Monday, 18 April 2016

A bird's nest in Mayfair

London is a big place, and it's hard to think of it all as home. We all have our parts of town that mean most to us, and for me that's the north and the east, and parts of the centre I know best. So I become a bit of a tourist in places like Mayfair. It's one of the city's richest parts with impressive architecture and plenty of displays of ostentatious wealth, which I usually look at with bemused detachment. Above, though, nature takes its course. It may be an old, empty nest, but it survives in a budding tree just around the corner from the Ritz Hotel (below).

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Back to pencils

Derwent Graphic 4B

I drew with pencils (or charcoal) for years before I took up the thick black marker pen. The shift was for a variety of reasons, not least my love for intense blackness and the permanence of ink. But when I was sent a variety of Derwent drawing products recently, it was no hardship to try them out.

There's nothing quite like a pencil. I have written before about why I find them so fantastic: their natural, organic quality, their glorious subtleties of line, their apparent omnipresence (is there a home in the world without at least one, or a shopping street that doesn't sell them?), and their overall honesty (what you see is exactly what you get, and you're not left wondering how long it is before they run out).

Derwent Graphic 8B

The way you work has a big influence on what pencils you may need. I have rarely used the harder pencils from the H end of the scale in Derwent's Graphic set, preferring a 2B, 4B or 6B. Using softer pencils mean they need sharpening more often, if that is important, and that they get worked down more quickly, but this is a small price to pay. It's fun just to pull the point across the surface of the paper: the feel of a pencil on the paper is so nuanced you can sense the texture as the graphite is applied in a way that you never do with the ink of a marker pen.

The Sketching set is a softer, thicker graphite, in HB, 2B and 4B. I think it is only as I am using these that I realise how much I like the point of a pencil. It's the precision – the lack of "sketchiness" – that is appealing about a pencil, just as it is the uniform, relentless directness of a thick black marker pen that I find appealing.

Derwent Sketching 4B

My problems with pencils? They can be more subtle and "sketchy" than I like, and don't always show up strongly when posted on social media. A dropped pencil can mean the graphite shaft is shattered so a sharpened lead is quickly broken, especially with softer pencils (although getting a set in a tin helps to reduce this likelihood). But for all that, pencils are a beautiful thing – my thanks to Derwent for sending them for me to try.