The Two-Pencil Method
It’s been fascinating to see Mark Crilley’s how-to books move from genre, with the Mastering Manga trilogy, to a story about learning how to draw, to a set of illustrations with a wide variety of influences, to hyperrealistic art.
His latest how-to book continues in the vein of that last one, although it could also be classed as almost fine art. The Two-Pencil Method: The Revolutionary Approach to Drawing It All is a series of instructions for using a regular old graphite pencil, accompanied by a black-colored pencil for shading and emphasis, to make amazingly detailed images. His message is that anyone can make art, with enough “moxie and determination”, regardless of expensive supplies. All you really need are these two pencils (and some paper and maybe an eraser).
The first section covers “Simple Objects”, such as an egg or a mushroom. The book uses the traditional format of showing an illustration in several stages along the way of creation, accompanied by Crilley’s notes on technique and things to think about. He’s clear that achieving his amazingly detailed, realistic results require a lot of time and patience, but his comments are encouraging to the aspiring artist who’s willing to put in the hard work.
One of the most amazing moments in the book for me was seeing how he builds up the salt shaker so the top appears “shimmering metallic” with just shading and highlighting.
Chapters continue to explore “Still Lifes”, “Animals”, “Portraits”, and “Landscapes”, where the work takes a leap forward in detail and mood. The lessons are interspersed with short pieces on pencil angle, composition, polishing, photo reference, and similar topics.
This is a beautiful book to learn from, even if you don’t have the dedication to work through the lessons. Learning how such beautiful, photo-realistic, black-and-white art is created is insightful. (The publisher provided a review copy.)