Graphite stems from the Greek word graphien which means to write/draw. Luckily raw graphite of varying densities is still being compressed with clay into wooden casings. Of course, you say. Pencils. Yes a harmless #2 that you used in grade school to fill in (completely, mind you!) those intimidating empty bubbles for the standardized test, or as you reached maturity for mayoral ballots in your former gymnasium that smelled mildly of powdered mashed potatoes from school lunch.
Yes boring. I know, nothing very memorable about those dull moments, except the perfect sharpness the electric pencil sharpener gave that #2. But wait! Fellow artists where are you!? How did it happen? When did I transition from the schoolgirl using pencils to hold my hair up to the obsessive collector and miner of this raw material? Screw #2. I want 8B, 6B, 2B, HB, F, 2H, 4H, 7H and the rest in between and I want it now!! Am I having a relapse into the world of Willy Wonka and geese laying golden eggs? These straight-edged wooden drawing utensils are now my geese, laying endless lines of varying darkness, waddling persistently while I scratch for hours on the surface of a beautifully soft piece of paper and honking fiercely as my arm convulses in stages of preliminary carpel tunnel syndrome.
Obsessed a little? Maybe. I don’t use the term junkie lightly, just look at my stash.
Oh and that’s not the worst of it. I am also a destroyer of these harmless purveyors of line-making. With reckless abandon I ruin their chances for survival by choosing a large flat area to shade – in my clutches the B’s may last half-way through a drawing, the H’s are luckier. Their layers are harder, mixed with more clay to protect the fragments of graphite being left behind, in turn saving them from expiring at an accelerated rate.
So I’ve been using pencils, graphite on woven paper as the ‘proper’ art terminology would have it. I could never have guessed at how satisfying ‘going back to the drawing board’ would be. I’ve been using them primarily for 2-D work for over two years and this simple tool keeps on surprising me. Here are a few of my sketches & final drawings with the stars of the show, you guessed it the Pencil (with multiple backstage changes):
While I wait in desperation to get my next fix I’ll leave you with a couple useless trivia facts… the typical pencil can draw a line 35 miles long… and did you know graphite is an electrical conductor? Next experiment coming up!