Holding the drawing instrument

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    Holding the drawing instrument

    I recently attended an atelier for a short visit to see if that's where I'd like to study. I'm going to sign up there for studies beginning in January.

    I was shown how to hold the pencil, which was different from anything I've used to this point. It's the classic underhand method of holding the pencil between thumb and index finger, using the fingernail of the ring finger to "ride" on the paper.

    So far, I've found this extremely difficult to use on my drafting table, and I believe it's because of the table's angle.

    This grip, in general (I feel) gives me far less control, but that may be a lack of practice. I have to hold the pencil much further from the sharpened tip than I'm used to.

    Question: This pencil "grip" is usually for more of an upright angle, correct? I would guess that this grip is principally used when sitting on a donkey or at an easel when the board is pretty near vertical... correct? Or should I be just as able to use this grip on the drafting table when the incline is around 20 degrees?

    Maybe this is a dumb question... I guess I'm just wondering if the anatomy of my drawing arm & wrist is so wrong that I can't use this pencil grip on a 20 degree inclined surface.

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    There is no right or wrong way to hold a pencil.

    Find what works for you, and practice with it.

    The angle of the table really affects your work though, being at a comfortable angle will help, but the height is important too.

    I hate the desk in my old art department, they're completely flat, but also at about waist height when I'm sitting (I'm no giant or anything, they're fucking tiny).

    This means that I get through the first major part of what I'm doing, hold it up vertically, and all the porportions are wrong.



    But yeah, don't let anyone tell you "This is the right way. If you do it differently, you're doing it wrong." By all means, try out there way, but if you hate it, then do it in your own way.

    Personally, I hold my drawing tool (pen, pencil whatever) the same way as how I write, but with my hand much further away from the nib.

    This means that I don't do tiny little strokes, and get a better, smoother looking line.

    And my desk is at a 40 degree angle, and when I'm out and about sketching, I put my SB on my knee at the same angle.

    Hope I've helped.




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    Hi, thank you for the reply.

    My intuition was that there was no right or wrong way to hold it, as you say. But I'd like to be able to use the grip they've shown as well.

    Maybe I should sit lower and angle my table a bit more? I'll play with that too.

    At the donkey, I do usually put the base of the board in my lap instead of sticking it into the notch.

    Recently, I was holding the pencil more in sort of sideways, I guess, which made it so I was drawing more with the side of the lead (which doesn't give a pleasing, thin, precise line at all).

    I'm just looking for a good general way of keeping my hand from riding on the paper (reduce smudging) with the same level of control (or better) than the classic "writing" grip.

    Thanks for your reply.

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    I've been drawing underhand for about 4 months now and it feels like second nature to me, so yeah just keep practicing with it and you'll get it. As for less control in my opinion (IF YOU DRAW FROM THE SHOULDER, ELBOW AND A BIT OF WRIST) you can get much smoother and more confident lines.

    This method of holding it is good for switching quickly between Line and Tone by adjusting the angle of the pencil.

    And if you're looking for less smudging you could try a different pencil like the Col-Erase

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    Quote Originally Posted by gamerboi View Post
    I've been drawing underhand for about 4 months now and it feels like second nature to me, so yeah just keep practicing with it and you'll get it. As for less control in my opinion (IF YOU DRAW FROM THE SHOULDER, ELBOW AND A BIT OF WRIST) you can get much smoother and more confident lines.

    This method of holding it is good for switching quickly between Line and Tone by adjusting the angle of the pencil.

    And if you're looking for less smudging you could try a different pencil like the Col-Erase
    Hi, thanks for the reply.

    I actually already draw from the shoulder and elbow... it's just that the point of contact (at the paper) feels like I have it less under control now, if that makes sense. It feels like the pencil tip can slip a bit more out of my control, where before it felt like an extension of one of my fingers.

    Thanks again.

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    Regular grip for horizontal surfaces, overhand for vertical surfaces is how I do it...
    Don't really think it matters much, I just think overhand is more comfortable in some cases.

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    Here's a video from where I'll be going to school in January



    I imagine this only applies (as said) to surfaces that are fairly inclined (above 60 degrees)

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    I've never thought about it before, but THAT is how I hold charcoal. I hold a pencil differently. Funny, I'd really never realised...

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    yup increase the angle of your board

    Holding the pencil that way is great, but you need to have your drawing surface at an angle. I usually put some books or something else underneath my drawing board until it is comfortable.

    You can do this way on a flat surface, just takes some practice.

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    Last edited by Zazerzs; October 16th, 2009 at 09:13 PM.
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    Before I used an angled easel, I used to wrap house-bricks in paper (so they didn't scratch a delicate or polished surface) and prop my drawing board on that.

