Day 30, 31: My first drawing class

Trying out pencil shading

My first drawing class.

We mostly tried out different pencils.

But first…

Drawing Boards

We were told to draw on a drawing board.

The reason is: if you draw on a drawing board your direction of view is at right angles to the drawing plain. If it’s on the table in front of you it’s at an angle, so it’s easier for you to get the proportions wrong.

And, as I realised yesterday, getting the proportions right is important.

Why you need a drawing board

Why you need a drawing board


Different pencils draw differently. They have different qualities depending on what’s been used to make the lead.

Most of our class was taken up trying different makes of pencils.

Trying out different makes of pencils

Trying out different makes of pencils

We built a grid and tried different grades of pencil for each make of pencil in a large tin. There wasn’t all the different grades available for all the different makes hence the gaps  in the grid.

Our tutor said we were best sticking with HB to 9B. He said we didn’t really need the H grade and up as these were too hard, useful for things like woodwork but not necessary for drawing.

So in each cell of the grid we shaded a gradient from dark on the left to light on the right and then in the top third of the cell we smudged it from dark to light to see how smudge-able it is. And in the bottom third we tried to erase it to see how erase-able it is.

I’d never given it much thought, I’ve just assumed a pencil is a pencil, but they are different.

The lead of the pencil is made from powdered graphite, clay, sometimes wax and probably other chemicals. The proportions and quality of the ingredients, and the process by which they are mixed is all going to affect the way they draw.

This is most obvious on the grid for the 8B pencil in the first column it almost looks like crayon.

They did seem to have different smudge-ability qualities but the erasing seemed to depend more on the cleanness of the eraser than anything else.

I did have a favourite pencil after this exercise the “Study Time Sketch Pencil”, which was  handy because this was the cheapest! I bought a set of 6: B to 6B and my tutor suggested a 9B too, so I bought a 9B “Lyra Art Design” at his suggestion, it cost as much as the the whole set of Study Times!

Up until now all my drawings have been done with a mechanical 0.5mm HB propelling pencil.


We briefly talked about paper.

Paper has a surface structure, it is not completely flat and smooth. There is a roughness to it that allows the graphite to adhere to it.

If you imagine it magnified it is like a range of hills and valleys and the hills are all pretty much the same height.

If you draw your pencil across the surface, the graphite will adhere to one side of the mountain if you then go in the other direction the graphite will adhere to the other side.  So the more directions you go the blacker the paper should get, in theory.

One thing to avoid is “killing the paper”. This is pressing too hard. If you press too hard you will flatten out the mountains and the graphite will then have nothing to adhere to. So if you then erase it it will be harder to have consistent lines/shading in that area.

The paper we used in the class was more “arty” than what I have been using.

What I have been using is lined writing paper, which is meant for writing rather than drawing, but I’ve got used to it.

I didn’t like the more expensive arty paper that much. It’s rougher, there are more small white dots in it when you shade an area.

Comparing paper grain

Shading on “arty” paper


Comparing paper grain

Shading on cheap writing paper

The images are the same resolution (I just shaded a different amount of area on the different papers.)

You can see the arty paper is a lot more grainy.


One tip we were given is: draw big.

If you draw big there is more room for detail, to make corrections.

If you draw small you might be trying to squeeze stuff in.


I learned more than I expected by going to my first class (after reviewing it here) and I’m glad I signed up and didn’t just rely on YouTube tutorials.

I think a lot will be about just spending time drawing, but going to a class gives you a focus and the opportunity to learn things that you might miss from other sources. And I suspect there are going to be lots of different ways/techniques/ideas/approaches which are going to vary and even conflict depending on where you go for information, so it might be good policy to use many sources for my drawing education.


Until now I’ve just used a writing pad, a pencil, a rubber and a pen.

Now I’ve got a set of pencils and I need to get a drawing board.

I also need to get an A2 size folder to transport my drawings between home and class.

I’m going to feel like a proper drawer.

Time spent on drawing and drawing related activities

Time spent drawing since last session: 3:10
Total time drawing: 72:45

Time spent developing website/blogging since last session: 3:27
Total time developing website/blogging: 64:38

Time spent on social media since last session: 2:08
Total time on social media: 18:48

Time spent on reading/studying since last session: 2:00
Total time on reading/studying: 4:37

Posted on: January 12, 2017