THERE is nothing, perhaps, which so kindles the interest and enthusiasm of the student as to surround himself with the required drawing materials, while even the experienced man who is accustomed to the everyday use of these accessories can hardly gaze upon a new clean sheet of paper and pencils pointed ready for his hand without an itching to commence, a desire to seize a pencil and he at it, for there is something about such materials to lure one on - to urge one to do his best.
In fact the appeal of all such things is so strong that the beginner is almost sure, unless guided by his instructor, to buy too great a variety and quantity of materials and is inclined to attach too much importance to them, for important as they are (and no man can do good work with poor tools), the truth of the matter is that few and comparatively inexpensive things are needed for such work, and especially for the earlier problems. But these few should be the best of their respective kinds, for the difficulties that beset the beginner are so many and great that it would be a grave mistake for him to handicap himself by using anything of an inferior nature, as even the best materials are none too easily mastered.
If the student has no teacher to aid him in his selection he is usually safe in securing the standard drawing pencils and papers and the like which are carried in stock by reliable dealers in artists' supplies. After a time he will develop a liking for certain kinds for certain purposes and will eventually choose without hesitation the pencil and paper best suited to the subject to be drawn and the sort of drawing to be made. And whether one works with an instructor or without, his personal preferences will become more and more marked from year to year, and the more difficult it will be for him to adapt himself to materials with which he is not perfectly familiar. This unfortunately causes some artists of mature years to heartily condemn everything to which they are unaccustomed, which is hardly fair, for that which is worthless to one may be excellent for another. After the early problems are over, then, it is often well to experiment until a certain familiarity with all the standard materials is gained. Those which are here recommended will do for most of the problems of the beginner while others are discussed in later chapters.
Drawing pencils are usually graded from 6B, the softest and blackest, to 9H, the hardest and firmest, with fifteen grades between, or seventeen in all, arranged as follows: - 6B, 5B, 4B, 3B, 2B, B, HB, F, H, 2H, 3H, 4H, 5H, 6H, 7H, 8H, 9H. Of these the soft pencils are best suited to freehand work, though some papers demand much harder pencils than others. In fact, the choice of pencils depends almost entirely on the character of paper to be used, a smooth, glossy paper demanding a much softer pencil than is needed for work on rough paper which has considerable "too'.h." For quick sketches, one soft pencil, perhaps a 2B or B or HB, will sometimes do for the whole drawing, but a carefully finished sketch showing considerable detail may require as many as seven or eight pencils grading all the way from 3B or 2B to 4H or 5H. In such a drawing most of the work would be done with the softer pencils, the harder ones being used for the light, transparent tones and fine detail. A little experimenting will usually show what pencils are best suited to the paper to be used and to the subject to be drawn. The fact that the weather makes a great difference in the pencils required is not usually recognized, but it is true that pencils that are just right on a dry day will prove too hard when the air is damp and the paper filled with moisture. Pencils of different manufacture vary in their grading so it is generally best to use those of one make on a drawing. Cheap pencils seldom prove satisfactory as the lead is variable and often so gritty as to scratch the paper.
Almost any drawing paper will do, but the choice depends mainly on the size and character of the drawing to be made. For small sketches it is best, as a rule, to use smoother paper than for large work, - in fact it is almost impossible to draw fine detail on extremely rough paper. A glazed paper, however, is seldom desirable as the shiny surface is dulled in an objectionable manner if the eraser is used. Sometimes, however, very crisp, snappy sketches are made on glazed paper, but a soft pencil is required for such work. Extremely rough paper is occasionally satisfactory for a large drawing, but a medium-rough surface is best for general work. Some tracing papers arc very good and have the advantage that the sketch can be first blocked out on one sheet and then rendered on a second sheet placed over the first. The drawings by the author illustrating this text were made for the most part on "kid finish" Bristol Board, which has the advantage of being stiff and durable, with a firm surface.
It is often well to have several standard sizes for sketch sheets, one small enough to slip into the pocket, and one or two larger sizes. Drawing paper of the Imperial size of 22 in. x 30 in. can be cut without waste to several convenient proportions, such as 15 in. x 22 in., 11 in. x 15 in. and 7 1/2 in. x 11 in. Some draftsmen prefer to have punched sheets to be used in a standard notebook cover, 8 in. x 10 1/2 in., being satisfactory. The sketch books and pads for sale in all art stores are good for small work.
As a rule it is best to avoid the use of erasers so far as possible, as erasing often injures the paper surface, but art gum or a soft white eraser is necessary for removing construction lines and for cleaning the sheet. A fairly hard red or green eraser may be required sometimes for correcting errors, and a soft "kneaded" rubber is very useful in lifting superfluous tone from a portion of a drawing. An erasing shield is an essential if changes are to be made.
A soft brush is needed for keeping the drawing free from dust as tiny specks often cause spots and streaks as the pencil passes over them. The paper should always be dusted with care after erasing is done.
It is usually well to fasten the drawing to a board of convenient size with thumb tacks. Be sure that the board is very smooth, for unless it is so or the paper very thick, the grain of the wood may show in the final drawing. When using thin or medium-weight drawing paper it is best to put an extra sheet or two under the drawing to insure a good surface.
Sketches done with soft pencils rub and soil so easily after they are completed that it is customary to spray or "fix" them. An atomizer and bottle of fixatif can be obtained in any art store but the fixatif usually sold tends to turn the drawing slightly yellow and also causes a gloss or shine if too much is applied. A French fixatif made for spraying pastels has the advantage of being more transparent and of causing less shine, but is quite expensive.
A scratch pad of sandpaper is essential as an aid in pointing the pencils. These are sold in a convenient form with handles so attached as to make their use possible without soiling the hands. A sheet of fine sandpaper or a file may be substituted for the block if desired.
Obviously a sharp knife will be useful for trimming the paper, sharpening the pencils, lifting thumbtacks, etc.
The above materials are needed for all problems. Drawing tables, easels, etc., will be described in later chapters which take up the kinds of work for which they are essential.
Pencil Sketch by Otto R. Eggers.