traces of graphite

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-Castell1 – 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 Egmon Ehapa.

Walt Disney (image © Disney)

  1. The Castell 9000 specifically. []

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



Traces of graphite – Massimo Fecchi 2

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)

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.

Traces of graphite – Don Rosa 9

You might remember my blog post about Carl Barks, the creator of many fantastic Duckburg comics and characters1.


Don Rosa is famous for his comics in the style and tradition of Carl Barks, but he’s also created his own characters and comic universes. It’s difficult to try to convey Don Rosa’s importance if you are not familiar with Donald Duck comics, so I’m not even trying to explain why he is the most famous Disney comic artist alive – you’ll just have to believe me.

Happy Birthday, Bleistift would be a fitting as this blog post has been published on Bleistift's birthday

“Happy Birthday, Bleistift” would have been fitting – this blog post has been published on Bleistift’s birthday (Image © Don Rosa / Disney)


Unfortunately for Don there’s not a lot of money to be made in this field though, despite the huge popularity of his comics in many parts of the world, including Continental Europe.  Luckily he’s a really nice guy, so he despite the lack of financial incentives he’s touring Europe regularly, patiently signing autographs for his fans. I wasn’t lucky enough to ever attend such an event, but I did manage to get a print signed by him sent over to England when he was in Würzburg, near my ‘old home town’.


Don Rosa’s pencils

As part of this blog post I want to tell you about Don Rosa’s answer to my question what pencils he is using to draw his comics. Just to put Don’s quote in context – his background is in civil engineering.


First of all, remember that asking me about art equipment or techniques is
idiotic because I have never had any training and never even read about how it SHOULD be done. I just kept using the same stuff I used when I was doing fanzine work 40 years ago, which is all wrong.
But I see other cartoonists who use “normal” pencils and that seems stupid
to me. I used a .07 mm lead mechanical pencil with hard lead. That way I
could get fine detail in the drawing and it would erase cleanly. But all
other cartoonists use soft blue pencils and they never bother to erase.
I don’t think I bought any special brand, but Pentel was always cheap and common.


If you want to read a book with his comics I would have suggested Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck, but unfortunately it seems to be out of print, so the few sellers offering it charge a ridiculously high price2.


As an alternative  way of finding out more about him: what about a tour of his house in Kentucky on YouTube?


I would like to thank Jano Rohleder for forwarding my question to Don Rosa.

  1. …like Scrooge McDuck, the Beagle Boys and many more []
  2. When I bought my copy it was maybe 1/10th of the current price. []