Pencil Drawings

History of Pencil Drawings

In the 17th century, graphite pencils replaces the metallic drawing styluses previously used by Medieval and Renaissance draftsmen. Dutch artists were known for their early graphite landscape drawings. In 1795, French painter Nicolas-Jacques invented what is now the modern pencil lead from a mixture of clay and graphite This invention allowed artists to have more control over the density and shade of graphite they used, and the tool subsequently increased in popularity amongst painters, architects, designers, and miniaturists. By the 19th century, pencil drawings were mainly a way for artists to sketch preliminary compositions and studies for paintings and sculptures. The introduction of other fine art pencils, including colored, watercolor, crayon, and charcoal varieties, expanded the medium’s versatility, and pencil drawings became a fine art form in their own right. Today, many artists continue the tradition and often combine pencil lead with other mediums for more dynamic drawings.

Pencil Drawings Techniques

Artists who work with graphite lead praise its versatility. Harder and darker leads produce fine lines for more detailed pencil drawings, while soft and light lead is usually reserved for modeling and shading. Artists who make dark art pencil drawings often aim for sharp precision, while softer leads are more often associated with fluid, spontaneous lines. Typical drawing techniques include hatching, crosshatching, blending shades, and scumbling, in which the artist moves the pencil along the surface of the work in small circular motions. Artists often experiment with different kinds of pencils to make charcoal, watercolor, or colored pencil drawings. They also combine graphite lead with other mediums, including pastels, watercolors, and gouache, to spruce up monochromatic images. Pencil and ink drawings are also a common approach as the ink shades complement and play off one another.

Artists Known For Pencil Drawings

French Neoclassical painter Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres is known for using limited shading and precise lines to draw his pencil portraits. Adrian Ludwig Richter is similarly recognized for his sharp, wiry lines. Many painters began as draftsmen, as they sketched studies for their painted works. Henri Matisse, Vincent Van Gogh, and Paul Cezanne, for example, sketched pencil drawings of flowers and landscape scenes. Gustav Klimt developed his own style as a draftsman, breaking away from the traditional three-dimensional shaded approach to create figures with pure line. His sketches like “Lasciviousness”  for his Beethoven Frieze (1902) instead emphasize the flatness of picture’s surface. Other famous pencil drawings include Willem de Kooning’s “Two Women” (1952) and Pablo Picasso’s “Still Life with Glass, Apple, Playing Card, and Package of Tobacco” (1913). Eugene Delacroix, Amedeo Modigliani, Edgar Degas, John Singer Sargent, Walter Osbourne, William Strang, and Stephen McKenna are just a few other artists known for their pencil drawings.