$2 per pencil + aftereffects of a government shutdown

Yes, $2 for one 2B pencil. I am not joking. Other than the plummeting value of the dollar, there is a large market here in Florence of pencil-wielding art students. If you took note of the pencil length in my previous post in the Mandy Boursicot Intro to Figure Drawing video, then you could see that the pencil is more like a needle point. We use an xacto knife followed by a sandpaper pad to sharpen our pencils and the needle point graphite enables us to reach into the grain of the paper. I know, that sounds a bit crazy but it is how we are able to create such smooth shading.  This also means that if you drop your pencil or press too hard, your point breaks and you loose anywhere from a 1/3 to a 1/4 of your pencil. A devastating moment….That recognizable sound now causes surrounding students to stop and shudder in pain even if it wasn’t your pencil that just broke. We all gather around the garbage can to sharpen our pencils in the morning, shake off the sanded graphite into the can while gabbing. But there is a limit to this chatter. Total focus is required when sculpting your needle point on the sandpaper pad or your point is destined to break. You are also constantly maintaining that needle point graphite tip which also adds to the incredibly shrinking pencil. Here is a small collection of my “used” pencils.  Although a pencil extender is helpful, at some point, you can no longer sharpen the tiny stub without slicing off a part of your finger.

At the rate that I have been going, I am using two, 2B pencils a week! You can be sure that I will be bringing at least two dozen pencils back to Italy from the U.S. to last through my third Bargue drawing and figure drawing. I might have to start a charity pencil fund 😉


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