traces of graphite

Traces of graphite – Massimo Fecchi update 2020

I have a small update for my 2016 blog post about Massimo Fecchi, the Italian artist who draws comics with the, in my opinion, best proportions, shapes and lines with beautiful variations.

Massimo Fecchi drawing with his Rotring 500
Fecchi with a Rotring 300 (Image © Massimo Fecchi)

When I asked Massimo about his pencils in 2016 he used a Rotring Tikky II for his initial drawings. Recently, he posted a photo of himself drawing for fans at the Comic Con in Wels, Austria. In this photo, he has switched pencils, or rather pencil models, not the pencil brand. When I asked him he told me that he is now usually using a Rotring 500 in either 0.5 mm or 0.7 mm. He described it as being lighter and more precise than the Tikky II.

Rotring 500 on a Fecchi drawing
Not quite fake news, but this is my Rotring on Massimo’s drawing – not his Rotring

I find it astonishing that even though most of us amateurs associate heavier pens, including mechanical pencils, with a more luxurious pen or better quality, while the professionals, in this case, Massimo, who use pencils as tools to get work done value lightness, probably to stop them from getting some sort of finger fatigue.

Massimo Fecchi's Comic Con Austria sign
Comic Con Wels (Image © Massimo Fecchi)

I believe that the use of this Massimo Fecchi’s photos falls under “fair dealing” as described by the UK Copyright service.

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Traces of graphite – Oriana Fenwick

Today: a very special traces of graphite post that has been in the making since April. I won’t introduce the artist – if you don’t recognise the name you will soon find out where you might have seen her work.

Bleistift Blog:

Thank you very much for agreeing to answer these questions. Could you please introduce yourself and your work and tell us where people might have seen your work?

Oriana Fenwick:

Hi there. My name is Oriana Fenwick, I am a freelance illustrator from Zimbabwe currently living and working in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. My illustrations are done to 99% using pencil, sometimes I go wild and create the other 1% with colour pencils. I have mainly worked for magazines and newspapers in the past. My clients include Die Zeit, football magazine 11 Freunde, Air Canada, DWELL and publishing house Rowohlt. One recent project I was particularly happy to be involved in was the book “The Pencil Perfect” for Gestalten Books.

Bleistift Blog:

How long does it take to draw an illustration of the size and complexity found in “The Pencil Perfect” and is there an illustration in this book that you are especially proud of?

Oriana Fenwick:

The time I need per illustration can vary immensely. The more simple drawings with straight forward lines and subtle contrasting I could complete in about two hours. The longest I needed for an illustration in this book was about two days. It gets especially tricky when I have to reproduce typo, taking into consideration all the other details that usually go along with that.

I think there are two drawings I had most fun completing in “The Pencil Perfect” and of which I especially liked the outcome. The one is of a series of pencil stubs and the other an image of Walt Disney drawing Mickey Mouse in his studio.

Walt Disney (image © Oriana Fenwick / Gestalten)

Bleistift Blog:

Are there specific techniques you use when drawing and are there any favourite tools / pencils you like to use?

Oriana Fenwick:

My drawing technique is pretty straightforward. I usually go about the main structure of the image using HB pencils, I never use anything harder than that. All of the shading and contrasting is then done afterwards using any grade as of 3B up to 6B. In order to get a surface to look especially smooth I criss-cross the lines until I can’t see the individual strokes anymore. My favourite brand is Faber-Castell [1]The Castell 9000 specifically. – I seldom use anything else. And yes: I do rub out sometimes!

If I know that the original drawing is going to be used then I tend to spray the picture after completing it. When I do drawings for digital purposes then I make sure to put them in protective covers once I’ve finished drawing, scanning etc, so I don’t necessarily spray them in that case.

Bleistift Blog:

Thank you very much for taking the time to answer these questions and for giving us a glimpse into the world of a famous illustrator.

Pencil Stubs (image © Oriana Fenwick / Gestalten)

I would like to thank Ms Fenwick for patiently answering my questions. You can find her web site at

If you are interested in similar blog posts have a look at the Traces of graphite category.

As usual: please open the images in a new tab to see them in high resolution.

If you are interested in a comparison: Below you will find the photo that was used as a basis for one of the illustrations in the Pencil Perfect book. The photo of Walt Disney is used under the same conditions as the images in Duckipedia, as discussed with Egmont Ehapa.

Walt Disney (image © Disney)


1 The Castell 9000 specifically.

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Traces of graphite – Paul Kidby

It’s time for another Traces of Graphite blog post. All the previous blog posts in this series were Disney themed (Barks, Rosa and Fecchi), but this time the blog post is Discworld themed.

Paul Kidby‘s very impressive pencil point from my previous blog post made me want to find out more about the pencils he is using to create his drawings.

Paul Kidby’s pencil (image © BBC Scotland)

Luckily Paul was kind enough to answer my questions. Here is a little insight into his pencil use.

Bleistift Blog:

Thank you very much for agreeing to answer these questions.

Could you please introduce yourself and your work and tell us where people might have seen your work?

