Sunday, 10 February 2013

4B challenge

I thought I might just do a quick comparison of the 5 or so pencils I found in the attic the other day. I was really pleased to find the Wolff's Carbon as I had recently been talking to Tom Barwick about this pencil, so it was quite a pleasant surprise that I still had one floating about. Technically these are all my pencils but technically I did just find them whilst looking for something else.

What struck me first was the fact that the Faber-Castel 9000 was darker and richer and nicer to use than both the Crayola 4B and the Graphitone 4B. And even though the Faber is hexagonal I much preferred it over the round bodied Crayola. The Wolff's Carbon came out the overall winner using my sliding scale of bias-o-meter but you can't really compare the wolff's to the others as really they are in different categories (so another post just on the wolff's carbon coming up). The Faber though did take some punishment from me and handled it with efficiency we come to expect of German manufacturing. I like the design and colour of the Castell, the green and the gold in classy and you feel like your holding a decent pencil, the lead appears to be pretty central but there is a slight warp on the body as it lifts every so slightly toward the tip, which doesn't really effect the overall performance. The Crayola gets points for being of a round bodied disposition but the graphite stick on the other hand was wholly disappointing.
So hurray for the Castell, it comes out winner of the found 4B challenge.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013


I found this mystery pencil the other day that just has 4B printed on it in silver emboss. It looks like it belongs to the Reeves family, but I can't be sure. But what I can be sure of is that it is like drawing with butter, it is so nice (although I actually wouldn't like to draw with butter, let's just make that clear). Have you ever seen the Honda ad about drawing on a banana skin with a biro? it's a bit like that - honestly, you can almost see the lead disappear as you glide it across the page. I had a lot of fun drawing with this, but I have no idea where to get another from, as I imagine this one isn't going to last very long. If it were a round body, boy this would be my favorite pencil ever. Definitely in the top 3.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Staedtler Tradition 3B

The Staedtler tradition, let's face it, it is not a Norris is it, but nevertheless the Dennis the Menace of the pencil world does have its pluses. This 3B is a work horse of a pencil. I found it over Christmas and it has been battered around in my bag, dropped and generally abused but it still looks and draws like I got it out the pack yesterday, I am not sure what wood they use, but what ever it is, is good. As a general pencil this works for me, I can't really use it for tonal work as it doesn't really have the consistency over larger areas, but for detail or sketching its fine. I find it doesn't like being sharpened to a fine point and the first couple of millimeter's sort of crumbles off, which can lead to that really annoying double line thing, but now I am being picky.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Shadow Play 5b

I got's myself a shadow play. I picked it up today, a WHSmith sketching pencil, I am pretty sure I know who's pencil this is, so I may have to give it back. I have no idea what 'shadow play' means but this is a nice pencil for working tonally, very dark, lovely texture, don't get me wrong clearly it is as ugly as sin but nevertheless a damn good pencil. I find more and more that I prefer these relatively cheaper pencils. the thing that lets it down is the design, it is a hexagonal pencil for starters, it is the dullest battle ship grey you could make and has appalling typography, badly set, But worse of all I bet you can't buy them separately, I bet they come in a set with 12 other pencils that you would never use.

Derwent Dark Wash 8B

Well, I just so happened upon a Derwent Dark Wash 8B the other day that has been really loved by someone. It is no bigger than my little finger, normally I would pass such a pencil, as 'stubbies' are as far as I am concerned, to be used in IKEA only. But my magpie pencil picking behaviour got the better of me and so now I have a Dark Wash.
First things first, it is round, so all good there, but it's not quite as much fun as you would expect, nice don't get me wrong, but when you name something, Dark Wash, you set up a certain amount of expectations from the user, which on every level fail to deliver. Dark: no, my 'milk and more' pencil can match it. Wash: ? water soluble pencils, it works but I am not convinced.
The saving grace of this pencil is how it works on photocopy paper, you see all the grain and variety of mark (specially if you use the pencil on it's side - easier with a stubby)

Sunday, 9 December 2012


This pencil was given to me by the illustrious Mr Bond. It has a triangular body and is quite small and thin, but nevertheless beautifully formed. Proudly it has made in England written round the base. Now, I don't have a tractor, but if I did, I would use Agricastrol, for sure.

Being a relatively thin it doesn't fit in your regular pencil sharpener, boo, but this pencil was obviously made with looks first and functionality second, and too be honest I am glad it was. As a pencil it's fine, good strong HB type lead, nothing to write home about. But as a piece in my collection, it stands tall.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Pencil stories

I had an teacher once who would come round to your desk, and if you had a HB pencil would, without hesitation, throw it out the window (we were on the 5th floor).
 No pencil lighter than a 2B was his rule and I find that even today, nearly 20 years on I still shudder at the sight of a H pencil in my drawing classes and find myself thinking, I'm gonna do it, I'm gonna go and throw that damn abonimation of a pencil out the window, but I don't mainly because I teach on the ground floor and I don't think the effect will be the same.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Double standards

