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How to find inspiration?


Finding inspiration …

… can be great excuse to do nothing, but sometimes we really need something new, fresh, unknown, just to make a break and start working.


A short walk can help.

Reading a book can help too.

We all know how beneficial can be a talk with friends.

What about visiting a museum?

Fortunately for artist web is loaded with sparkling ideas just waiting to be realized and we can actually get them without putting our shoes on.

Here is only one of addresses which deserve a bookmark in every artist’s computer:

You can browse through artists by their name, you can explore collections and you can even create your galleries to add them to already existing ones. How cool is that, huh?

It can be a nice change of morning routine to visit this site instead of skimming the news or checking tweeter feed, but this is of course something everybody should decide for himself.

Google is sponsoring many art projects, including the one on (more about that site in one of future posts, but this one is probably the best alternative to visiting a real museum. While it is work in progress of course and many famous galleries and museums are still not included, we can already mention Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), Tate Gallery (London), Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam), Palace of Versailles (Versailles), Uffizi (Florence), State Hermitage Museum (St. Petersburg) and the list is going on and on…

So don’t hesitate, enjoy the virtual tours, learn and maybe, just maybe, get some colored pencils and make some masterpieces on your own.


What are the best colored pencils?


When we look for best color pencils, we actually open more question than we are able to answer. What is best for one person, is of no real value for the other. So the best tip we can offer on the quest for the best coloring pencils is pretty simple:


Yes, every fact should be backed with an experiment and checking for colored pencils, no mater if we need them for kids or we have artistic aspirations, is no different. My list would be relatively simple:

1. Start!

(With something generic) In my country this would be probably twelve pack of Pelikan or Faber-Castell, in USA this would be Crayola, somewhere else probably something else. But you always have to start somewhere. Coloring pencils are available in packages and 12- or 24-pack is in most cases best value for the money. If you are not in a hurry, you can look around, check prices and wait for discount.

You can get 12-pack of Pelikan which is pretty good quality for 99 cents (we have Euros, not Dollars) and you can do just about everything with this pack already. Maybe you already know 12 is not enough and you want to start with 24. This is o.k.

But if you don’t have a clue, there is a chance some colors will hardly be used in 24-pack, so 12 is probably better option for beginners. And two 12-packs are in most cases cheaper than on 24-pack anyway.

So many options…

2. Observe!

After using your colored pencils for a while you will probably notice many different things. Some will be more important to you and some less, but it is good to write your observations down.

Do you have enough shades of every color? What color is most used from your pack? What color is less used one? Are they feeling good in your hand? Too fast, slow on the paper? Can you mix different colors well? What about erasing? Sharpening? What would you like to improve?

With a list of observations you can make a new step – buy another pack or maybe few individual coloring pencils. The later option can come quite expensive because one can cost you as much as full 12-pack. But without experimenting you can’t know what serves you well and what not.

Try different colors, different brands…

3. Compare!

If you tried several brands of color pencils on different sorts of paper you probably have a lot of data to compare. But you will probably be surprised when you actually write this data down and make a comparison.

Some brands will disappoint you and some will prove their value. Maybe you discovered you need different, non standard dimensions of colored pencils for some tasks and different for the others. It is good to know jumbo and delta are not for children only. It is good to know children can use them too…

Now you just have to decide what is best for you, for your projects and buy stuff which serves you best at most affordable prices. This doesn’t mean you know everything already because from time to time new brands will pop up and some old brands will go through changes. And you will probably experiment with different techniques, improve existing ones, in short, you will go through different drawing stages, just like kids do.

But you will be ready for that, right?

Now you just have to create and enjoy!


Development of drawing stages in children


Child’s development drawing stages are relatively clear and predictable. Of course some kids enjoy at drawing activities more and some less, some make progress faster and some slower, but in general we can use next list to compare our children’s abilities with others and take some action if necessary:

Children drawing development by age:

1 year (give it or take it a month or so): Most of children are able to hold some kind of drawing tool. They notice this tool, if in touch with a surface, makes a trail. Their grip is unreliable and they don’t really know what to do with pencils or charcoals. Making random lines or check their taste seems pretty equal choice.


