How to… draw like an artist


Before you visit The Studio within ‘European Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York’ — at the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) until 17 October 2021 — we have compiled some tips on how to hold a pencil, and the different drawing techniques you can use.

In The Studio, take inspiration from the surroundings and draw — using our supplied materials — from daily costumed models every afternoon from 1.30pm until 3.30pm recreating scenes from works on view, or still-life displays made with jewels, vessels, fruit and fabric also inspired by the works in the exhibition.

LIST OF WORKS: Discover all the artworks

DELVE DEEPER: More about the artists and exhibition

THE STUDIO: Artworks come to life

WATCH: The Met Curators highlight their favourite works

So, whether you’re a beginner or an advanced artist, join Bill Platz on ways to hold a pencil, and the different drawing techniques you can use.

About pencils

When thespians recite ‘To Be or Not To Be’ from Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, they’re not talking about pencils, but ‘2 B or not 2 B’ is a question we can ask ourselves when choosing a pencil, specifically, do we want to use a H or B — too many choices… which do you choose, a hard or soft option. Watch the video above and we’ll give you a refresher.

Also, one of the problems with sharpening a pencil with a standard sharpener to create a point is that you are just grinding away at your pencil, taking away a huge amount of graphite in the process, the other problem is that the fine point only lasts for a very brief moment before it dulls. Watch our next video on how to sharpen a pencil.

How to sharpen an artist pencil

While it may look old fashioned, going old-school by sharpening your graphite drawing pencils with a knife is the more effective way to get the best use out of it, as basic sharpeners grind away the graphite and you’ll end up constantly replacing pencils without getting the best use out of them. Ensuring that you only cut away the wood on the pencil and not the graphite itself will be the aim.

You can also create a ‘chisel point’ on the pencil by shading it on a piece of sandpaper at an angle — this will allow for two different lines and shading options from the one pencil. The angled chisel creates the point for a finer line while also being able to create tone with the other side — watch the video above for tips.

How to hold an artist pencil

Now that we have our perfectly sharpened pencil ready to use, let’s talk about ways you can hold the pencil. Drawing with a pencil is different from writing with one. We want to hold our pencil with a loose grip from the top rather than in between our fingers, and by holding it this way at a 40-degree angle, we can get better lines and contour — watch the video above for the finer details.

See for yourself! Now you’ve waited long enough, let’s practice your new drawing skills.

Watch the full video for drawing tips

Be inspired by ‘European Masterpieces’

Costumed models recreate scenes from exhibition artworks
Paintings are brought to life by live costumed models in The Studio from 11:00am to 3:30pm daily
Johannes Vermeer, The Netherlands 1632–75 / Allegory of the Catholic Faith c.1670–72 / Oil on canvas / 114.3 x 88.9cm / The Friedsam Collection, Bequest of Michael Friedsam, 1931 / 32.100.18 / Collection: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Jean-Baptiste Greuze, France 1725–1805 / Broken Eggs 1756 / Oil on canvas / 73 x 94cm / Bequest of William K Vanderbilt, 1920 / 20.155.8 / Collection: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Know Brisbane through the QAGOMA Collection / Delve into our Queensland Stories / Read more about Australian Art / Subscribe to QAGOMA YouTube to go behind-the-scenes

Featured image: A costumed model recreates a scene from Johannes Vermeer Allegory of the Catholic Faith c.1670–72