Studio Views: Ticonderoga #2

My hands-down favorite medium would have to be graphite or lead, the core of a pencil, the material that makes the marks on paper. Lead makes the words, images, idle thoughts (doodles), specific information — crucial and otherwise — visible.

tools ticonderoga Studio Views: Ticonderoga #2With the lead from a pencil I can make thin delicate words and lines, bold solid black forms, and wispy, smooth gray shadings. All with the same soft lead. Everybody can, anybody — no experience necessary. Everybody can do it, from the very beginning, right out of the box.

Any pencil will do, but my absolute favorite would have to be a TICONDEROGA #2, brand new (they don’t last long) and freshly sharpened. Golden yellow (Cadmium yellow), six-sided, with yellow and green ferrule, and at one end a pink eraser.

Sharpening a new pencil, cutting away the wood to get at the lead, was, at first, very conservative: a hand-held sharpener with one or more hobs for various thickness of pencil. A little later on, and more interesting and bold: a penknife (a non-threatening, pencil-sharpening-only penknife). More limiting: a wall- or desk-mounted hand-turned apparatus.

Up/down, side/side, cross/cross, scribble/scribble, swirl, and then smudge/smudge with a thumb or finger. A wonderful way to make marks on paper. Spare use of the eraser preserves it and avoids losing some potentially useful bit.

Number two is a degree of lead soft enough for most of my needs, but if I must have a very bold, extra-black image for a dog or a train in a tunnel or the night sky, only an EBONY VERIBLACK will do. The whole pencil is black, the lead very soft with unparalleled smudge-ability.

Sketching, note-taking, list-making using a lead pencil in sketchbooks, on envelopes, and on bits of paper of every size and description is a necessary, useful, and pleasurable part of my life. Finding a bit of an old pencil note or sketch, no matter how cryptic, can bring entire events into focus.

Never-used lead pencils also have their place. I often come across pencils in my drawer that say Grand Rapids, Michigan; Bismark, North Dakota; Meteor Crater, Arizona; Mississippi State University. I’m sure the lead in any of these pencils would produce very satisfactory images, but I can’t bring myself to spoil the typography in order to use them. So I’ll just sharpen another TICONDEROGA #2 and get busy.

From the March/April 1998 issue of The Horn Book Magazine: Special Issue: Picture Books.

share save 171 16 Studio Views: Ticonderoga #2
About Donald Crews

Donald Crews is a two-time Caldecott Honor–winning author/illustrator. His books include Freight Train, Inside Freight Train, Truck, and Ten Black Dots.

Comment Policy:
  1. Be respectful, and do not attack the author or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  2. Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  3. Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through (though some comments with links to multiple URLs are held for spam-check moderation by the system). If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.

We accept clean XHTML in comments, but don't overdo it and please limit the number of links submitted in your comment. For more info, see the full Terms of Use.

Trackbacks

  1. […] “Ticonderoga #2″ by Donald Crews […]

Speak Your Mind

*