I asked Martha what her favorite medium was, and she said: “Medium-rare, although rare, medium, and well-done are all perfectly acceptable.”
My favorite medium is the pencil. I love the pencil. It feels like a natural extension of my hand. I’m comfortable and confident with a pencil. But not just any pencil. My pencil is the Berol Turquoise 2B. Any softer or harder is not to be. I like everything about my Berol Turquoise 2B. The rough way it feels going on the paper. The way the line takes on weight and gives shape with a change of pressure.
Sadly, I have to admit that the results of my 2B pencil don’t usually appear in my books. Instead they are all over my studio floor, with an occasional drawing making it up to the wall. This is the medium I use in all my preliminary sketches. My 2B helps me discover my characters and their stories. Together we find movement and expression. These sketches are the most fun! And they possess a spontaneity and life that I try to pass on to the final drawings in ink.
There may be a 2B gene in my family. My twelve-year-old son also loves this pencil. When I can’t find my 2B, I know where to look. My son does beautiful pencil drawings for school projects that come back with comments like: “Where’s the color?” and “Pencil is not finished art.” These comments make us both want to scream at the unfairness. Our 2Bs do the best work. But the editor in my head must be making the same comments to me. Is that why I don’t use pencil for finished art? Does this prejudice start in middle school, or even earlier? Maybe it’s time to take my beloved 2B all the way to the finish line.
From the March/April 1998 issue of The Horn Book Magazine: Special Issue: Picture Books.