Pencil Me In

Here in New York State, back in the 70s and 80s, we public school students were subjected to a lot of standardized tests. A LOT. Regents exams, placement exams, aptitude tests, etc. I remember them well. Most of all I remember being told to bring “Two number 2 lead pencils”. No exceptions. It was a strict order. Had to be number 2 pencils. So one day my Mom sent me off to to school for yet another standardized test day, and lovingly put two sharpened pencils in my girly pink pencil case. Then, just before the test was about to start, I took out my pencils and saw that they WERE NOT NUMBER TWOS!!! I freaked out. “Oh my god!! They’re NOT number twos!!!! What do I do?? Do I confess? Mom screwed me!!” I really thought I was going to get in trouble! Not kidding. I thought the proctor was going to come around, like a boot camp drill sergeant inspecting army barracks, and check all the pencils to make sure they were number twos. Luckily, she didn’t do that, and I was off the hook.

That’s my childhood pencil trauma story. It reflects my limited feelings about pencils for a long time. Pencils were for test-taking. Pencils were just school supplies, old-fashioned relics from the 6th grade. They were the boring, cheap, unglamorous, utilitarian loser cousins to the much cooler, and costlier, pens. But then, in my adulthood, I became an artist’s model, and was exposed to the other side of pencils. The artistic side. The side that expands well beyond the rigid “number 2 lead” NY State school system mandate. I learned that in the art world, pencils are treated with genuine respect, as drawing implements of tremendous versatility and highly valued purpose.

Pencils are available in a an impressive multitude of forms, varying in thickness, hardness, darkness, substance and style. HB, 2B, 2H, round or hexagonal, graphite, charcoal, compressed charcoal, carbon, even watercolor. Have you ever browsed in the pencil section of an art supply store? You could waste a lot of time there!

Pencils are really all you need to create a work of art. They provide line, shading, even color. They can be smeared, smudged, or applied carefully for fine lines and details. Pencils can do it all. So who needs expensive oil paints and canvases, brushes and palette knives. Get yourself one good pencil and a piece of paper, and go to town!

My friend Dolores Ramos-Frey did just that when she created this drawing of me at a sketch group a few months ago. Thanks Dolores! I love it 🙂

12 thoughts on “Pencil Me In

  1. dougrogers says:

    My cousin showed me some tricks with a mechanical pencil that wowed me when I was a kid. He told me he had an automatic pencil. He held the pencil, just about an eighth of an inch point end down above the table and tapped the plunger on the other end. “See! It stops automatically!” He flipped the pencil over then, lead tip up, tapped the plunger again and the lead slipped back into the pencil. “It’s completely automatic!”

    That’s a great drawing.

    • artmodel says:

      doug,

      My brother went through a phase in his teens when he was completely obsessed with mechanical pencils. He refused to write with anything else! He had like 20 of them.

      Glad you like Dolores’ drawing 🙂

      Claudia

  2. Alex says:

    Hi, Claudia.

    It is indeed a very fine drawing.

    I’ve been taking a class on nursery management and whenever we go on tree walks out in the cold of winter I always bring a pencil- pens don’t work very well in freezing temperatures.

    I hope you’re doing well- as ever you are quite an inspiration.

    Best Wishes,

    -Alex

    • artmodel says:

      Alex,

      So wonderful to hear from you! Sorry about your accident. But I’m glad you’re recovered and doing well.

      Thanks for posting a comment, and I look forward to reading about your return to art modeling on your blog.

      Be well, and take care of yourself.

      Claudia

  3. Sarah says:

    Pencils were the measure of your popularity at my time in primary school. A beautiful tin set of Faber Castells were popular presents for girls at birthdays & Christmases… Every girl was meticulous about keeping the pencils in rainbow colour order, and only the very special friend was allowed to borrow pencils out of your tin… God forbid you put the pencil back in the wrong colour order!

    Gorgeous drawing x

    • artmodel says:

      Sarah,

      That’s a charming story. Yes, I remember those beautiful colored pencil sets. The high quality ones made a wonderful gift for a young person, and inspired creativity for sure.

      Thanks for your comment!

      Claudia

  4. Pencil stories? I’ve got nothing. 🙂

    However the drawing is a delight to view, an interesting relaxed pose yet dynamic. As if you just thought it all through and are just about ready to spring in to action.

  5. LK says:

    Oh my goodness the obsession with the No. 2 pencil. What a section of the brain you have tickled over here; I mean, yes, the days when I looked down at the pencil and it had that milky tone that wasn’t dark and cutting like a true No. 2, had me freaking out like Linus when he realizes a phone call might be going a little too long during breakfast, and that his cereal is in the process of losing its crunch from being in the milk too long…serious stuff here!

    The expression on your face is exquisitely captured in the drawing, you are beautiful; my compliments to Ms Dolores.

    Happy Day to you dear friend,
    *LK*

    • artmodel says:

      LK,

      The tyranny of the No. 2 👿 It was the bane of our childhood! Your comment made me smile.

      Thanks for your lovely compliments on the drawing. You’re so sweet 🙂

      Claudia

  6. Stephanie says:

    Hi Claudia,

    I haven’t been able to check in with you for a few weeks because my computer at home is not working. I had some free time at work and I figured I’d catch up. The drawing on this post is gorgeous — just like the model.

    As for pencils… When I was about 10 years old, I accidentally stabbed myself in the face with a pencil. I think I was running with a pencil in my hand and I fell on it or something absurd like that. I still have the mark — an indelible blue spot just below the corner of my lip on the right side.

    Love,
    Steph

    • artmodel says:

      Stephanie!!!

      Add “no running with pencils” to the old no running with scissors adage. Like your story illustrates, pencils could really cause injury! I was poked many a time with a pencil by those mean boys in school. Waaah!

      I don’t think I ever noticed that mark on your face. Show it to me the next time we see each other. I want to kiss it 🙂

      Hope you’re all caught up on Museworthy, as you are the most loyal of the loyal.

      Love you . . .
      Claudia

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