It was not until some Italian carpenters
decided to encase a stick of graphite with a
hollowed out wooden stick that we had the
beginnings of our modern pencil.
For more information about how
pencils are graded and why the yel-low;pencil;is;numbered;a;“ 2,”;see
this video from my art class: vimeo
pencil manufacturers wanted to convince
customers that their pencils were regal!
Another story is that a Hungarian pencil
company started making yellow pencils
named a;er the famous (and very expensive) yellow diamond known as the Koh-I-Noor diamond, at the suggestion of
Queen Victoria. ;e Koh-I Noor pencil
company has been making high-quality
pencils ever since!
;e last component of the pencil that
we all know and love is the eraser, which
was added in 1858. Over the centuries
there have been subtle improvements to
the pencil design or to the manufacturing process, but basically the pencil has
remained the same for all of these years.
A long line of artists since Leonardo
Da Vinci have been drawing with the
pencil to make some lasting works of
art—Rembrandt, Dürer, Van Gogh, Picasso, and Rockwell. All artists learn to
sketch and draw with this most humble
tool, as either the ;rst step in their creative process or as the medium of choice
for a ;nal piece.
capabilities, knowing I can erase whatever marks I make if they aren’t quite right!
So;, ;ne lines are made with a hard lead
and a sharp point, or dark shading can be
made with a black, so; lead. ;e pencil
is inexpensive, easy to ;nd, long-lasting,
not messy, able to be erased, and very
portable. I can take a sketchbook and a
pencil and enjoy hours of drawing time,
as long as I take along a way to sharpen
;e best way to get comfortable with
pencil drawing is to just do it . . . draw every
chance you get, anything you see. Try drawing ordinary items that you see around you
in the room, without arranging them, but
exactly as they are. Another great drawing
opportunity is to look out of your window,
whether to a garden or to the street, and
draw whatever you see. Of course, people
are always great subjects to draw in pencil.
;e artist John Singer Sargent made this
sketch of a friend, poet Alice Meynell, and
the result was a lovely portrait.
For an exercise on creating special texture marks with a pencil,
check out this video from another one of my art classes: vimeo
It is fun to explore the technology
available today as a means to learn
about art. Encyclopedic information
about art history, artist blogs, and lots
of how-to videos on everything from
watercolor painting to glass blowing
is at your fingertips via the Internet.
There are some incredibly creative
things you can do with computer-aided
design, but nothing beats the organic,
personal feel and scratchy sound of a
graphite point on paper. So when I feel
the need to make art, give me the humble pencil any day.
Pat has been drawing and painting since
she was able to hold a crayon. She has a
degree in art education, a teaching credential, and is an experienced teacher. In addition to being the master artist for the See
the Light ART CLASS DVD series, Pat
serves as Director of Children’s Ministries
at a large church where she is blessed to be
able to blend her passions for art, teaching, and reaching kids with God’s Word.
Pat lives in Southern California with her
husband and two teen boys. See the Light’s
ART CLASS lessons are available on DVD,
and our See ;e Light website is a great
resource for young artists (
Da Vinci, Leonardo. Sketch for ;e Madonna
of the Rocks. 1483 black chalk. Biblioteca
Reale, Turin, Italy
My admiration and respect for the
pencil comes from many years of ex-
perimenting with the pencil’s varied
Sargent, John Singer. Portrait of Alice Meynell.
1894. Pencil. National Portrait Gallery,