1 year and a half: This is time when kids usually start enjoying using crayons, color pencils (jumbo) and similar drawing tools to scribble on paper and other surfaces. It seems making some kind of marks is very important in this developmental phase where kids start using their power to move things around.

Of course their drawings don’t make sense to us, but they are not making them for us anyways. Their scribbles are among first steps in exploration of the world through action and reaction. Slowly they are forming abstract shapes from lines. Moving from paper to the floors and walls is the next step…

forms are formed

2 years: It’s time for first realistic attempts. Kids at this age will draw things and events from their experience and enjoy sharing their masterpieces with friends, teachers, parents and everybody else. In most cases only them will know what is drawn, but they are more than ready to explain what they portrayed.

Drawing becomes a way of communication in this developmental stage.


3 years: Most of children gradually implement more and more control in their scribblings from second and third year of age. When they reach 3 years, they are able to distinguish between straight and curved line, they can make an X and T and they are able to enclose the line to form a recognizable and repeatable shape, for instance some kind of triangle, rectangle or circle.

If a kid is not able to make a circle-like shape (it doesn’t have to look good, but it should be closed) by the age of three, we can start worrying about his or her development. They also distinguish between colors (most can name properly at least three different colors) and they are ready to use their basic knowledge of drawing with combining different shapes and colors.


4 years: Stick man becomes the major character in kids’ drawings. It has recognizable head and two legs, hands are not always present and soon will follow houses, trees and of course the sun.

Proportions are all wrong and colors far from reality, but a child has already mastered something very important: importance of symbols. A child around four or five understands a drawn symbol represents something from reality. Their works are more and more complex, we can notice more and more details.


6 years: Welcome to reality! Children slowly become critical. They learn to observe the environment and compare their drawings with actual situation. Some express the wish to learn some simple drawing techniques, maybe they want to know hot to draw a cat step by step or something similar.

When they don’t achieve proper results they can become frustrated. This is time to offer them a help but without pushing. Drawing should stay fun and voluntary task, kids should never feel an obligation. It is also right time to encourage the imaginative part of creative process which should not be suppressed by realism.


9 years: At this stage most of kids stop drawing. They are good enough to notice how far are their works from works of skillful artists. This is perfect time to introduce drawing techniques used to master the proportions and perspectives. Time to switch from two to three dimensions. Don’t forget the many benefits of drawing for children!

Providing quality drawings, illustrations and photos can be very rewarding in this phase. Many kids will gladly copy from that kind of material. One day with proper support a talent can grow in an artist. Don’t miss the opportunity!


Benefits of drawing for children


Benefits of drawing for children

It is widely accepted fact drawing has many benefits for children but only in last decades some scientific studies have been done to provide hard facts and debunk few of the myths surrounding impact of drawing related activities on development of kids.

What are the benefits of drawing?

Let us try to make a short list of drawing benefits for kids:

1. Eye – hand coordination. Without proper coordination between hands and eyes we wouldn’t be able to do even most ordinary everyday tasks and practice can certainly help to make it better. Numerous health issues are related with poor eye – hand coordination and it works in both ways. If we improve coordination, we will have less problems in many areas of live and vice versa. Drawing can be simple and very efficient help.

Street chalks are great fun!

2. Expression. Children, especially really young ones, don’t have properly developed vocabulary to express their wishes or feelings what often frustrates them. With a simple draw they can show their happiness, sadness, excitement… Kids are able to show a story with totally abstract figures, just with few shapes and lines, selection of colors etc. With practice drawing skills will improve and their vocabulary will follow.

drawing of butterfly
Kids’ perception of the world is quite different

3. Perception. Observing an object, character or situation is in close relationship with physical abilities of our sensory organs and drawing can serve as very good indicator of possible malfunctions of the eyes. Even if the eyes are working as they suppose to, we can spot a problem at interpretation in nervous system, in so called visual memory or in some other areas. If we know perception can be enhanced with simple tasks as drawing or coloring, we can use this to improve orientation, organization and critical thinking at kids relatively easily.

These are only few of many benefits of drawing for children and we’ll mention more when we’ll try to find the answer on another complex question: why is drawing good for adults?


Silverpoint technique – drawing for special results


What is silverpoint?

It is drawing technique which involved silver rod or wire, special base like sort of chalk on vellum and a lot of skill.

