A number of people have asked me how do I get such fine detail in my work and while there’s a lot of practice involved one of the more important things to remember is to have a good sharp point on your pencil and the only way to achieve that is to use a good sharpener. Now by good I don’t mean a hugely expensive one. I have a decent quality electric sharpener but I rarely use it opting instead for a good hand-held one. I use my electric sharpener only to get my new pencils started or to get a pencil that has broken lead inside going. One little tip if and when you use an electric sharpener is to occasionally run a graphite pencil through it. I have a package of cheap HB’s just for this purpose. The reason for doing this is that the sharpener will eventually build up with oils and especially wax from the wax-based pencils and this will dull the blades doing more damage to your pencils than good. Running a graphite pencil through it when you notice it giving you problems will in effect clean and sharpen the blades as graphite is a natural sharpener. Having said that, as I mentioned I like to use a very sharp point when creating my pieces so it’s important not to get lazy and continue to using one that is less than optimum (see image below). I used to use KUM sharpeners but it was difficult to get replacement blades so I tried the Staedler brand and they run just a few bucks each so when I buy them I usually pick up a half dozen or so and when they’re done, (they usually last a long time) I just toss them. I keep a box for sharpening in beside my work and from time to time I will toss the shavings into a small screen strainer and I get just the color shavings which I can use in my work as well, especially if it’s from watercolor pencils (that’s another tutorial). The other item I keep handy is a few small strips of fine sandpaper stapled together. I use them when I still have a fairly decent point on my pencil but need just that extra tweak and rather than using my sharpener and lose more pencil, I just touch up the lead to my liking. I hope this little tip has been helpful to you. Let me know what techniques you use for your pencils – I’d love to hear from you!
Have a Happy Canada Day (tomorrow) to all my fellow Canadians and Happy Fourth of July (Monday) to all my American readers!!