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Art Lessons: Pencils - Sharpening

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having a great sharpener is paramount to
doing a great drawing.
It's really not the best thing ever to go
through a drawing with a dull pencil.
As you can see, this is kinda dull and I'm
not able to really get my fine lines,
my wedge shape as sharp as I want it.
So it feels a little scratchy, it feels a
little soft and
maybe not the best thing ever to do.
Drawing is hard enough, so let's get our
tools as ready as possible.
Imagine going to battle with a dull sword.
Seriously, imagine going to battle with a
hole in your shield.
They didn't do that, they took their time
to get their weapons sharp.
They took their time to wear the right
armor, because this is, you know,
the drawing is battle, you've got to go in
their as prepared as possible.
So, let's do this together.
Let's go through what we can do to sharpen
our tools to make us
as prepared as possible to go into a
So, number one way to sharpen,
probably the easiest is the electric
pencil sharpener.
So, this is easy, I've got one in my
I actually have a couple in my studio, and
I just do this, and it's really nice
because, I'm able to kind of get a really
good, sharp line, like that.
I'm able to get a decent wedge shape.
Like that.
Sometimes I just use the wedge like that.
And other times I'm able to get that
really fine line like this.
So, I'm able to get thick lines, thin
lines because I have a sharp tool.
Now, the other thing is, let's break that
a little bit, and let's say,
[SOUND] you know, I don't, I have a dull,
I have a dull one.
I'm going to an art class.
I have a lot of students who, who have
brought their little, sharpener,
electric sharpeners to class.
[SOUND] And and it's kind of, like,
they're a little embarrassed to do it.
They're [SOUND], and, you know, maybe you
don't wanna do that.
Or maybe you're traveling to another city,
you don't wanna bring an electric one with
Or maybe, you know, you just wanna get a
cheap one like this.
Nothing wrong with that.
This one is easy.
You've got two holes for different,
different types of pencils.
And the larger one is, is particularly
fitted for this.
And you can see here, [NOISE] like this
this is just fine.
I can get the same effect I can get
with the electric pencil sharpener.
And get my lines, [SOUND]
feeling really
So that's a pretty good one as well.
The other way to sharpen, and the really
only way to sharpen
a charcoal pencil is to, to really, you
you can't do it in here, because what will
happen is it will break in here.
You will eventually ruin the electric
I know because I've ruined probably 30 of
them, and
now I don't even use it any more.
It took me, like, 30 of them to figure it
I was like, well, why doesn't that work?
And it's just so soft.
The, the actual charcoal itself is so soft
it gets stuck in there.
And there's only so many times you can
just knock it out,
before you just damage it and it just gets
So, they're not built for charcoal,
they're built for graphite.
So, with charcoal, it is a little tricky.
And I actually teach a class just on this.
So, you, you actually want to take your
thumb here.
So if you're righty, you hold it in your
right hand, and
you hold your pencil in your left hand and
obviously the opposite if you're lefty.
So you take it here and you control it
like this.
You're holding it like this.
And you take your two thumbs and you kinda
push it together.
And I usually like to put a garbage can
between my legs because it's just easier.
And I just push it like that, like that.
Now the lower you go, the more you're
going to expose the charcoal.
So I know some teachers that draw with
charcoals that are exposed like this much
and then they sharpen them and it's like a
serious super dagger or like a needle.
I don't go that crazy.
But I also know students that just kind
of, like, get a little head and
they sharpen it like that and it's still
It's, like, well what are you doing?
It's insane.
So don't be insane.
But you don't have to be insane on the
other side, which is
totally methodical to the point of, you
know, being the pencil-sharpened or
the charcoal-sharpened king, doctor,
surgeon guy.
So combination, moderation but being
Moderation but preparation.
Okay, so, you're rolling it like that.
Now, oftentimes,
especially as you start this process, you
will break your charcoal.
And incidentally, if you drop this, if you
drop this, it will probably crack.
