Toolbox: Clara Lacy’s Pencils

Elephant’s regular illustrator, Clara Lacy discusses the pencils that she uses in her detailed, meticulous drawings.

My preferred tool to use for illustration is the humble graphite pencil. I love tonal differentiation; the subtlety that can be executed with pencil from the finest hairs to heaviest scrawl. People often ask what pencil I use, or what my favourite pencil is. I tend to start sketching with an F which I’ve found to work well for me, it’s just a little bit harder than an HB but still very flexible with the gradients you can achieve. But to produce a drawing I’ll almost always use the whole range, from 8B to 6H.

Typically I work from photos. I’ll think of a composition, then I’ll scour the internet and reference books for images and collage bits together on Photoshop to make a rough sketch of what I have in my head.

I like to use very smooth hot pressed paper, Fabriano 4 Liscio, so I can achieve as much detail as possible, and I like the feeling of the pencil gliding on the paper. I sketch out the composition outlines, making any changes that seem like a good idea, then working top left to bottom right, I’ll fill in the detail, always resting my hand on a clean piece of scrap paper as not to get any grease or dirt on the paper or to smudge the work I’ve already done. A good tip is also to use white tack as a rubber, it lifts the graphite off without damaging the paper.

Clara Lacy, illustration of Nicolas Bourriaud for Elephant issue 32
Clara Lacy, illustration of Nicolas Bourriaud for Elephant issue 32