Paul Kidby:

Hello, my name is Paul Kidby and I am an illustrator based in the UK. I am best known for being the writer Terry Pratchett’s artist of choice to illustrate his best selling Discworld series.

Drawings for Discworld books (© Paul Kidby 2017, all rights reserved. )

Bleistift Blog:

In the Terry Pratchett documentary, you can be seen with a hand-sharpened Castell 9000 with an impressive pencil point. Could you tell us which pencils and lead grades you use and how you use them? What other tools do you use to create your incredibly detailed work?

Paul Kidby:

When I draw I use Faber Castell 9000 series in lead grades 3B, 2B, B, HB, F, H 2H, 3H, 4H. My favourite is F & H. I don’t use 3B & 2B & B very often because it can make my work go smudgy – so I save them for areas where it needs to be very dark.

I also use Derwent stumps for blending and Faber Castell perfection 7056 pencil erasers which I can sharpen to take out accurate highlights in my drawing. I sharpen my pencils with a Swann-Morton DS2902 scalpel with 10A surgical blades, I then sand the pencil point using a Derwent sanding block.

Paul’s pencil drawer, including his scalpel (© Paul Kidby 2017, all rights reserved. )

I draw on a white smooth surface – eitherSchoellershammer illustration board or Bristol Board.

Bleistift Blog:

That is great. Thank you very much! Could you please explain to non-artists why you sharpen the pencil to such a long point? Is it so that you have more control over the pencil, or does it help to see the drawing better, e.g. the pencil doesn’t cover the view of the image so much?

Paul Kidby:

I sharpen to a long point because it gives me better control.

© Paul Kidby 2017, all rights reserved.

I would like to thank Paul Kidby for answering my questions.

With the colouring book craze of recent years going on his Discworld colouring book seems like a great idea (Paul Kidby’s shop (signed artist’s edition), Amazon US, AmazonUK).

One last bit of information : Paul Kidby also told me that he is inspired by the delicate pencil work of Ingres from the early 1800’s.

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres: Mme Victor Baltard and Her Daughter, Paule, 1836



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Traces of graphite – Massimo Fecchi

Time for another traces of graphite post.

As I kid I spent most of my pocket money on buying comics. Just to point it out though: in Europe the common comics at that time were not superhero comics, like in the USA. Instead the popular comics were Disney and Franco-Belgian comics.

I read a lot of comics, but despite there being so many artists there’s probably no other single person that has influenced my ‘visual taste’ as much as the Italian comic artist this blog post is about. I love his way of rounding off corners. Things he draws just always seem to have perfect proportions and shapes.

In the past this artist’s drawing could be admired in the Fix and Foxi comics or in Knax, a free comic magazine provided by some banks. Back then printing the name of the artists who were working on a comic story wasn’t common, that only became common many years later – but when it became common I figured out that the style of drawing I liked most was from Massimo Fecchi.

Today he is working on Disney comics (Duck and Mouse) for Egmont. I think that might make him the only Italian comic artist drawing Disney comics for Egmont (in Denmark) instead of for Topolino / Panini Comics (in Italy).

Ten years ago I was lucky enough to get a drawing from him, which has first been hanging in my living room and after I moved it is on the wall, just where you enter the house.

Fecchi's drawing
Fecchi’s drawing

I have recently asked him by email what tools he is using to create his comics.

He told me that he is using these four steps to create a page.

  1. He is drawing a rough outline of the page with a blue pencil. For this he is using Pilot’s 0.7 mm Color Eno leads in a Caran d’Ache 844, a pencil which he describes as the best.
  2. He then draws the lines with 0.5 mm Koh-I-Noor leads in B, in a Rotring Tikky (the  older, German made Tikky II with the wavy grip section).
  3. Before inking with a brush we will draw fine details with Staedtler’s pigment liner (0.1 mm, 0.2 mm or 0.5 mm)
  4. In the end he will ink the drawings with a Winsor & Newton #2 brush from the 7 series.

Here’s a magnification where you can see the blue lines from the rough outline

You can see the blue a graphite pencil lines in Fecchi's drawing
You can see the blue a graphite pencil lines in Fecchi’s drawing

He was kind enough to let me have a look at the comic he is currently working on, so here’s a chance to compare how a page looks like after the second and after the fourth step – please open the images in a new tab so that you can see all the details.

Pencil drawing (© Disney/Egmont)
Pencil drawing (© Disney/Egmont)

Inked (© Disney/Egmont)
Inked (© Disney/Egmont)

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What’s an old stub of pencil worth?

What’s an old stub of pencil worth?

Anything, as show in Carl Barks‘ story Maharajah Donald from 1946.

(Image © Disney)
(Image © Disney)

First Huey Dewey and Louie trade it for ever better items until they get a ticket to India…

(Image © Disney)
(Image © Disney)

…and after Donald becomes the Maharajah of Bumpay and ends up in trouble they trade another pencil stub for better and better items until they can rescue Donald.

I believe that the use of the scans from Carl Barks’ story Maharajah Donald falls under “fair dealing” as described by the UK Copyright service.

This blog post reminds me of kxcd’s In Popular Culture comic.

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