My mom used to work for an architect’s firm long before AutoCAD was born and when blueprints were still drawn by hand. OK, we are talking about Eastern Europe, so technology spread here a bit slower than over the pond.

I remember looking through her work stuff which had lots of pencils, markers, compasses, rulers in the weirdest shapes imaginable, ink pens, erasers. The ultimate treasure trove for a girl with an artistic vein! When she stopped working for them the treasures slowly made it to my drawers and were mine to use and experiment with.

For my doodling, sketching I always used the pencils I inherited. I never thought of buying graphite pencils since I had so many.  And there were quite a few types, so why bother?

About a month ago, however I was at an arts supply store and saw a set of graphite pencils that intrigued me. First and foremost because it claimed to have 12 different types of graphite pencils, nothing else. My first reaction was, how could there be so many different types? I mean a pencil is a pencil, right?

At the end I ended up buying the set. I could not wait to come home, open it and see how they would perform. I half expected it to be a letdown. Well, instead of a letdown I ended up having an epiphany.

I now realized what all those little numbers at the end of a pencil mean. I now understood the difference between 4H, F and 3B. The charcoal-like darkness with the B-s or the cloud-like softness with the H-s… oh boy! Yes, you can draw with any old pencil. However, now that I didn’t have to rely on my elbow grease to achieve the contrasts, darkness or softness that I wanted, could concentrate on other aspects of the drawing itself.

Funniest thing of all, now that I had this array of loveliness I looked back at my old stash and realized that all those pencils were of actually only 3 different types. No wonder I was struggling to put on paper exactly what I saw in my mind. Don’t worry the little old stubs will always be there, but oh my, shiny loveliness that you are, were have you been all my life?