'Pyjama Cardinal fish' by Benjamin Mitchley

'Pyjama Cardinal fish' by Benjamin Mitchley
Oil on canvas, 1440mm x 580mm

Drawing Basics

Getting started


Pencils and other mediums
Pencils come in a variety of soft or dark and hard or light tones. Most commonly available are round, graphite strip or lead encased in wood.

Bpencils stand for Black/Soft and the higher the number, the softer and darker the lead.
Hpencils stand for Hard/Light and the higher the number, the harder and lighter the lead.

Other mediums used for drawing: Colour-pencils, aquarelle-pencils, vine charcoal, willow charcoal, conté, pastels, oil pastel, wax crayons, chalk, silver point, s'graffito, brush and ink, pen and ink, dry brush, marking pen, brush, reed pen, script pen, needle, scraper board, eraser, paper stump, mud, etc.
Erasers or Rubbers

Standard, Vinyl, Artgum and Putty rubbers are generally used.
Putty rubbers can be shaped to work in fine or small areas, and also used for lifting highlights and dampening dark areas. The un-erased areas of a drawing can also enhance a drawing.

Easels come in handy and make workflow easy and comfortable, but may be expensive. Use you creativity to make your own if you cannot afford to buy one. They are easily produced from found wood, reads, bamboo or plastic pipes.

Drawing boards
You can use hard-board or a Masonite board or any flat object that can support your paper as a drawing surface. Your board should be big enough to accommodate the size of the paper used. You can attach your paper to this surface with clips or masking tape so that you can stand or sit in front of it. A drawing board can be easily placed in your lap and leaned against a table if you do not have an easel. A sketch book with a hard back can also act as a supporting surface.

Knife or sharpener
A sharpener restricts the lead of a pencil to a specific length and sharpness. Knives can help you vary the length and sharpness of your lead for different strokes.


Sandpaper can be used to sharpen or blunt your pencil depending on the effect you want to achieve. The lead shavings or dust can also be used as a shading effect with your finger or a paper stump or a cotton wool bud. A textured surface, like stone or concrete can act as a surface to sharpen or blunt your pencil.

Paper comes in a variety of textures, smoothness, weights, sizes and colour. Experiment with these to find what will suit you. Cartridge paper is usually cheaper. You can use any paper to draw on depending on the medium that you are using.

If you can’t afford to buy your own paper, found paper like News print, fish and chips wrapping paper and brown paper, can work just as well. Stone surfaces were used in prehistoric times.

Hand and stand positions

When drawing with a pencil, there are many hand positions one can use. Experiment with different positions to find which works best for you. It is good to hold your pencil towards the back end. A good exercise is to attach your drawing medium to a long stick and stand the distance of the stick from your drawing surface. This will help to loosen up your arm to produce free and flowing strokes.








The best stand position is at arms length from your drawing surface. This will help you see what you are drawing more clearly. It is also good to stand back from your work to see it as a whole, so that you can make adjustments if necessary.

Stand position at arms length

Techniques with pencil line and shading

Use shading and line to give your object dimension. The quality of your line will depend on the pressure applied to the surface you are working on.

Crosshatching and modified shading with your finger

Angled strokes and modified shading with your finger

Scribbling, Dots and Flicks

Marks with adjusting pressure

Marks with adjusting pressure

Scales of shading or tone using
crosshatching, angled strokes, scribbles, dots and flicks.

Scales of shading

Light and shade

Using the above techniques, create tones to give an object the illusion of depth. Light and shade will give you’re your object dimension. When drawing an object, look at the object with half closed eyes. This will blur out the detail so that the tone is more visible. See the object as a shape. Draw what you see, not what you think you must draw.

Shadow depends on the direction of the light

A drawing created with varied strokes and tone

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