Monday, November 6, 2023

Ears Big News: It’s Pencilvember Time!

Ear are the 30 pencils I'm using this month!

Immediately on the heels of InkTober, I decided to try Pencilvember – 30 days of pencil drawings in the month of November. Unlike InkTober, Pencilvember doesn’t seem to have a clear genesis (if anyone knows how it was initiated, please let me know), though it seems to have been going on for a while now. I mentioned it in my blog seven years ago, but I was kidding and didn’t even know it was a thing. Maybe it began with a hashtag that simply caught on. In any case, I’m in – and the ears have it!

Several days into nosey InkTober, I kicked myself that I hadn’t thought to focus on ears, which I routinely give short shrift to in portraits. Maybe because ears are not much involved in facial expressions, and therefore don’t affect resemblance, they are easy to ignore. Right on Day 1, though, I realized what I had been missing: Ears are fascinating structures with all those canals and channels that begin and end mysteriously. Why had I ignored them for so long?

11/1/23 Hokusign 4B (all reference
photos by Earthsworld)

With a shiny, metallic blue barrel, the 
Hokusign has a typically excellent Japanese core
and the delightful tagline, "Hardly broken pencil."

I used only five different types of pens during InkTober, but I own so many pencils that I knew I’d have a hard time choosing. Initially, I considered using both graphite and color. Then I realized that I’ve given all of my colored pencils at least cursory sketching attention at one point or another, but I had many, many graphite pencils that I had never even sharpened, let alone used. It was a prime opportunity to give graphite the attention it deserved (like ears, worthy of attention but neglected).

I didn’t want the burden of choosing a pencil each day to be part of the challenge, so instead, I took a ridiculously long time pre-selecting 30 pencils before Nov. 1. Now all I have to do is randomly pull one from the mug. A few are favorites, but most are unfamiliar to me. My only criterion was a tolerably soft grade for drawing – at least HB but usually softer.

11/2/23 Faber-Castell Goldfaber 6B

This Goldfaber is the hardest 6B I have ever encountered! I hate to imagine how hard an HB might be!

Without being an active collector of graphite pencils, I have accumulated a hefty collection (the 30 I’m using are only a tiny part of the lot). How did that happen? Almost all came to me as gifts or in swaps with generous members of the Erasable group on Facebook. I’m having a ball getting to know new pencils as I get to know the human ear.

11/3/23 vintage England-made Eagle Draughting 

I know and love the vintage USA-made Eagle
Draughting pencil, but this England-made version
was new to me. They both have the same Eagle logo, so they must have been made around the same era.
The USA-made is slightly softer.

11/4/23 Field Notes pencil

Field Notes gives me one of these in every order.
It's worth every penny I paid for it -- possibly one of 
the worst pencils I've ever sketched with. I already
knew it would be bad, so I'm happy that I got it over
with early in the month so I won't have to continue 
dreading it.


  1. I always learn something here! I have done my first five pencilvember sketches with the Arrtx drawing pencils because I’m tired at the end of the day and their cute little box sits on my desk. It didn’t occur to me to “spend a ridiculously long time choosing “ a set from my collection that I just pick out of each day! Now I just have to find that ridiculous amount of time in the morning to set myself up! Brilliant! And the tonal quality of your drawings have not suffered from only using one hardness of pencil. Anne

    1. After the hard work of choosing 30, now it's so much fun to put my hand in the mug each day without looking and pulling out one randomly!

  2. A cousin who did a ton of genealogy research once told me that it is often difficult to determine if you are looking at the same person in various old photos. But if you can see an ear, you can compare them to determine if they look the same. Apparently the ear is a tried and true way to recognize or confirm someone a person's identity in genealogy circles as each is quite distinct. I think this a perfect subject for pencil studies.

    1. Oh, I can totally see that! The basic anatomy is the same, of course, but the variation among individuals is amazing! Way more than noses!

    2. I’m a genealogist and portrait painter, too! And I agree, I identify folks in old photos by ear structure compared to known identity frequently! It’s a well known and reliable tool! I have weirdly shaped ears so I’ve long recognized the uniqueness of this feature !

    3. After drawing ears for 8 days, I think I can safely say that everyone has weirdly shaped ears! ;-)

  3. I'm glad to see you have found another challenge for this month. Ears are a good subject and so often neglected in our sketching. I love that you have 30 pencils set aside for this. You go, girl!!

    1. Thank you! I'm having more fun with ears than noses! Who knew! ;-)


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