Derwent introduces Pete Levey from London Art College

My name’s Pete Levey and I’m currently studying an illustration diploma course with the London Art College.

I’m a big fan of working with graphite so, working with Derwent Graphic, I wanted to try each one out to see what marks they made. I have to say that my pencil work has usually been reasonably quick sketches as a means to get on to other mediums. The darker I need the mark to be, the more pressure I apply. I appreciate this isn’t the best approach but drawing has so far been a means to an end.

I took the time to read up on what other artists had created using this set, especially the remarkable work of Alexis Marcou.

Graphic Pencils 24 tin

His work is stunning and so I went through every grade of graphite from the set to try them out – each one producing a slightly different mark, all with the same amount of pressure. It felt like a completely different method of working than I usually apply. So, after a couple of test sketches, I decided to take full advantage of not having to worry about colour but to do this set of graphite justice and concentrate on the range of texture and tone that can be achieved. Paris is my favourite city in the world with inspiration at every turn. Last year, during a family holiday, I dived into the iconic Notre Dame in Paris and discovered the stunning statue of Joan of Arc.

The following is a walk through my process creating a sketch of this beautiful statue. I’d love to have been organised enough to make notes of what grade of graphite I used for each stage of this drawing. I’m not organised. Actually, that’s probably a good thing as I’m sure we all have different ways of working – it’s a process of trial and error with each grade and how it can work best for us.

Joan wip1The first thing I did for this drawing was to sketch out a rough outline. I needed to make sure my scale and perspective looking upwards all worked correctly. The lightest grades (primarily H) worked best for the lightest of marks for this stage.

Working around grades HB, B and 2B I started to add the detail of the figure. With a strong light source coming in from the left The object was thrown into real focus with contrasting areas of light and dark. Perfect for this drawing.


It took a few mistakes and redrawing certain areas to get the detail right. Learning to use the right pencil, rather than increasing the pressure meant that I could easily erase and redraw as needed.

Joan wip5


When I was happy with the composition it was time to start working on the detail. The darker area of the piece was the top end of the wall behind the statue. The lack of light higher on the cathedral wall here meant that this was the area that would dictate the tones for the rest of the picture. So I decided I would simply start at the top and work my way down, pulling the statue into the drawing as I went.



The grades aJoan wip9round 5B, 6B and 7B all did their job on the darkest areas with the lower Bs all helping with the slightly lighter elements of the brickwork.

Another additional benefit of having such a range of grades to work with and not having to gauge into the paper meant that using a putty eraser was so much easier to lift little areas of graphite off the paper.

Being able to alternate between the lightest and darkest grades of graphite as the statue started to build was a genuine joy and really helped with the process.

Such was my enjoyment of this process that this piece was finished in one sitting. I’m sure I didn’t use every single pencil on offer this time but with such a choice I’m sure they’ll all play their part in future drawings. These pencils have made me fall in love with drawing all over again and I know that they’ll get plenty of use. I’m looking forward to not just producing more sketches but learning more about how each grade can be used.

I’m pleased with the outcomes so far and have been hugely inspired by the quality of work that other artists have achieved with this set.

Pete is a member of the London Art College and you can find more about their art courses here

Joan Final