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  Pencils!! Caran d'Ache 777, Tombow MonoMay 23, 2013 12:22 AM PDT | url
Added 2 new A* pages:So to continue the pencil saga from yesterday, I was using a 0.5 mm pencil to draw the comic, but kept wondering if maybe I should be trying a more expressive option, more like a regular pencil where you can have more variation of broad and thin strokes and so on. You may remember I got some of those fancy-looking Cretacolor Monolith woodless pencils some time back to try out, where it's just a big pencil-shaped stick of graphite or whatever, which is pretty darn slick, only they don't come in the harder grades of lead; I use H leads with my 0.5 mm pencils, which is on the low end of the hard side of the lead scale, and seems to be about my ideal balance between darkness (leads get lighter as they get harder) and smeariness (leads smear more as they get softer). Well, woodless pencils only seem to go to "HB," which is two grades softer than "H." I tried an HB woodless pencil, but it was just too soft. So I kind of gave up on the idea and just went back to doing the best I could with the 0.5 mm drafting pencil.
Recently though I came across the pencil work of anghorkheng on deviantART, and while his subject matter--big buff dudes with knifes and demons and so on--isn't what I'm into, his pencil work is amazingly expressive--almost brush-like in the way he builds up form with swished parallel pencil lines. And I knew he could do stuff with whatever pencil he uses that is just not possible with a 0.5 mm mechanical--I mean, purely mechanically, aside from him being way better with a pencil than me. And fortunately for me he's one of the nice folks who goes out of their way to thank you when you follow them (you know, I don't do that... I probably should), and so I struck up a small conversation with him via dA comments, and found that he *used* to be a dedicated 0.5 mm user, but eventually broke out of that into more serious pencil hardware.
From that I finally realized I really need to try branching out and not just huddle inside the nice neat protective radius of the mechanical pencils. No, it was time--time to get into wood shavings. I remembered I had an actual wooden pencil somewhere in my art supply cupboard of shame, and dug it out; I had bought it after an extremely enthusiastic clerk at a large local art supply store had snatched it up and regaled me with stories of how great it was as I was looking around the pencil section for the right grade of lead for the 2 mm lead holder I was using for A* layouts oh somewhere over a year ago. I hadn't paid much attention to it at the time, but I found it, and it turned out to be a Caran d'Ache "Technograph" 777, grade F. F is the grade right between "HB" and "H," so a grade softer than I wanted, but I tried the 777 a bit anyhow, and wasn't blown away by it; kinda just felt like a regular old pencil. Nonetheless I looked into Caran d'Ache, and the Swiss manufacturer doesn't seem to make the 777 anymore, at least not for the US, but now they have this "Grafwood" line that comes in fancy cascading painted gray colors and is quite expensive as far as pencils go--but it had good reviews, kinda as the top-of-the-line Western pencil or something.
But the 777 had been underwhelming, so, not convinced, I went looking for something else. Turns out, as no real surprise I suppose, that there are some highly regarded pencil lines from Japan, with most of the English buzz surrounding Mitsubishi's Hi-Uni (what we know as "Uni-Ball" over here is in fact a Mitsubishi brand), and Tombow's revered old Mono 100. Both had about equally great reviews and equally high cost on the JetPens import site. I ran out to my most local art supply store, a tiny thing with high prices close to my favorite grocery store, and of course they didn't have imported Japanese pencils, BUT they did have the Mono pencil brand that Tombow makes for the States, in fact the Tombow MONO "Professional" seems quite easy to find around here. I got an H and an F Mono and trotted home to give them a whirl vs the 777 and my 0.5 mm.
Unlike most other civilized pencil-making countries, Japan seems to have stayed old-school, and their pencils do not come to you pre-sharpened--perhaps this is a samurai thing. I thought I had this covered with a tiny little manual sharpener I had and had never used, but the Mono is actually a millimeter or two thicker than a regular pencil--and marginally thicker than the 777, I think--and did not fit in the sharpener. Um. But then I remembered DocDave's story of how Frank Frazetta offered to draw Dave a self-portrait for Dave's camera, dug up a pencil, and, not having a sharpener, just flicked open his trusty Tarzan pocket knife and whittled the pencil to some sort of point. Thus inspired, I chopped away at the Monos with my childhood Swiss Army knife, wasting a good deal of lead and ending up with a large protrusion of not-very-sharp lead. Still, it would do for simple pencil testing:
How did it go? Well, I had read a person or two on the internet who was of the opinion that the US version of the Mono was inferior to the import-only Mono 100; but domestic though it was, this Mono (the H one--the F was a bit too soft) felt good--darn good. In fact, to my own surprise, even though I was in a hurry and was supposed to be meeting a friend shortly and was in fact already late although I hadn't realized it yet, I just could not stop doodling with the thing, it was so fun to draw with. The hardness/smeariness seemed about identical to the ubiquitous Pentel Super Hi-Polymer 0.5 mm leads I'd been using in the mechanicals, while also being a shade or two darker, which would greatly help some of the difficulty I've had scanning my lighter pencil drawings.
If the cheap American version is this good, I thought, the made-for-Japan stuff must be amazing! So I ordered some--but that'll have to wait until next time. :o
Oh and today's pages were drawn with the US-market Tombow Mono. :) Properly sharpened, though--I got an imported rather fancy Mitsubishi Uni sharpener, the kind that clamps onto the pencil and then pulls it in by springs as you turn the crank to spin the sharpening blade thingy, and stops sharpening automatically once you've got the tip perfectly shaped. Frazetta would probably consider me a sissy, and I'll own up to that, but man this'll save me a lot of pencil lead, finger gashes, and stray shavings in the long run! :"P
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