Copyright Josh Navarra 2015. All Rights Reserved.

How to Draw...With pencils!

1. Get the right stuff. Go to your local art or craft store to find everything you need.  Get yourself a good set of pencils. If you are more interested in graphite drawing then find a nice set of drawing pencils which include dark to light tones. The set should have an 8B through a 6H to start with. If you are focused on colored pencil drawings the larger the set the better. 

Next, get some good drawing paper. Drawing paper is great for practicing. This paper has more texture for my liking so I do not use it for my final pieces or commissioned work. The smoother paper like bristol paper still has enough texture but smooth enough to blend. 

You will also need some good erasers. Remember that colored pencils don't erase because of the waxy material the pencil is made of. For graphite drawing I typically use a kneaded eraser. You can also use a elastomer eraser however be very gentle with these as they can damage the paper easily if you are too rough with them.  

Lastly you will need a pencil sharpener or precision knife. 

2. Practice. This step never ends. Once you think you've learned everything about drawing then you have stopped yourself from learning. (This goes with just about everything in life). Do not get discouraged. Just about every great work of art you see is created by someone with years of practice. There is an exception for the few talented individuals. Remember that every artist has their own unique style. Instead of trying to imitate someone else's art, try to perfect your own! Read books, blogs, watch videos and  study other artist's techniques. It's okay to ask other artist's for advice with techniques but wait until you feel comfortable that you know a thing or two about drawing. Rarely do artist want to teach someone the basics. If you just can't grasp it then find an art class or art instructor. This can even be temporary. Just until you understand how to hold a pencil. One very important rule about practice is to ALWAYS try and finish a drawing. Do not start a drawing and then throw it away or give up one it so fast. When you first start your work will probably look like a little kid drew it. That's okay. What you are learning here is that  you are starting a drawing with the idea of finishing it. This will make it turn out better.

3.  stop rushing and go slow. I don't know how many times I've seen someone become disappointed in their drawing and when I ask them how long they spent they will say 5-10 minutes. Somehow people get this idea that a detailed piece of work by a talented artist is done with speed. Of course you will get faster the more you draw but a drawing with detail can take up to 8-10 hours or more! If you slow yourself down you will see an improvement in your work. Drawing can be a very therapeutic and meditative activity. Sometimes I get into a zone and will stay up too late working on a piece.

4. Start your drawing with a light sketch.  Use a medium pencil such as an HB and very lightly sketch the outline of your drawing. Be sure to pay attention to important proportions in the drawing. Such as where the edges of shapes sit in relation to others. Do not lay down any dark or hard pencils until your sketch is how you want it. Remember that hard pencils like a 4H will actually indent the paper and a dark pencil such as a 7B will stain the paper. Both of these things make it difficult to erase if needed. Your sketch is the blue print or master plan to your final work.

5. Blending is cool. Blending your graphite can really add a neat effect. It removes the visible pencil strokes and makes the values come together very nicely. Be careful not to overdo it . Blending can also stain the paper and change the effect TOO much. I use tools like blending cloths, cotton swabs, cotton balls or blender tools (tightly rolled up paper). NEVER EVER use your fingers to blend. Your fingers and hands have oils on them that can stain the paper and ruin a drawing. Always place a scrap paper under your hand to keep your skin oils off the paper. You can also use low tack artist tape to hold the paper to the drawing surface so that your non-drawing hand isn't holding the paper. 

6. erasing. If there is one general rule to drawing I would say to go gentle. Never press so hard with your pencil that you can't go back. The idea is to erase to emphasize highlights. Not to start over. You will learn that when you draw the paper will loose it's white areas. The lightest white and the darkest black are what add contrast and dimension to a drawing. These are important elements to make your work look more impressive.  

Stay tuned for more drawing how-to's and tips. I will try to add many more tips. for any specific questions feel free to reach out to me by email and I will get back to you as soon as I can!

-josh

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