What is the one creative tool you just can’t live without?
My number one indispensable art tool is a very modest thing: my mechanical or ‘retractable’ graphite pencil.
I’ve had this same Pentel pencil for over 20 years. If I’m going to be away from home for more than a week, this pencil has to go with me. I can’t imagine how many sketches I must have made with this pencil!
My mechanical pencil takes 0.5mm leads and I always bulk buy them in 2B grade. I love not having to faff around sharpening the pencil to just the right point, it’s always reliably the same. (I hate how much pencil I lose in sharpening.)
The all-important eraser
Mostly when I'm drawing with my retractable pencil, I use the eraser tip for rubbing out the lines I don't like. It’s quicker to flip the pencil over and use the built-in eraser than it is to pick up a separate eraser to do the job (plus it erases with more precision) so I get through a lot of eraser tips. Recently I found a reasonably-priced supplier online, but before that I used to carve them to the rough size I needed from any approximately-sized equivalent eraser I could find. (Time-consuming and not that efficient.)
I only ever have the metal cover for the eraser in place when I’m travelling. Otherwise it lies around getting in the way on my desk or sinks to the furthermost corner of my pencil case. (Yes, I’m still a kid at heart.)
Why a retractable pencil is my essential tool
While this is certainly not the only graphite pencil I own, I can’t imagine drafting my initial ideas for a project without it.
I use chunkier pencils when I’m drawing at a larger scale and they feel totally right to get big, loose lines. But I need the precision of my mechanical pencil when I begin to develop ideas because I work small at this stage - usually between B5 and A4 size.
The owner of an art supply store once said to me that artists - despite often being very progressive and adventurous in many parts of their lives - are generally very conservative with their supplies. Once they find a tool they love, they hate to change. Guilty as charged!
What’s the No.1 essential tool you just couldn’t live without?
Is there an art or creative tool that you can't imagine living without? Share in the comments!