Recent Graphite Sketching

September 25, 2023 | 10 Comments

For many years I have almost exclusively drawn in ink. Although I’ve been very much aware of what a great sketching tool a simple graphite pencil is, I’ve never really used it. The main reason is that I don’t like smudges on my page.

However in the last month or so, thanks to the inclusion of a set of graphite pencils ( both Castell 9000 and the Pitt Matt Graphite) in the #Colour4Life box sent to me by Faber Castell Australia… I’ve fallen in love with using graphite.

I have tried a number of different brands of graphite (including the Blackwing pencils that many urban sketchers use) and my favourite is the classic Castell 9000 pencil. I’m mainly using 2B but also have a few softer ones in my bag in case I want a dark area.

I’m still very much in the experimentation mode and I haven’t worked out exactly how I want to use them but I just adore the feeling of graphite on paper. I’m finding it very freeing to use and perfect to use when I want to record a scene but don’t feel like doing a serious sketch.

So here are two sketches of SOH (Sydney Opera House) both done in about 5 minutes.

I had so much fun doing these!


  • Paul Savoie says:

    Boggles my mind that anyone can get this many coherent lines down in only 5 minutes!!!???.

  • Patricia A Wafer says:

    I really like these loose fast but accurate graphite sketches and will try to emulate!! Really enjoyed Foundations class and got much more out of it this time than I did when I was too busy to do it all first time around. Great class for beginners as well as seasoned sketchers like me. Going back to basics is SO enlightening. And it was fun. I will keep working on it for a few more weeks at least.

  • Jamie C says:

    You can get a lot done in five minutes! I wonder what you did in five minutes in your first years of sketching, because surely it’s taken years of skill and practice to get so good and so fast!

  • Denise Robotham says:

    Hi Liz,

    I’ve been a follower of yours for quite a few years now, and on many occasions thought about have thought bout asking why you didn’t use graphite pencils. I’m glad you have found them now and I think the Castel 9000 are great, and am loving the F-c Matt for shading and getting real darks with (almost) no reflection.

    If you or any of your followers fancy having less mess by using mechanical I have used Graphgear 1000 by Pentel which are well balanced and have a very satisfying click the clip mechanism that shoots the point up inside when you finish (Yes I am a nerd!). My new favourite sketching pen is the Uni Kura Toga Advance 0.5 which sharpens the point as you press down on it. It is, as the name suggests, an advanced version of the older models which has a more efficient mechanism for turning the lead. The above models have metal bodies so are not using wood, and the Pentel or Uni 0.5 refills produce a very dark black line when needed. One last piece of advice with mechanical pencils is get a model with a retractable point and you will save yourself holes in bags or pockets. If it doesn’t say it has a retractable point or “sleeve” then it most likely hasn’t.

    I’m looking forward to seeing more of your graphite sketches.

    Kind regards

  • Ted Kostek says:

    I have avoided pencil partially for the smudging issue. Your results are really great. How have you been finding the smudging? Are you using fixative? Carrying that along seems like a hassle.

    As a relative beginner, the other reason I use pen is to force myself to accept the line. I’m a little worried that I’d obsess about erasing. But, I guess if I just don’t carry an eraser then it wouldn’t be an issue.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Thanks Ted – yes the smudging has put me off for years. I’m trying (with limited success) to work from one side of the sketch to the other while I’m actually doing the drawing. I have a few sheets of cardboard with prevent transfer until I get home and then I’m spraying fixative.

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