Back to School

Here’s to new beginnings!

How to draw pencils | The Daily Atelier

I must confess that this is my favourite time of the year – the end of summer and, more specifically, the end of the long wait before going back to school. I have always loved the preparation for a new academic year: sharpen your pencils, pack your things, decide on what you are going to wear for the first day of school (there are usually no uniforms in schools in France, where I was brought up). Decide which new you you are going to be this year! You won’t be surprised that my second favourite time of the year is the first of January … Here’s to new beginnings!

Now that I am also a parent, I love to share this joy and to prepare for school again. I took this picture, which sums up for me the ethereal nature of this feeling: excitement, a little anxiety maybe, a feeling of calm before a new chapter.

I took a few weeks off from the blog, and I am using this project as a way to ease back into the rhythm. It is a fairly short project (less than 1 hour), you don’t need a lot of materials, and the finished drawing will decorate your office very nicely.

My reference picture for this drawing.

My reference picture for this drawing.



For this drawing, you need a pencil, coloured pencils, a sharpener, an eraser and white paper.

For this drawing, you don’t need a lot, just:

  • a pencil (I use 2B)

  • coloured pencils

  • a sharpener

  • an eraser

  • white paper (I draw on 250 gsm/90 lb grained A4 paper).



Step 1 – Drawing the outline of the pencils

The first step of the simple project is to draw the outline of the pencils. You are probably familiar with my method by now. It is very much a trial and error process, in three steps:

  1. I look intently at a small part of the reference photo, as if it were some abstract shape.

  2. I try to reproduce it on paper, looking back and forth a lot between the photo and the drawing. Do the shapes look the same? Yes: keep it. No: erase and repeat.

  3. Then I look at my drawing again, not as geometrical shapes but as what it is supposed to be (in this case, pencils – pun intended). Does it look like pencils? Yes: keep it. No: erase and repeat.

I did not try to achieve too perfect a drawing. I mostly wanted to ease back into the rhythm, because I had not drawn anything in the last few weeks of summer holiday. I paid close attention to the long lines of the pencils, trying to be aware of the perspective at play in the picture. All the pencils are not exactly parallel to one another.


Step 2 – Drawing the details on the pencils

Then, as a second step, I went for the details – most importantly, the little dots on the graphite pencils.

It was so much fun! I had to pay attention to exactly where they were situated, and discovered that some of them showed a little perspective effect (and so appeared more oval), that some were more in focus than others, and that some looked lighter than others. Trying to convey these little differences gave a stronger sense of depth to my drawing.


Step 3 – Adding a touch of colour

Last but not least, I added a touch of colour. You may have recognized my favourite colour scheme at play here: grey and yellow. I thought to paint them with gouache at first, but then I thought better and went for coloured pencils because it would take less time, and all I had was an hour of free time.

I noticed something counter-intuitive: don’t use the pencils you are drawing to colour them! Why? If I were to use the exact pencil I am drawing, the colour would be lighter than that of the pencil body. Unexpected! So I had to use other pencils, darker and more orangey, to achieve the right colour. Maybe it is because I like to take pictures that are overexposed. Maybe it is for some other reason. All I know is that I had to go for a darker colour.


And voilà!

And voilà! With this short project, which took less than 1 hour, I I eased back into work smoothly. I have very high hopes for the coming year. I am sure I am going to learn a lot of things, both in my art practice and elsewhere. Meanwhile, I can keep this framed drawing in my art studio or office to remind me of the incredible feeling of beginning anew.

Enjoy your new year!


I hope you have enjoyed this post. As always, I do not pretend to be a teacher, a seasoned artist or an expert in anything. I am just a very motivated learner who finds a deep joy in regular art practice.

The finished drawing is ready to frame or gift |  Back to School , by The Daily Atelier

The finished drawing is ready to frame or gift | Back to School, by The Daily Atelier



If you liked this post, you may also like drawing hands, drawing of a self-portrait or drawing details inspired by Vermeer. Enjoy!