Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Pencils! What'll they think of next? (Unusual Art Material)

OK, maybe pencils have been around for a while, maybe you've even used one before.

I don't have to tell you that pencils are usually made of graphite, and come in all sorts of "grades," from the very hard pencils that maintain a sharp point for a long time (but don't apply a very dark line), to the very soft pencils that glide sensuously across the paper and can put down very dark tones (but don't hold a point for long).

And you probably also know that the each specific degree of hardness or softness is indicated on a scale that runs from "H" for Hard to "B" for black (the ones with the soft lead), with an "F", for fine point, right in the middle of the scale. And since people like variety, the scale is also subdivided further with numbers for a scale that usually runs about 8H all the way to 8B.

Hard pencils are popular with draughtsmen because they offer consistently fine lines, but for the artists, it's the soft pencils that are the most popular. the softer the pencil, the more tonal range it offers from light shading all the way to a very dark tone for really deep shadows. And the soft ones blend more easily. And the softest pencil known to man is the 9B pencil.

Until now, that is!

The Mitsu-Bishi pencil company of Japan offers a 10B pencil!! (Here's the line in the sand: a lot of you will be saying "Who gives a ******?!", but there are a few of you jumping out of your chairs, pulling your coats over your pajamas and exclaiming "10B Pencils?! I need them now!!" You know who you are).

It's extremely soft and smooth writing, and provides a wide range of tone, although you need a light touch to maintain a light tone. It smudges fairly easily, which can be good news or bad, depending on your style.

I found mine at Kinokuniya bookstore in NYC, a bit pricey at $2.60, but it's a well made piece of drawing equipment. I'd bet they can be found at other stores that offer Japanese stationary and art supplies. They can also be found on-line. Do a search for Hi-Uni 10B, and then do a little comparison shopping.

And if you just love reading everything about pencils (again, you know who you are), check this out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pencils.