A few months back I bought myself one of these little metal pencils. It was just kind of a “oh I remember these” impulse buy type thing. I remembered having one when I was back in school and liking in particular how durable it was. So I bought it. And now I can’t seem to put it down.

It’s big and ugly, the lead isn’t  particularly remarkable. It came in a nice metal box which I thought was nice. The 5.6 mm width lead makes it sort of hard to keep a sharp tip on it. But I think it’s the lack of elegance that makes it so fun to sketch with. The lack of nuance keeps you honest. There’s no point in creating delicate rendered sketches with a tool l like this. Broad dark lines are what’s on the menu and being something of a “renderer” it’s really refreshing.

I find it particularly fun for life drawing (and zoom meetings) where due to the time/attention constraints, you’re not really supposed to be too precious anyway. Big dark lines also help emphasize that there’s not much point in erasing. This really forces you move with the mindset of committing to what you’re putting down, and making it work.

When I was a young man, I was in love with beautiful painting. Delicately rendered passages, soft controlled edges, the control it takes to impose your will onto a flat surface and make it read as a 3 dimensional image. I think most artists get pulled in with stuff like that. The sense of craft and just how impressive it can be to see it done well. And don’t get me wrong, I still love and can certainly appreciate a well painted picture, but over the years I’ve found myself to be most enamored with rougher sketches.

I think if you do something long enough, after a while you begin to appreciate aspects of it you might not have fully appreciated in the beginning. There’s also a tendency to want to focus on the end product, or what you intend it to be, as opposed to the journey it took to get there.

The older I get, the more I realize that those choices that propel you down the road are more consequential than you might have initially thought. They aren’t just a means to an end, but instead almost completely determine where you end up. And its fun to pay attention to them. to listen, and learn.


To me, the drawing is always, ALWAYS the most important part of representational art. It’s the framework that everything else is draped upon. In my opinion, it’s that skeleton that can easily be the most impressive and interesting part of any piece of artwork, because you can see an artist’s real thought process. A drawing offers an opportunity to observe the real problem solving in a picture. This visual shorthand can sometimes be so much more informative and “thrilling” than a finished piece.

Someone’s sense of line and form is visual communication at its most primary and really speaks to their mood and nature. You can see what they chose to emphasize, what they ignored, what they struggled with. To me, there’s nothing more thrilling than seeing an artists’ sketches. They feel so much more intimate and personal, and if you know what you’re looking for, can be more informative than a finished piece.

I was in San Francisco recently and whe to see the Sergeant show currently up at the legion of honor. There were lots of really nice paintings and I mean let’s admit it there aren’t many who paint better than he could, but I was the most fascinated by the drawings, so many little studies, some just a few lines. But man could that guy draw. You look at those sketches and it becomes obvious why he was such a great painter. Wish id taken some pictures, but I’m an idiot and just got too caught up in looking I guess.

Anyhoo if you’re looking to for a fun tool I totally recommend these pencils.