Exercise Holding pens and pencils

On the 13/05/12 I started the first of the exercises for the Project Making Marks. It was very interesting to try holding the drawing materials in different positions. I realised how often I tend to only hold the pen or pencil that I am using fairly near the tip to give myself as much control as possible and it seemed quite strange at first to be holding them in a different position.

I tried out different media held in different ways in my A4 sketchbook (pages 2 and 3). Please see figures 1 and 2.

Figure 1
Holding graphite and ink media in various ways 

Holding the drawing materials right at the top and allowing them to dangle onto the paper and then moving them tended to result in light, skipping marks and lines that were difficult to control in pencil and pen. It tended to give an unpredictable line or effect which could however be quite exciting. I never quite knew when it was going to lose contact with the page and a gap appear in the line. Lines tended to be of an unpredictable length and with an uneven line, drawing curves was particularly affected with them becoming more angular and also skipping contact with the paper. Shorter material such as conte crayons, soft pastels or a short piece of charcoal did not appear to be so affected by holding them right at the top and allowing them to dangle. They tended to make lighter marks and with some skipping but appeared to be less affected than a pencil. I think that it is because they are shorter to hold and perhaps being a softer medium helped as well.

Figure 2
Trying Conte Crayons, Soft pastel and Charcoal held in various ways

Holding the media halfway down gave better control and also tended to give darker lines if required because more pressure could be applied. Sweeping lines tended to stay in contact with the paper. Changing the angle at which the media was held in relation to the paper, so that more of it was in contact with the paper enabled larger areas of shading to be achieved.

I found that when I held and dangled a pencil only  short sweeping lines seemed to be achievable whereas when I held the pencil halfway or near the tip, I could control and draw the line to any length that I wanted.

Holding the media near the tip appeared to give the highest level of control. It also tended to give more predictable results but the movements achievable were not as free perhaps as holding the media halfway down. By holding the media at a low angle good shading control was achieved.

Holding conte crayons, soft pastels or sticks of charcoal on their sides and then twisting them round or sweeping them along the paper while twisting them gave fascinating effects for example fan effects, grass effects, leaf effects, wave effects etc. Drawing either straight down the paper while on a long edge resulted in strong straight lines but with an interesting variance of thickness in the line. (Please see figures 3 and 4).

Large gestural strokes felt very freeing and I could rapidly move from one side of the A2 paper to the other in an instant and they were fun to do. These movements were easier when holding the media either halfway down or near the tip.

Pressing lightly or heavier resulted in lighter or heavier lines and with softer leaded pencils and media like charcoal pressing heavily could result in the tip or stick breaking or crumbling. Pressing hard with very soft media like charcoal or conte crayon left a rich dark line on the paper but also a lot of dust or crumbs of media that were then very easy to smudge. Good if you wanted areas smudged, not so good if you didn’t. Talking about smudging, it was very easy to smudge any of the softer media and even after fixing with fixative they were still susceptible to smudging.

It was a good exercise for trying different media and for starting to get a feel for how they behave. It was also good for reminding me that there is more than one way of holding media and that by holding them in different ways it gives variation in line and tone. It also showed that depending how hard I pressed, depended on the level of tone that I could portray. I further learnt that if I wanted a freer line that though I have the most control by holding the media near the tip, there is a pay off with that in so far as the movements I can make are not as free. I also learnt that soft media are very messy to use but huge fun to play with and give fascinating results.

Figure 3

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