Learning to draw like everyone else is not a very complex matter. You can use any pencil you want. If you want to learn my technique, you need to use Blackwing pencils. They are higher quality than other brands and they have properties which make them more suitable for shading with a sharp point.

The Way of the School.

The shading technique that I teach differs considerably from techniques taught in other schools. It teaches discipline, patience, and strategy. We start slow, anchoring our mind in the moment. We proceed consistently, retaining presence of mind. We view shading as meditation, allowing the mind to dream and rest. We find that, in this way, shading quickly becomes second nature. We achieve speed through a persistent calmness - covering large areas precisely without exhaustion.

Build on a Solid Foundation.

Shading a drawing can be related to the construction of a house with many floors. The floors are like layers of graphite stacked one on top of the other. For a house to remain sturdy and resilient over time, it must be built on a solid foundation. It must be constructed with the strongest wood, free from imperfections. Similarly, a well constructed drawing necessitates the use of high quality materials. Paper should have the appropriate tooth and bite for graphite particles to anchor. It must also be free from imperfections and not susceptible to change over time.

Soft and Crisp.

The base layer of graphite must be of the finest quality. It needs to be as dark as possible to allow for the greatest range of contrast. It must be soft graphite that holds a crisp point. Soft and crisp, however, present the artist with a problem. Very few things in this world are both soft and crisp. This is also true of dark and light. In the arts, soft and crisp are mostly reserved for the culinary arts. Materials and techniques that achieve darkness by light touch are rare. This is true with few exceptions. Blackwing pencils being one of them.

The Matte.

Blackwing’s softest pencil is called “Matte”, and this graphite is very dark and has wonderful point retention, which makes it crisp. The combination of ingredients is proprietary, but we know that it involves graphite, wax, and clay. Getting the right proportions of these elements is what Blackwing has done so well. Correct use of the Matte pencil for shading calls for an understanding of the sharp point, light touch technique which I will teach in subsequent writing.

  • Thomas Edward Hoppe
Thomas Hoppe