Sunday, July 22, 2012


The "common" pencil. Common as -- well, perhaps not common as dirt. But certainly common as a No. 2 yellow school pencil, right?

Pen and ink are experiencing a well-deserved resurgence among sketchers and visual journalists, and the lowly pencil has taken a back seat. But it certainly wasn't always that way.

In the latest article in my "Tools of the Trade" series, I explore the history (and adventures) of the unpretentious pencil. And, if you'd like to know more about it's connection to Napoleon, or it's role in exploring the American West please feel free to give it a read. Tools of the Trade #2 - Plumbago, Napoleon and a No. 2 Pencil

Fordson Tractor, Stehekin, WA, USA

Oh, and as to where the "common" No. 2 yellow school pencil originated -- it was originated in the late 19th century by the Koh-I-Noor Hardtmuth company of Czechoslovakia to distinguish their use of the finest premium grade of graphite in the world, which was imported at great expense from China. (Yellow was an imperial color in Mandarin China.)

So, is the pencil "under-appreciated"? Yes. "Unassuming"? I'll go along with that. "Common"? I don't think so. How about you?

Street Scene, Bellagio, Italy


  1. Yes, the lowly pencil. I have just started sketching with one again and had forgotten the nice line quality. Nothing like a pen. You drawing shows that very well.

  2. Great post, Earnest, and beautiful sketches!