Actually learning how and what to draw can be a long process and it’s different for every artist and I appreciate that A pencilclear focus on tools. Examples are provided in a wide range of art styles so that readers of all skill levels feel comfortable turning the pages. Do you want to create expressive abstract sketches? Or high-quality, realistic portraits? Either way, the lessons in this book will be applicable.

The Techniques section is a compact and straightforward crash course in Drawing 101. The authors do a great job of explaining not only the mark making that is possible with various pencils, but also the basic principles of drawing. Included in the examples are exercises to create the illusion of depth, shape, mood, and atmosphere. Completing the “Try It Yourself” tasks will provide each reader with not only fresh pencil techniques, but also an understanding of how to create images. For example, a simple blob of thick graphite can fill an expressive area of ​​a quick sketch, but it can also be used to realistically illustrate a rain cloud miles away and convey a sense of darkness or shadow. This section provides insight into when to use techniques like this effectively.

The next section of the book covers alternatives to gray graphite. Understanding color and how to use it can be a huge subject, but again Blackwood and Leamy consolidate the basics in a few quick pages. Color theory (how colors work together, mix and complement each other) is explained through fun tasks like dotting and creating patterns. A wet environment is also introduced. Watercolor pencils and mixed media experiments help improve the way you think about drawing and what ordinary pencils can do. After being taught a general understanding of mark making and color, readers are shown how to use both to create drama and impact in their sketches.

The book ends with a short chapter on the various drawing surfaces. This section doesn’t really cover the technical specifications of the different types of paper, but rather different ways of approaching the drawing surface. The overall feeling is one of exploration, experimentation and ownership entertainment. The last few pages show different artists’ sketchbooks and how they are used, with tips on how to avoid stress and anxiety.

“Make More Art” is an apt subtitle for this book. Artists’ block is often caused by being overwhelmed by the blank page and the endless possibilities in the materials. A pencil encourages readers to start simply with four basic pencils and a sheet of copy paper and simply begin to explore what they are capable of. All lessons are short and to the point and presented in an easy to understand manner. The overall theme is to keep it loose, have fun and explore mark-making as play – ideas that, as an artist, I absolutely agree with. Drawing is fun and Pencil: Make more art is both a lesson in how to play and a reminder to do so.

Art by Melissa Stanley

See more on her website,

Affiliate Link Disclosure: CreativePro will earn a commission on all purchases made through the Amazon links in this post at no additional cost to you.

Leave a Comment