    Dunno if it will help, but it's worth a try...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zazerzs View Post
    Holding the pencil that way is great, but you need to have your drawing surface at an angle. I usually put some books or something else underneath my drawing board until it is comfortable.

    You can do this way on a flat surface, just takes some practice.

    Link http://www.conceptart.org/forums/att...1&d=1210827886

    oh and have fun at the Studios! Myron is awesome!
    Cool! Yeah, I found him to be very cool and personable. He listens as much as he speaks.

    Thanks for the pic! I've been trying for a couple of hours to get the feel of it right, but can't escape the feeling that I've much less control over the pencil tip than before. It just seems like it will be very hard to use this pencil grip to get a nice, smooth but varied line or put in detail (which I guess makes sense... don't want detail to start).

    I'll keep practicing, though.

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    That grip is best for working on large drawing surfaces that are held up on an easel or something, not flat. I've used it for charcoal drawings and larger pencil life-drawings, but for most of my everyday sketches, I just hold my pencil the way I write, which is sort of a "crab claw" or so I've heard it mocked. (My writing callus is on my ring, not index finger.) Whatever, it works for me, but then I almost always draw on flat surfaces, as I find it more comfortable. I also tend to work rather small.

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    "I've been trying for a couple of hours to get the feel of it right, but can't escape the feeling that I've much less control over the pencil tip than before. It just seems like it will be very hard to use this pencil grip to get a nice, smooth but varied line or put in detail"

    It feels that way in the beginning, but when you hold it like that you can go from tip to side and control the line weight alot more than holding it like one writes.

    and true its not comfortable that much on a flat surface, but when you draw on a flat surface you have to watch for distortion, due to the drawing surface is at an obtuse angle to the eyes( unless you hover directly over it), having the picture plane tilted towards you helps avoid this and works great with this grip.

    Last edited by Zazerzs; October 16th, 2009 at 11:44 PM.
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    Different grips are good for different things.
    The more tools in your toolbox, the better.


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  26. #15
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    I hold a pencil underhand when standing at an eisel. As has been said, it depends on the angle and the distance. At first I thought it was an ass to draw with since the lines were all over the place, but once you get used to the looseness of it your lines will start getting more confident and gain more energy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zazerzs View Post
    "I've been trying for a couple of hours to get the feel of it right, but can't escape the feeling that I've much less control over the pencil tip than before. It just seems like it will be very hard to use this pencil grip to get a nice, smooth but varied line or put in detail"

    It feels that way in the beginning, but when you hold it like that you can go from tip to side and control the line weight alot more than holding it like one writes.

    and true its not comfortable that much on a flat surface, but when you draw on a flat surface you have to watch for distortion, due to the drawing surface is at an obtuse angle to the eyes( unless you hover directly over it), having the picture plane tilted towards you helps avoid this and works great with this grip.
    That's as I had expected. Thank you for the explanation. I will persevere with it, though I think I'm doing it wrong, still. Usually it's when I have the pencil horizontal drawing verticals that it feels strangest.

    Quote Originally Posted by Elwell View Post
    Different grips are good for different things.
    The more tools in your toolbox, the better.
    That's very wise; thank you. I am going to attempt to learn this grip, though, as that's what will be expected of me in January. I figure three months of practice ought to help.

    Quote Originally Posted by Slothboy3000 View Post
    I hold a pencil underhand when standing at an eisel. As has been said, it depends on the angle and the distance. At first I thought it was an ass to draw with since the lines were all over the place, but once you get used to the looseness of it your lines will start getting more confident and gain more energy.
    Cheers. I will really try to make it work better.

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    Glenn Vilppu says, "There are NO RULES, only tools".
    Which in this case, tool refers to your pencil.

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    *sigh*....

    this is really starting to bother me.

    Try as I might, I can't get this grip to feel right, much less make any sort of line with it.

    It feels like trying to control a chopstick with one finger.

    I'm finding it impossible to control where the pencil tip goes and the line weight both. It requires tremendous concentration just to be able to hold the pencil. Because of this, I can't be productive.

    Just wish I could figure out what i was doing wrong, and how to fix it.

    I shouldn't have to grip the pencil as tightly as I am between the three fingers. And unless I anchor the top of the pencil against my palm, I can't make any sort of decent line.

    You have to hold the pencil a good distance away from the tip as well, which only seems to make the problem worse.

    I'm going to keep trying this grip in different ways; but this is hella frustrating.

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    Thumbs up

    Well, of course, right after I go and post something like that... I start to figure it out (rolls eyes).

    It seems I just have to work my problems out out loud (or by posting)... sometimes.

    You know what was keeping me back? I kept trying to make strokes in multiple directions instead of just in the direction perpendicular to the pencil.

