My name is Jonene Ficklin, and I'm a full-time wife, mom, writer, and professional artist. I've been drawing since I was old enough to hold a pencil. I use colored pencils, oil paints, and watercolors. I love what I do!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Free Online Drawing Lessons: Supplies

This week: Supplies for basic pencil drawing

If you’d like to learn how to draw or want to improve, I’d like to help. Each week I will be giving a free drawing lesson and/or pointers. My specialties are pencil and Prismacolor pencil.
We'll start with pencil first, then go to Prismacolors.

I’ve been teaching lessons for longer than I’d like to admit and love to see life through another’s eyes, the way it comes out through your art. There’s no right or wrong way to do art, but there are ways to ensure success and make it easier. It’s a lot like learning to play an instrument. There are basic rules, which if learned, will get you going. The rest is up to you. Practice is the key. The more you practice, the better you’ll get.

If you’ve taken classes, you probably know that every teacher teaches a bit differently. Part of that is experience (knowing what works), part is taste (what they like), part is what they see and want you to see.

It’s called ‘the artist’s eye’. Art is mostly about being able to see things a certain way. If you can see it, you can draw it (or paint or sculpt, etc. – you get the picture). After seeing it, the next step is technique. Drawing is very easy and very fun. That’s why children do it. Anyone can do it. Seriously. I haven’t met anyone yet – although many, many, many people have claimed – that can’t do it after they learn to see and learn a few basic lessons.

Drawing is also the gateway into other forms of art such as painting and sculpting. It’s also very cheap, can be dropped and picked up at any time, doesn’t require big blocks of time, and has supplies that can easily be taken anywhere, even to the dentist's office. It's easy to draw while you wait and passes the time beautifully.

If you’re interested, want to brush up, or even if you want to prove you can’t draw, lets get going! (You can -- let's make sure that's clear.)

By the way, all you artists out there, some of the best tips I’ve learned have been from you – from taking classes from you or watching you at work. Please feel free to add ideas, tips, hints or fill us in on specific supplies you love and how you use them! We’d all love to learn from your experience.

So, for here and now, I’ll share what I’ve learned and show you the way I do it. (Yes, artists all do it very differently.) Let’s get started.

Week one: Supplies

To begin, you’ll need supplies. Here is a picture of the typical items you’ll need, along with explanations. (Click on the picture to make it larger.)

From top to bottom and why I chose that item:

1. Staedtler drawing pencils.
You don’t have to get this particular brand, but it’s my favorite. I’ve had fewer problems with it, although I’ve tried a host of others. You don’t need to buy the full set. I use only three: Staedtler 2H (“H” stands for hardness, “B” for blackness, “F” for fine point), Staedtler 6H, Staedtler B. I’ll explain in detail how each one is used in the first drawing lesson.

Note: You don’t have to use fine pencils. In fact you can get the same results with just a standard number 2 pencil (that you can buy from any store). But when you’re ready to get serious, get some good pencils. You’ll feel the difference right away and they take away half the work.

2. Keep a pack of number two pencils. Don’t laugh, but you’ll use up the erasers like crazy. I’ve tried all sorts of fine erasers, but end up using these because, first, they’re cheap(especially if you load up on back-to-school sales at the end of summer); second, they are small and get in tight places; third, I use erasers a lot and don’t feel bad burning through these. And if you need pencil lead, you’ve got a ton on hand!

3. Kneaded eraser. This eraser isn’t used for scrubbing, like most erasers are used. It is soft and pliable, much like clay. When you are shading and get too dark, you tap it and it removes a light layer of graphite each time you tap, without erasing all your hard work. (We’ll try it soon.)

4. Blending stump. Despite the picture, you only need one. Have you ever used your finger to smudge? This is a much better way. Not only do you get to keep a clean finger, but you have better control and can get in tight corners. It is nothing more than rolled and pressed paper that picks up the graphite you already have on the page. It smears it around to get the perfect blend. As for size, you can see from the picture that there’s a large variety. My personal preference are the ones that are closest to the width of a regular pencil. (The little ones break easy and the big ones feel awkward to me.) Any will work, though.

5. Drafting brush. This is to safely wipe eraser crumbs off your drawing. It prevents smearing on the page, graphite-lined hands, and unwanted moisture from spitting when you blow off the crumbs. Don’t laugh, but you can use a feather duster or a cheap new (unused) paintbrush as well – you just want something that will safely wipe your page clean.

6. Cheap typing paper. There are several uses. For the first few lessons, you might want to save your good paper and use typing paper to draw on. Also, whenever you draw, slip an extra piece of paper under your hand where it touches the paper. This is called a cover sheet. It will prevent smudges and leave your drawing and your hand clean. You can also use typing paper to try things out.

7. Fine drawing paper (sketch pad). When you are ready to start a project, you’ll want to get good quality paper. It really makes a difference. My favorite brand is the Strathmore 300 series. Check the front cover of the drawing paper. You want a paper that is medium to heavy. This is thickness. Your paper won’t tear and won’t wrinkle from sweat if it is thick. You also want to look for either a smooth or medium surface. Sometimes it is called hot press. This means that the paper is very smooth and you won’t have to fight all the little holes in a cold press or rough surface paper. There are other good brands, so it’s not life or death if you can’t find Strathmore.


Common Questions:
Where do I find these supplies? You can find them in most art and hobby stores. Michaels Art and Craft store is a national chain that carries most of these.

How much do they cost? (These are approximates.)
Staedtler pencils: around $1.50 each
Regular number two pencils: $1.50 for a pack of twelve, but much cheaper on sale
Kneaded eraser: around $2.00
Blending stumps: around $2.50 for a pack of 2
Drafting brush: between $5.00 - $10.00
Cheap typing paper: I can get a ream of the cheap stuff at Walmart for $3.00
Fine drawing paper: they range in price, but anywhere from $8.00 - $18.00 is about right.

What size sketch pad should I get? I recommend anything 8 x 10 or larger. To start I would go with 8 x 10 or 9 x 12. Larger sizes are fine once you’re really rolling and want to draw a large picture.

Do I need all these supplies for the first few lessons? No. The first few lessons, you can get away with a number two pencil with a good eraser on the end, and a few sheets of typing paper.

Are there any other art supplies you recommend?
Pencil sharpener
Spray fixative (down the road, to spray and protect your finished drawings)

So there you have it. The first lesson, which will be coming next week, is very easy and lots of fun – I promise. So grab your supplies and get ready!

(If you’d like to see samples of my artwork, feel free to check them out on the left sidebar under “My Artwork” and “My Religious Artwork”. A few are oils or watercolors, but most were done with Prismacolors. I have two pencil drawings in "My Religious Arwork".)

I'd love to get your thoughts, questions, or tips, so please post any comments.

If you have any specific drawing (pencil or colored pencil) questions or requests that you'd like addressed on this blog in the future, feel free to e-mail them to:


  1. Great list! I haven't been drawing in so long, I miss it.
    I also used to use my mom's hairspray as fixative for charcoal drawingg. Weird but it worked back then.

  2. Very informative post.hope I will learn .


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