Ok so in the last post I wrote that I don't like pencils made from bad wood, but I realised I had made an exception to this rule for the Crayola PRO 6B. Now this is where pencil aficionados and me part ways as many will think that the Crayola PRO 6B is a child's pencil and has no place in a blog about pencils but I have had this particular pencil for many years, I think my gran gave me a box, when indeed I was a child and all have been thrown away, discarded for others to pick up, broken or lost, except this one. The main problem being that the pencil cannot be sharpened easily and therefore is a massive pain, this said it is a great pencil to draw with and has a lovely dark velvety texture that I cannot resist. It is such a good pencil to have at hand when you are out drawing because of the ease of laying down big areas of tone, but still with the ability to define areas after. So sorry for having double standards and sorry for liking a pencil made by a manufacturer of childrens colouring ephemera.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012


Every now and again certain pencils end up in my collection and I have no idea where they came from, possible I have picked up your pencil by accident, if so sorry. This is the 'milk & more' promotional pencil, we have never used the milk & more service so I am almost sure this must be somebody else's pencil. Nevertheless, although I would categorise this pencil as a 'Novelty' pencil, and being made of an unknown white substance that maybe congealed milk, (although isn't congealed milk, cheese?) and therefore ridiculous to sharpen (The board meeting possibly going a little like: "you could have the pencil made from this white substance", "is that congealed milk?" "we are not sure", "well does it sharpen?", "No, in fact it kind of annoyingly crumbles, much like congealed milk might - but it is white, you know, like milk." "so people wont actually be able to use it properly" "that's correct","wow, were in! where do we sign") In Fact when you do sharpen it, the lead bleeds in to the white substance, making a kind of dirty grey, and so therefore their plan of making it look like fresh milk backfires. But it is a nice pencil.

The lead has got to be a 6B or deeper which is odd for a novelty pencil, and has a lovely velvety feel as you draw, again it's round so it gets my top mark for that, It is also made from recyclable material, so that has to be good and the eraser works a treat. I just wish it would sharpen. This is a running theme I notice - maybe I should try another sharpener.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Regrets (volume 1)

Now, you can't go around picking up discarded pencils without ending up with some bad pencils, how you can make a pencil that you cannot sharpen with out it ripping the wood apart is beyond me. The first of this volume is the Rowney "Victoria" No.804 2B, I don't actually want to put this pencil in with these other so called pencils, as the Victoria is beautiful and is a good draughting pencil, nice dark lead which flows nicely staying sharp for quite a while, but that's where the pencil becomes pointless (excuse the pun)  They stay in my collection as I wrongly assume pencils are like wine and will age well, changing there composition over time. The other two aren't worth talking about except to say I often don't get on with pencils that are below 2B, so being made of shody wood is probably least of there worries.

Saturday, 29 September 2012


What a name eh! I have no idea where this pencil originates, I found it in Loughborough, and was instantly drawn to it not only because of its name but its design. It feels like it has been sitting in someones cupboard since the 1980's.

As a drawing pencils it's alright, it's crisp and sharpens well and has a relatively good tonal range but I quite like black pencils and this is definitely a grey pencil. I would though like to try out the complete range. My pencil of choice tends to be a 3B so I was a little disappointed that I didn't like it as much as I should of.

But nevertheless this pencil is going to stay in my collection based on looks alone. Never judge a book by its cover, pah.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

found pencils

I thought I would share with you my slightly weird obsession with found pencils. Now I am not expecting to reach the levels of blogging about pencils as such luminaries as pencil revolution but nevertheless I do like pencils, and that being so I often pick up discarded pencils whenever I see one, and quite often they are good pencils. So I am going to start with a recent favorite, the Boldmere Sketching Pencil 6B.

First off obviously this is a drawing pencil being a 6B and most of the stuff I am going to talk about is drawing related. The Boldmere has a round body and I must admit I prefer round pencils (as appossed to the hexagon shaped body) as I find them easier to hold for longer drawings.

for a 6B it's pretty versatile in that the leads consistency is firm not crumbly like a Derwent 6B so an ideal pencil for outdoor location drawing as its range is good, it generally feels like a 3B but with a bit of added pressure you can get some lovely deep tone.

So there you go a pencilcoholic. more to follow. 

Monday, 8 August 2011


When you move to a new place do you research the history of it? I have been digging and delving in to the history of my new little town, searching for something - I am not sure what yet but there is defiantly more to be explored from what I have found so far. This is a photo of my new home, date unknown, not that much has changed to be fair. It is a sort of psycho-geography exercise locating myself in the area - drawings and maps have already appeared.

Mono a go go

Trying to teach my self the fine art of Mono printing but choosing to do it in my baking hot studio on a baking hot day was bad planning - any ideas on how to slow down the drying of printing ink gratefully appreciated.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Saturday, 6 February 2010


n o c t u r n e . The un-enchanted world of sleeplessness

I am currently engaged in a study of sleep... tbc

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Big Dog

Monday, 26 October 2009

Illustrative 09 {Berlin}

I have been selected to show a number of drawings as part of ILLUSTRATIVE 09 in Berlin.

Several drawings from 'A Book Made of Tears' will be showing. So if you happen to be in Berlin this week, check it out.


Tuesday, 4 August 2009

My Cup Runneth Over

King Harry Ferry exhibition up for the whole of August. A series of 10 paintings documenting the theme 'Vessel'. Made for the 2009 Embark: Ferry Art commission.