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Pencils and Pens

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been enrolled in an online class to learn about value and composition.

The course instructor uses pencils to shade in values as a pre-cursor to an oil painting. He does some plein air work but more in his studio using his photos as a reference. He takes a lot of photographs and then crops them and simplifies some parts before his drawing and final painting.

As a longtime photographer, I rarely crop my photos as I take care to compose before I click that button. Now, if it is candid family photos, I just click away–one of the grandsons is always in motion and I frequently get a lot of blurry photos—but being digital just means a lot of pressing that delete button–and then recharging the camera battery.\

I’ve diligently tried to use pencils for each of the assignments although the pencil smudges and I’ve had to apply a fixative. His subject matter is not to my liking either; however, I have learned a lot about values.

My far preferred drawing tool is a pen.

Any kind of pen–the cheap kind found at the teller’s desk at the credit union, or in the drawer at the hotel room. Sometimes I buy pricey pens with liquid ink that smoothly rolls out–these are easy on my hands but they tend to run if wet, and medical records need to be impervious to water…although there shouldn’t be water sprayed or sprinkled on them—and certainly not other body fluids, I do admit to sometimes having damp hands while making notes, but more and more notes are computer and not hand-written—so I could use my nice pens—but then I retired earlier this year—so no worries

Each week we have had assigned drawings and we were critiques on our smoothness of pencil strokes, and replication of values. It was tedious work and frustrating.

I am now at the end of the class; we will be on our own for the next 30 days drawing what we wish—and for me-…with a pen!

Here is my last drawing–I found translating color into value challenging–and perhaps until I am better at it, will convert a photo or two into gray scale. My plan is to have some mastery of composition and values before I attend the Plein Air Convention in Colorado in late May.

One Comment Post a comment
  1. I’m with you. I’ve taken only one adult drawing class where I learned much but struggled with pencil drawings that captured value. And of the items around the classroom one could choose for a subject, I cared for none of them. I ended up drawing my cell phone once, with the teacher coming up behind me and saying, “Hmm, cell phone. That’s interesting.” I couldn’t decide whether she was approving or not! Although I do some pencil sketches or do a pencil underdrawing before moving on to pen, like you I prefer to use something else. And I’ve never had the patience for value studies. I suppose that shows some in the way my quilts are rendered and the fabric choices I make. It really is hard sometimes to convert color to b & w values and tempting to just let a software program do it for you. Or use one of those red viewfinders. That’s been my go-to.

    March 6, 2023

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