    In other words, this grip forces you to move your ELBOW (not swing it, MOVE it) when you want to create a line in a new direction. I was just trying to draw lines in all directions from that one underhand position (without realizing it.)

    I'm starting to get the hang of it. Seems Bridgman's block characters are good practice, since there's a limited gamut of directions in those, and I can practice moving from one line direction to another without much complication.

    So advice for anyone else trying this grip-- don't make strokes in anything but the direction PERPENDICULAR (90 degrees) to the pencil. Otherwise, yes, you will experience minimal control on the pencil tip.

    I'm even finding that I can darken lines and get a bit of accuracy where I expected none. It certainly is different from what I'm used to.

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    Good! A few more tips...
    You don't have to grip the pencil hard. In fact, you hand should be as relaxed as possible.
    Try cutting your pencil in half so that the whole thing can rest in your palm.


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  35. #21
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    So no underhanded pencil holding on non-inclined surface?

    My writing callous is on my ring finger, but I just attempted drawing with pencil between index and middle which gives my lines more life, and looseness - but less accuracy.

    Man I'm confused there's like a thousand ways to hold this thing, and different results all around lol.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Elwell View Post
    Good! A few more tips...
    You don't have to grip the pencil hard. In fact, you hand should be as relaxed as possible.
    Try cutting your pencil in half so that the whole thing can rest in your palm.
    Thanks. Sounds like good advice, because the top of the pencil (if it's long) will definitely push into your wrist or the underside of your arm.

    Quote Originally Posted by corpsey View Post
    So no underhanded pencil holding on non-inclined surface?

    My writing callous is on my ring finger, but I just attempted drawing with pencil between index and middle which gives my lines more life, and looseness - but less accuracy.

    Man I'm confused there's like a thousand ways to hold this thing, and different results all around lol.
    Well, give the underhand grip a try. I think you can do it on a flat surface, actually. The big benefit seems to be not rubbing your knuckles and hand all over the drawing. You ride on the paper only with your pencil tip and the fingernail of your ring finger, meaning the pencil is gripped between your index, middle, and thumb.

    Holding the pencil further away from the tip, now, actually gives more control now (strangely).

    The biggest weird part is adjusting to moving your ELBOW when you start to draw lines in different directions. That's the real trick. You just have to keep the pencil roughly at 90 degrees to the line you're drawing. You can move your wrist up and down a bit if you're drawing an arc. I'm still getting the hang of that.

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    The reason for that way of holding is simple - while drawing and holding the pencil as you would a pen when writing, you smudge the drawing with your wrist. It can be real issue with softer pencils, like 2B and above. You could avoid it by putting a sheet beneath your wrist while drawing.


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    So this brings the question as to how you should hold a tablet pen? Because it seems by holding a pencil between your thumb and your index finger gives me more confident lines, probably due to having you move your entire arm. I'm wondering if there's a way for a tablet pen?

    Put a binder under it?

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    So I tried the under-hand technique for a while, and I do not like it. I feel like a caveman drawing with a stick lol.

    If we're talking about using the WHOLE arm, and not using the wrist I found this a more effective way of holding the pencil. (personally)

    It really limits wrist movement, and forces me to use my whole arm - while maintaining control still. Pinky out.

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    Quote Originally Posted by corpsey View Post
    So I tried the under-hand technique for a while, and I do not like it. I feel like a caveman drawing with a stick lol.

    If we're talking about using the WHOLE arm, and not using the wrist I found this a more effective way of holding the pencil. (personally)

    It really limits wrist movement, and forces me to use my whole arm - while maintaining control still. Pinky out.
    That way might be OK for certain applications, but it's really hard to not just draw with the side of the lead that way. Also, it's really hard not to smudge the palm of your hand on your drawing.

    With the underhand grip, there's very little smudging if you have any kind of a fingernail on your ring finger.

    I admit--I hated the feel of it at the beginning. But as I become more used to the underhand grip, I can tell that eventually I'll have just as much proficiency with it as with the other grips, plus I'll have the advantages mentioned.

    With the underhand grip, there's absolutely very little chance you can draw with just the fingers.

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    I discovered that drawing in a flat desk, is not like drawing in a hanging paper. Even at the same size of paper, and same subject to be captured, the grip on the pencil is totally different, and all because you arm in a flat desk is resting, and in a hanging surface is not.

    I was thinking, the best way are the normal way, but you can make a pretty accurate drawing holding the pencil in two or three fingers at the end of the pencil, and swinging your arm and wrist. Because your arm is not resting, is not use in moving the fingers, you have to move the wrist instead.

    But use a staff when doing something over a hanging surface. You will end with pain in your arm if not.

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