I had one of those “Hey, I didn’t know this was here” moments this week. Lost in the shuffle of all that zips across the computer screen is a resource I haven’t spent much time digging into.
Books about drawing in pencil!
The best thing about them is that they are as much about history as they are art, they’re free, and they’re available as downloadable PDFs.
The notable discovery of the week is
Pencil Studies by Charles Rowbotham. Published in the late 1800’s, Pencil Studies was one of the handbooks published by Winsor & Newton. This book, along with 32 others, was published as a series of drawing books written and illustrated by individual artists. Rowbotham’s handbook about pencil studies was Number 2 in the series. Other handbooks addressed topics such as landscape painting, marine painting, portrait painting, miniature painting, flower painting, figure drawing, murals, ornamental art, wood engraving, etching, perspective, illumination and even the art of botanical drawing (I haven’t found this one yet).
In his handbook, Rowbotham discusses how to create foliage using pencil strokes and explains to readers how he created the four pencil sketches in his handbook. His explanations are concise and delightfully eloquent in that 17th century way. Rowbotham explains how a broken stem can be created using a few “sharp touches” instead of through the deliberate placement of a line. He explains how dirt walking paths need only be hinted at, and how grass can come from
“a few decided and effective touches”.
He also demonstrates the power of negative space and dark values while creating tree canopies, dense foliage, foreground plants, background plants and other landscape elements for readers.
Equally interesting, and somewhat entertaining, is the Winsor & Newton ad for drawing pencils. During this time, Winsor & Newton sold six kinds of pencils, each serving a specific purpose. The penny drawing pencil was for office or school use. The twopenny drawing pencil was for “artists and professors of eminence”. The threepenny drawing pencil was for architects and draughtsmen. The fourpenny drawing pencil was “warranted perfectly free from Grit”. The fivepenny drawing pencil was of “high quality in color, smoothness, and ready erasure”, while the sixpenny drawing pencil was manufactured with the “finest Lead”, was grit-free, contained “a larger quantity of Lead than usual”, and produced a “good volume of color”.
(Note: Lead pencils don’t really have lead in them. They are graphite and clay.)
Of course my discovery of Rowbotham’s handbook changed the course of my afternoon. More searching uncovered other treasures, all free and available as PDFs. Before I leave you with a list of only a few of my discoveries, I would like to share a quote I found in the book, Pencil Sketching from Nature (1906):
The pencil is indeed a very precious instrument after you are master of the pen and the brush, for the pencil, cunningly used, is both,
and will draw a line with the precision of the one, and the gradation of the other. — Ruskin
- Pencil Studies (18??) – Download PDF
- Pencil Sketching from Nature (1906) – Download PDF
- Sketching and Rendering in Pencil (1922) – Download PDF
- Pencil Sketches: Here and Over There, 1918-1919 – Download PDF
Disclosure: ArtPlantae is a partner of Kobo Books