My Pencil Drawing Art Studio & Art Materials!

Our dream was to have a dedicated space to be creative. When we moved into our little cottage we knew that we could eventually build a studio in our woodland garden. So we did! The studio is fully insulated with heating 24 / 7 so that it's lovely and cosy for us to work, morning, noon and night if we wish. Its hidden between the big old trees that protect and shelter us from the winter weather and are heavenly in the dappled shade in the summer months.

melanies studio

We work in the studio all year round and have a very warm and convenient heating system which you can just seen behind our photography lighting. It also serves as an air conditioner, not that we use it very often as our summers don’t really get that warm. All of the windows open which is fabulous in the summer months. In the winter though we do have to work long hours and Wales is renowned for its rainy days and dark mornings and evenings. So I have installed fairy lights on our beams to give a lovely ambience when working down here when its dark and rainy outside.

melanies studio

The photo below shows my drawing desk and my iMac. My computer is where I make our websites and answer emails and when I'm not doing that I'm drawing and being creative! As you can see Lily my dog is never too far away.

melanies studio

This is Lily has three beds in the studio, this one, a bean bag and her own chair. She also sleeps on our chairs and the sofa. Do you think she is spoilt much?!

melanies studio

A view of the studio from my work station, looking out into the garden and at the comfy sofa. Just perfect for a power nap in the day!

melanies studio

I love my plan chest, it is an old piece of furniture that was once used by architects and then restored and painted by a family run company in the UK, who hand delivered it themselves. This is where i keep all of our papers, canvases and frames. I have plenty of storage cupboard under the worktop and a welsh oak dresser to finish the room off storing old crockery and art materials.

melanies studio

The photo below shows me taking photos of a drawing I had just completed on my plan chest and its the perfect place with the photography lighting equipment above. I use a Fijifilm tx2 and a simple tripod for all of the photography of our artwork. I use my iPhone for video and candid photos.

My Art Materials

Pencil Drawing Materials!

I thought that my clients might be interested in the materials I use to create my portraits. Often clients and visitors arrive at our studio and view my artwork in progress on my drawing desk. They are surprised that I can create a multi toned, realistic drawing, simply using a few graphite pencils. The photo below shows a montage pencil drawing of Mikey along with three of my pencils to show scale. Read on to find out about the pencils and paper I use.

melanies studio

I took a photo of my pencil drawing of Hollie the Tibetan Terrier with some of my pencils. I tend to use three brands of graphite pencils. Staedler Mars Lumograph, Derwent Graphic and Faber Castell. Faber seems to be my favourite at the moment, but it does depend on the kind of drawing I am doing. If the portrait has really dark areas I like to use some of the Mars Lumograph as they can create some lovely deep dark tones, especially for the pupils in the eyes. The pencil brands I use vary quite a bit in tonal grades. The Mars Lumograph is the darkest, then the Derwent and then Faber. I try to mainly use 4b, 6b and 8b in Faber Castell as that gives me a really lovely range of tones.

pencil drawing of a cat with my pencils

The pencils I use are professional grade and it really does make a difference to the quality of the graphite. It is important to be able to sharpen them to a good point and for them to not keep breaking whilst drawing. Derwent, I have found, is the most likely to break when drawing, but perhaps that’s because the graphite is a little softer than the others. Faber Castell pencils rarely snap or break and create a really fine delicate line which works well for my style of drawing.

Photo of my pencils and drawings

The photo below shows a good selection of the tools I use every day in the studio. I like to use pencil extenders for when my pencil wears down...and I do a lot of drawing so this happens quite often! You can see the extenders in the photo below laid in front of my pretty pots! Once a pencil has been sharpened a lot it can be difficult to hold and draw with. So pencil extenders allow me to extend the length of the pencil, kind of like a handle.

I have a variety of pencil extenders. My least favourite is the Derwent ones as they are quite chunky for my hands and are made of a form of carbon which is cold to the touch. They are however Nicholas' favourite! He has much larger hands than me, mine are delicate! So it is very much down to personal choice. The other set I have are by Lyra and although they are nice, they aren’t as comfortable to hold as my 'go to' extender. My favourites are made of wood and are a very smooth and have a rounded lacquered handle which is so comfortable. It's like satin. You can see them in the photo below at the front, they are a lovely rich warm umber brown and they look and feel wonderful. I have had them for so many years I don’t know who made them. They are one of my most prized possessions in my materials collection.

As you can see from the photo I also use Winsor and Newton fixative and propped up in front is my Putty Eraser. I have tried and tested most of the brands of Putty Erasers out there and this is my personal favourite. It is again down to preference and the kind of drawing you do as to which Putty Eraser would work for you. I sometimes use my battery operated Derwent eraser. It doesn’t give as fine eraser as I had hoped but its pretty good for bringing back the white of the paper for whiskers for instance, or the highlight in a dog's eye. I sometimes use a mechanical pencil and you can see two of these to the front left of the photo below. The Faber Castell is a thicker 3b which I don’t use very often for my portraits, but it is lovely to sketch with. I also wouldn’t be without my Helix Hand Wound Pencil Sharpener. I didn’t take a photo but you can get them on Amazon. It's pretty retro and I wouldn't be without it. It sharpens my pencils to a lovely point.

Photograph of my pencil drawing materials

I have a long standing history with the paper I use, since visting Florence Italy as a student in 1993. I was lucky enough to be able to try out many amazing drawing and watercolour papers in Florence which was an artists delight. I bought back with me a selection to experiment with and try.

My favourite papers were the Italian Fabriano range which are beautiful to draw on. I purchase most of my art materials from Jacksons Art and they keep me stocked up with supplies all year round which is very handy. Although, having said that, I wouldn't mind visiting Italy every time I needed to buy art materials!

Melanie cutting paper in the studio

There are quite a few different types of Fabriano paper and my favourite is an off white, mid weight, hot pressed variant which has a deckled edge. You can see a photo of me cutting the paper above and a close up of the wonderful deckled edge below. For larger portraits I use Fabriano Artistico Hot Pressed which comes on a roll. This means I can work to a much larger size, which is useful for large pencil portraits with multiple pets in.

pet portrait paper

The Artistico paper is much thicker in weight at 300gsm so it is less likely to crease. We use a plan chest to keep all of our papers and canvases in and it's perfect for storing all of my papers. The Fabriano paper is fairly expensive to buy so keeping it pristine for commissions is essential.

pet portraits pencils

I hope that you have enjoyed viewing my studio and art materials. You are more than welcome to email me at any time if you have any questions..

Melanie Phillips Drawing