UNDOUBTEDLY the ready availability and low cost of the pencil and materials needed for use in conjunction with it are partly responsible for its popularity among artists, while the ease with which it can be carried from place to place and prepared and kept in condition for work are in its favor, also.
But aside from these intrinsic merits of the pencil itself, it has other advantages of a different sort, - for instance its common employment for writing and similar purposes has given us all a certain familiarity with it, so that the beginner, having become accustomed from earliest childhood to these everyday uses to which it is put, finds it a natural and simple matter to learn to hold and manipulate it properly when drawing, which is, of course, highly important as it leaves him free to give his attention to other difficulties less easily avoided.
Yet the advantages we have mentioned, great as they are, seem insignificant when put into comparison with the one leading fact which has given the pencil its place in the world of art, - the fact that it is suitable for any kind of a drawing from the roughest outline sketch or diagram to a complete rendering of an elaborate subject. What other medium is there which responds so readily to any demand made upon it? Sharply pointed it will give us a line as fine and clean-cut as that of the pen; bluntly pointed it can be used almost as a brush. It will make strokes sufficiently light and delicate or bold and vigorous to suit the most exacting, or tones so smooth that in them no trace of any line can be found. It is responsive to the slightest touch, allowing us to grade at will from light to dark or from dark to light. What other medium will do all this? What other medium permits so great freedom in correcting and erasing at any time during the progress of the work? What medium permits of such rapid manipulation when speed is desired and still proves suitable for the most careful and painstaking study? It should not be supposed that it is only in the making of drawings in light and shade or outline that it is of value, either, for when color is desired there are excellent colored pencils to be had by the use of which wonderful effects are obtainable, either on white paper or on tinted surfaces, - furthermore light washes of water-color can be run over pencil work satisfactorily, charming combinations of such mediums being frequently seen.
Nor should it be forgotten that aside from all these various types of work in which the pencil plays a leading or a most conspicuous part, there are many drawings in which it serves a less prominent but by no means less important one, for it is employed with great frequency in the preparation of drawings to be completed in other mediums; - pen drawings, for example, are almost invariably blocked out in pencil before any ink is applied, while its use is not infrequent for the same preliminary preparation for paintings in wash, water color or oil as well as for making the numerous studies which are usually done before a large or important composition is finally executed. Therefore, even though the student intends to become a painter, pencil facility should prove invaluable to him. In fact, practice with this instrument helps greatly to fit one for work in all other mediums - drawings done in fine line train one for pen-and-ink, broad line shading being more like charcoal or crayon or brush work helps one in the use of these mediums, while pencil shading in mass or full tone prepares one directly for painting in wash or color.
With these various facts before us, it is not difficult to see that the pencil is an instrument which no artist or art student can afford to ignore; especially is it of value to the beginner for as has been pointed out it is hard to find another medium that approaches the pencil in permitting the same speed and accuracy in drawing, coupled with ease in correction. It is unfortunate if the student allows his impatience to attempt work in pen-and-ink or pastel or water-color or oils to cause him to proceed to the use of any of these mediums before he has mastered the pencil, for if he does so he will face unnecessary difficulties.
But if the pencil is valuable to the artist or art student it is absolutely indispensable to the architect and his assistants, for whereas the artist has numerous mediums from which to choose the one best suited to his particular needs or individual taste, the architect has nothing that can take the place of the graphite point for a major portion of his work. What other medium would answer for laying out his accurate plans and elevations and sections, and what else would do for all the various detail drawings which must be carefully made to scale? Yet the pencil serves the architect in other ways than these, for aside from this instrumental work which is hardly within the scope of this volume, many drawings of a free-hand nature are required, such as details of carved stone and wood, ornamental iron, lettered inscriptions and the like, and what is still more important the pencil is particularly valuable for making rendered presentation sketches of the kind submitted to a prospective client to show how a proposed structure will appear when completed, these sketches frequently serving to bring new work into the office. Then, too, the architect finds a knowledge of free-hand perspective sketching of great value in other ways, for he can by means of a few strokes of his pencil make some point clear to his client or express his ideas satisfactorily to his draftsmen, or help his contractors to visualize some matter not readily understood from the working drawings.