THE student should determine before sharpening his pencils just what they are to be required to do, and should point them accordingly. Sharply-pointed pencils will answer very well if a drawing is to be small or if much fine detail is to be shown, but if it is to be large, broad pointed pencils will usually produce an effect equally satisfactory in a much shorter space of time. Many drawings combine both fine lines and wide lines with excellent results.
No special directions for forming a sharp point seem necessary, but a broad point is not so commonly used, so the following suggestions are offered. First of all, cut away the wood in the usual manner just as for a sharp point, but leave one-quarter or three-eighths of an inch of the full-sized lead exposed. (If this lead is left too long, however, especially in the softer pencils, it will quickly break under pressure.) Next, wear the point down on fine sandpaper holding the pencil at an angle of about 45 degrees with the paper, until the lead has the appearance shown at "A," Figure 15. The end of the lead should next be smoothed by rubbing it on rough paper until each stroke gives a firm, even tone when the pencil is held as at "B." Occasional fine lines or accents in a drawing can be made with this broad point if it is held on its sharp edge as at "C," but if many fine lines are needed a sharply-pointed pencil will prove more satisfactory. The type of broad point just mentioned is used by many artists but others go still further, and by slightly squaring the whole of the exposed lead, after it has been sharpened as described above, obtain a very crisp, clean-cut line. The illustrations made by the author for this text were for the most part drawn with this latter type of point.
Regardless of how the pencil is sharpened care should be taken that the point is wiped with a cloth in order to remove all dust, for otherwise it is difficult to get a clean, firm line and next to impossible to keep the paper from becoming soiled by the loose grit from the pencil. Another point for the beginner to remember is that in sharpening the pencil the letters or numbers indicating the degree of hardness or softness of the lead should never be removed.
Having pointed and dusted the pencils, they are ready for use, though it will be convenient to so mark each one that its grade can be told at a glance. There are several ways of doing this. One is by cutting or painting the letters indicating the grade of the lead on several sides of the pencil where they can be seen easily, and another is by notching the pencils, increasing the number of notches as the pencils become harder in grade. Such letters or notches are perhaps most convenient if placed about one and one-half inches from the unsharpened end of the pencil where they will remain in view. If near the point they will soon be cut away and if at the other extremity they will be hidden if a pencil holder or lengthener is used. Some artists, instead of marking their pencils, always lay them on the drawing board according to grade. By this arrangement they can tell the degree of hardness of a pencil at a glance by its position on the board and when it has been used it can be returned to its proper place and another taken up. A still different way of marking pencils for identification is by dipping them into various colors, each color representing a definite grade of lead.
The question may arise as to the number of pencils necessary for one sketch. This number will vary all the way from one, for a quick sketch, to seven or eight as used by some draftsmen for carefully finished work. Some very well-known men never use more than one grade of pencil for an entire drawing but the student can as a rule get better results by the use of three or four. The two little sketches on Figure 20 were made with a 2B, HB, F, H and 3H.
When the pencils have been properly sharpened the student can do nothing of greater benefit than to draw many individual lines with each point before attempting complete drawings. Try to make every stroke a thing of beauty, for it is only by combining many beautiful strokes that a pleasing final result can be obtained. Draw lines of all kinds and in all directions; some straight and others curved; some uniform in tone from end to end and others grading from light to dark or from dark to light. Allow some to fade out so gradually that the ends are lost in the tones of the paper and accent others at the ends by using extra pressure as the pencil touches or leaves the drawing surface. Keep some straight and sharp, drawing them very quickly with much freedom, and form others rather slowly, allowing them to quaver or tremble. Use considerable pressure on some, thus smoothing or "ironing out" the paper, and in others barely touch the pencil to the surface. Make lines with both broad and fine points, with various grades of pencils, and on all sorts of paper until you feel a certain confidence in your knowledge of your mediums.
When this feeling of assurance is acquired, attempt building up even tones by massing the strokes together, either touching or with slight spaces between. Think clearly what you wish to do before you begin and then draw with directness and vigor, remembering that sharp "snappy" work is the kind most popular for architectural purposes.