The art of sharpening pencils
BY MATTHEW JAMES TAYLOR ON 8 OCTOBER 2007
Welcome to the world of pencil sharpening - this may sound like a dull topic but there is actually a lot more to it than you think. There are a number of different sharpening styles and methods; all good artists should know them. The trick is using the right one at the right time.
There are four main points to select from; the one you choose will depend on the type of pencil you use, and the style of your drawing.
The standard point
Everyone knows about this one, its trademark conical point is the most common and the most versatile of sharpening styles. If you're looking for a good all-rounder ...view middle of the document...
One problem with the chisel design is it can be difficult to master. When drawing with the flat face it's all too easy to accidentally roll your wrist and wear away the corners of the chisel shape. It can also take a bit of work to carve the chisel to begin with. If you can overcome these minor annoyances then the chisel point may be for you.
The needle point
This is a specialist design that is carved with a knife into a sharp concave point. The idea is that such a fine point can wear down a long way before it actually becomes too blunt to use. This style is great for perfectionists who want precise control over their lines and extra fine detail.
There are a number of potential problems with this design. A fine point such as this is prone to constant breaking so it's only suitable for harder pencils. The needle point can only make the one type of mark too, a fine line, so there is not a lot of flexibility here. Colouring in large sections of solid tone can be very time consuming so you are limited to smaller sized drawings.
The bullet point
This is my personal favourite and one I devised myself. In this style the wood is removed from the last centimeter of the pencil then the end of the lead is sharpened into a bullet shape. Two types of marks can be made from this design; a softer line from the side of the bullet and a sharp line from the point. Like the chisel, it has a 'self-sharpening' property. The bullet point is also good for hard and soft pencils.
There are not many drawbacks with this design except to say that it does take a minute or two to carve the design to begin with. If you haven't tried this before, give it a go.
Pencil Drawing Techniques
The technique you use will habitually be determined by the initial purpose of your drawing, or the aspirations you have for the illustration. Sketching for a watercolour would require an entirely different technique than that for a detailed photo-realistic drawing. You have most likely seen the techniques cross-hatching, circles, scribbles and contour lines and you may have even experimented with a couple, but have you ever completed your final work with these techniques?
Before you start experimenting make sure you know…
It won’t hurt to go over them
Objects appear smaller as they move back away from your eye and equally objects drawn larger appear closer!
Lines and surfaces are their largest closest to the picture plane.
Lines or edges that are parallel appear to meet as they recede from the picture plane.
All vertical lines are parallel when using one point perspective (the viewer is not looking up or down at the objects)
Objects drawn in front of one another appear closer (overlapping!)
Images further away will appear lighter, with less contrast and detail.
Ideal for sketching, cross-hatching is predominantly used by pen artists, but creates tonal depth and can produce realistic textures when employed with pencil.