Drawing practice is a lot more fun when you can use color.

I struggle with value, so to improve my drawing, I avoid using color. I stick with black ink, trying to improve my handling of light and dark. At the same time, I love color, which is why I quilt and knit. But I hesitate to bring color into my drawing. Fortunately, I’ve found something that lets me draw in color without getting side-tracked by it: Koh-I-Nor Hardtmuth Magic pencils.

FYI: I am recommending this product because I like it, not because someone is paying me to.

Sketchbook and pencils with multicolored leads. Photo by Kit Dunsmore
My favorite Magic pencil… so far.

Like many people, I normally I draw with pen. At first, I used pens because being unable to erase your mistakes forces you to slow down and really look, improving your drawing. But my real reason for using pen is that I don’t like pencil. It smears easily and you wind up with a blur instead of a crisp sketch. I much prefer pens.

Picking up a pencil, even one with Magic in the name, wasn’t easy for me. I was worried about smearing and all that, but I also knew I needed to be doing something new. Drawing had gotten boring, but I wanted to practice more. I took the pencil with me on a trip and once I started using it, I fell in love.

Sketches in primary colors. Gesture sketches of birds; the back of a seated woman in a waiting room. Drawings by Kit Dunsmore.
From my first drawings using a Magic pencil. Drawings by Kit Dunsmore.

The lead is soft, so it moves smoothly over the paper. Also, you get lots of color that you cannot control. Occasionally, I may touch up a drawing in order to use a specific color in a specific place, but most of the time, I just let things happen. The multi-colored line gives the simplest sketch richness and depth. You wind up with color without having to think about it.

Sketches in primary colors. Back of people's heads and string of lights. Drawings by Kit Dunsmore
From the sketchbook that lives in my purse. Drawings by Kit Dunsmore.

The best thing about the Magic pencil was that it made drawing fun again. I was drawing in waiting rooms and the living room. People, plants, furniture: familiar sketchbook subjects that bordered on boring. But using a pencil that added random and unpredictable color to the line made the activity feel new again.

Drawing of stuffed chairs done with brightly colored pencil in neon colors. Drawing by Kit Dunsmore.
Living room chairs. Drawing by Kit Dunsmore.

Art teachers often say that you should mix things up, change media, try something different, and now I see why. It helps you to find the joy again. These pencils make me want to draw. And isn’t that what art supplies are supposed to be all about?

Have you used Magic pencils? Do you have a method or art supply that made sketching fun again? Do you limit your options in order to improve on your skills?

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