So, as you start to, get down from the
wood to the stick,
it's gonna just crumble, cuz it's already
cracked within the wood.
So just be mindful of not dropping this.
It's not as tough as a cellphone.
Cellphones you can drop.
[NOISE] Okay, so here.
You go up,
you go down, and you're pushing up.
You control it, you have to control it and
go along the sides of it.
See that?
You have to along the sides of it.
There's just a certain amount of dexterity
required for this.
So it's, you have to rehearse this.
This is one of those things that you just
have to do over and
over until you figure it out.
So you just keep going.
And see the more I go down.
If you, if you're a whittler this is, this
is your thing.
Anybody who's, like, made wood, stuff this
is probably your,
you're probably gonna be amazing at this.
I myself am not.
I was one of those guys, when I was at my
art center wood shop class,
I was doing all these little kinda things
like this, and I was like.
Just let me draw and paint, please.
But no.
I had to make all these weird things.
So, you, God, there's a cer,
certain amount of craftiness that I've
kind of had to train myself to get into.
So that, that's fine for me, right now.
You can obviously go way deeper and get
your charcoal that much exposed and
have that much of the wooden tool to hold
But that's enough for me and so now you
could do a, a couple things.
Sometimes I don't like to crazy with a
sharpener cuz I'm eventually gonna just
ruin it, so I kinda do a, I kinda do a
little bit at the edge.
You gotta be super delicate about this,
and just kinda soften it like this.
So I'm, actually, like taking down the
charcoal cuz I want it to come
to a head like this, right?
That's how I, that's the ultimate one,
right there.
If I can just get it, like that.
Ideal charcoal.
Not ideal charcoal.
My charcoal now is like, that, like ooh.
Not very good.
So I wanna kind of just carve it until it
becomes a little bit like a dagger.
So I kind of, I still control it, still
control it, still control it.
You know, this seems so simple, but it's
like, one of those things that you just,
if you don't get it, I have students like,
who spend all day over the garbage can
cause they keep breaking their,
their charcoal stick, and I'm like okay
it's time to draw.
Well I'm trying to figure this out.
Oh, it takes a while.
Okay so I get it right about to there and
then what I do is I call upon my trusty
sand pad.
And I take my sand paper pad, and then I
just hold it like this,
and I kind of rub it back and forth, or I
just kind of roll it.
And I roll it, and I'm, and I'm kind of
hang, I'm,
I'm holding it on an angle, so as I do it,
I kind of roll it.
You know how I paint, I kind of paint
where I'm rolling it.
It's the same kind of thing.
So that it gets all the sides.
Because, what you don't want,
is you don't want this to have a little
nick and an edge.
So that when you draw, you're gonna get an
like, if I did it like this, and I had a
nick in there,
I'd have like a weird indentation like
that every time I put a mark down.
You don't want that.
You wanna get it smooth and creamy.
[NOISE] So, here's the, here's where it's
kind of all coming down to it.
Am I gonna make it through without
breaking this or
am I gonna actually falter and have to
start from scratch?
[SOUND] So I just do that.
Go down, go down, go down.
Like that.
And to me, that's pretty sharp, that's
sharp enough.
I mean, I could go down more, and I'd like
to keep that extra charcoal powder
as a reserve, because later on when I'm
like, let's say I'm doing a quick
a quick head drawing or something, or,
whatever, I can use this
to block, to block stuff in.
So, don't waste anything.
Save that, if you can, save it.
So that's it.
Those are my three things that I use.
I use: the Exacto; I use this sharpener;
I use the trusty electric sharpener.
So, just be mindful tools of your trade
are really important.
So, pay attention to them, give them, give
them attention,
give them love and respect because they
deserve that.
They deserve to be as in tune as your
drawing is gonna be and
that will help you in your drawing.
You can do this.
You just need a little bit of time and
energy devoted to preparation of your
Because your tools are an extension of
Your pencil's an extension of your hand
which is really an extension of your
brain, which ultimately, and
is an extension of your heart and your