On this "Artist Supplies" page:
- an introduction to charcoal and pencil drawing materials
- what not to buy
- the difference between charcoal and pencil
Supplies for artists since the earliest drawings over 30,000 years ago, amazingly, haven't really changed all that much since then.
It's still about using pigment to make a line, and even pretty much the same pigments: charcoal and graphite bound with materials like clay or gum!
The one thing you should not do is go out and buy one of those old-so-nice-looking gift sets. They often have lesser quality materials in them, and pretty gadgets and tools you simply will never use. The only time I buy one is when I calculate the cost of buying the set is cheaper than buying the good stuff in them individually. And that only happens when the set has got old and dusty in the back of the shop.
But how to make sense of all the drawing materials on the market, and when you are starting out, what do you buy so you don't waste your money on useless stuff? Shopping for art supplies can get pretty expensive pretty fast.
No problem. Will sort you.
First, you need to know that the most common drawing tools break down pretty much into two basic types:
charcoal pencils or sticks;
graphite pencils or sticks.
Generally speaking, sticks are good for using on their sides to fill in big areas, such as backgrounds. Pencils take care of details, smaller areas, precise lines.
There are of course as many other kinds of drawing implements and materials among artist supplies as there are facets to human ingenuity - to name just a few, we've got water-soluble pencils that go on like color pencils, dissolving into watercolors when wet; waxy pencil crayon; pastel pencils; erasable color pencils - and we haven't even talked about ink yet. But for the moment and to get you started, we will limit ourselves to graphite and charcoal.
Wondering where to get them? Even small towns usually have an art supply store nearby. If you happen to be in my own town of Paris, my favorite places are Adam (Montparnasse is the store I frequent), but there is also the wonderful and costly Sennelier, that has been around for 100 years or more.
The amazing thing about living in the era of the Internet, however, is that art supplies can be ordered online so easily. Top names include Dick Blick and Utrecht.