Two seated lions by Albrect Duerer

Silverpoint drawing technique was pretty popular in medieval times but was slowly replaced with easier and more forgiving techniques when graphite became available across the Europe. Silver was competing with charcoal from the very beginning.

Drawing with charcoal was of coarse more popular, there was no need for special preparation of paper (or skin) and results were available instantly, yet silver (or other soft metal like lead or tin or zinc) offered much more precise lines and the final result was more durable too. No wonder this kind of art was popular among goldsmiths and top artists who can use it to show their mastery to impress their costumers.

Silver was the only one of available metals changing its metallic color into warmer brownish, the consequence of reaction of silver with sulfuric compounds in air, but this reaction needs time varying from months to years before the final shade could be seen. Next ‘complication’ was purity of silver because it often contained more than 20 percents of impurities (copper, tarnishing in greenish tones, being in the first place).

Many famous artists used silverpoint technique to create popular drawings. Let’s mention at least da Vinci, van Eyck, Duerer, Raphaelo and Rembrandt. The base, where the metal was leaving traces, was coated with chalk or bone ash, the later sometimes made directly from the remains of the artist’s dinners.

Here is one of the most known works made in silverpoint – Doris Stock’s portrait of Mozart, probably the last portrait of this famous composer:

Portrait of W. A. Mozart by Doris Stock

And this is the video showing how is the very same technique used today:

In last decades silver is often combined with other metals and some more ‘modern’ materials like acryls to present really unconventional and impressive art pieces, so new generations will probably never have a problem answering the question: “What is a silverpoint?

Although silverpoint drawing technique for many resons will probably never be so popular as it was before the history of graphite pencils started, it can still offer spectacular results and is, considering how much discipline it demands, one of the top choices for artists who want to maximize their skills.


The pencils history: lead, graphite or both?


Talking about lead pencils history we are probably dealing with the history of graphite pencils. But the truth is slightly more complicated – and interesting too!

A simple object as an ordinary pencil can have amazing history too

Lead pencils: history

Although we don’t have exact dates, we can safely claim ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians were using wires mead of lead for writing. Of course wires were not always looking like wires suppose to look today and they were not very similar to today’s pencils. Instead of lead other soft metals, for instance zinc, tin or silver which could be appropriately shaped to make trails on papyrus or specially treated vellum were used.

Did you know the word pencil comes from latin penicillus meaning little tail?

Writing or drawing with lead pencils was not very practical because it demanded a lot of skill and an error was very hard to correct. When people discovered graphite a whole new world of possibilities opened!

Graphite in mineral form resembles lead

Graphite pencil: history

It probably started in the beginning of 16th century. What we know for sure is a discovery of huge graphite deposits in very pure form in Borrowdale (Great Britain) where it was at first used only to mark sheep. Graphite was similar to lead in appearance, only darker, so they called it plumbago (plumbum is latin for lead). Few decades after they discovered how useful can be a graphite for making cannon balls so the mine became important for military.

Graphite, this time as the material for making pencils played significant role in Napoleonic wars on the edge of 18th and 19th century. France didn’t have access to pure graphite from Britain, neither the pretty good substitute which was made by Germans from graphite dust.

Nicolas-Jacques Conte succeeded to make satisfactory product from graphite dust, mixed with clay and fired in a kiln. In this process he had a chance to make pencils of different hardness with simply varying graphite to clay ratio.

Short history of pencils

Graphite is too soft to be used as a pencil like wire or rod of lead or silver was used before. So everybody who used it as a writing or drawing media, wrapped it in some kind of protective sheet from the very beginning. Hollow stick of juniper wood was one of first standards and two carved wooden sticks with graphite between and glued together was developed from that. This is in general how pencils are still made today.


Pencils made today are not too different from pencils from several centuries ago.

In 18th century scientists proved graphite is pure carbon and has nothing to do with lead. But users of graphite pencils were still in danger or lead poisoning. The reason is pigment in color, used to cover the outside wooden part of pencils. This pigment contained lead and everybody touching or even licking the pencils was in danger for centuries – until other sorts of colors came in use.

So we can conclude graphite pencil history is still related with the history of lead pencils in many interesting ways…


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