Pencil Games-The Next Level

Calla Lilies-Musgrave“I love the quality of pencil. It helps me to get to the core of a thing.” Andrew Wyeth


Successful drawings can be taken to a whole new level with the right pencil.  Pencil preference will differ from artist to artist but certain pencils are known for their particular mark making characteristics.  Using a pencil drawing for an under-painting as I do, can be made or not on the strength of the chosen pencil.  Lately, I have been carrying on my game of finding the best pencil for style.  Here I continue with the H’s as they are, in my opinion, the best choice for not over-powering the overall painting and for creating a great partnership with the watercolor painting stage.


calla lily-derwent pencilDerwent is a long and established name in pencil making.  No question that these are fine pencils in every way.  As Derwent says, “a good drawing starts with a good graphite pencil. “ Derwent’s H pencils allowed me to produce a nice smooth drawing with marks that flowed.


Calla Lilies-Tombow2The second test pencil in the H group was TomBow Graphite Drawing Pencils.   These exceptionally fine pencils are made in Tokyo, Japan and Suwanee, Georgia., with coporate offices in Tokyo. Tombow’s H pencils required very little pressure to produce a drawing with beautiful variations in shading. The red cedar barrel facilitates smooth even sharpening.  I can see Tombow pencils taking a permanent place in my pencil box causing me to very quickly forget all other pencils!Calla Lilies-Prismacolor-Turquoise


Prismacolor is the maker of my favorite Ebony and colored pencils.  It was not surprising to find the H graphite pencils in Prismacolor’s Turquoise series to be equally exceptional.  If Prismacolor became the only maker of H series drawing pencils, I cannot see any loss of drawing pleasure or result. These are very nice high-quality pencils.


Calla Lilies-Steadlter


Up until this point, I found the three brands tried as all similar in mark making ability with some differences in features lending more to personal preference. The next brand, Staedlter, causes a bit of a veer off into a definite direction.  These were the perfect pencil for making very fine lines.  The sharp point and hardness of graphite in Staedlter pencils made it a very nice choice for putting in fine veins in leaves and petals.  It was less beneficial for shading for the same reason it is so good for veins and fine lines, its hardness in texture.  No question on keeping Staedtler in the pencil box. It is now the “go-to” for fine lines, so difficult to depict in almost any medium, for me.


Calla Lilies-MusgraveUnbeknown to me was a fabulous little pencil company only a short 2 hour distance from my home. Musgrave Pencil Company in Shelbyville, Tennessee, (capital of the Tennessee Walking Horse world), has been making pencils and pencil components since 1916.  Musgrave strives to truly American made pencils with naturally harvested American wood, shunning cheap imports.  Like many companies today, they have struggled to keep production in the USA while keeping costs reasonable.  The inspiring story was enough to make me a fan but I was delighted to find that Musgrave’s Unigraph drawing pencils were very nice tools with a wonderful texture on the paper.  The H series has slightly darker tonal value than others I tried, making for less needed hand pressure and deeper shading potential.  Even without the story, Musgrave’s Unigraph is here to stay in my pencil box. Please read the story, though, for a little uplift to your day!


In all, I couldn’t find any real negatives for any of these pencils.  I did find some unique positives in the Staedtler and Musgrave pencils.  My feeling is: try them all.  You’ll know which one is best for your style when you try it!

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