Pencil Dust Finger Painting.

(This post is from Comrade Logan, in Kentucky.)

For several months, whenever I’ve been too lazy to use my wall mounted sharpener, I’ve been sharpening my drawing and list-making pencils into a small glass on the coffee table. I’ve used grades from H to 9B, as well as Ebony, Layout, carpenter’s and water soluble pencils.

Over that time I developed a habit of rapping the glass against the table a time or two to send the graphite dust down through the shavings before leaving my sharpener and eraser on top. It started as a way to keep things clean, but as the layer of graphite grew at the bottom of the glass, I started thinking there had to be something I could do with it.

Eventually I scooped out the wood shavings and ended up with more than a 1/4″ layer of gritty black shards, fine dust and larger lead pieces. While pure graphite powder makes a great dry lubricant for things like sticky door locks, this was anything but pure. It contained all manner of fine wood shavings, paint chips, and who knows what else. I could have tried filtering it somehow, but it still would have enough clay, wax and other additives mixed in that I wouldn’t want to use it as a lubricant.

In the end I decided I would try reusing the mix for its original intended purpose, marking on paper. That translated into an experiment in graphite fingerpainting, the results of which you can see below.


Some tips if you try this yourself:

1 – Use loose leaf paper. I didn’t and it was very difficult to funnel the leftover graphite dust back into the cup without making a mess.

2 – Be sure there aren’t any unwanted indentations in the paper…because they’ll be highlighted by the graphite rub. I’d drawn a stick figure on the previous page of my sketchbook and its head was clearly visible on this page.

3 – Try making a shaded field and using an eraser to subtract an image from it. Tell people you did this on purpose, not that you made a big gray mess with an accidental circle in it and the eraser was the only way to make it look like anything recognizable.

4 – Think about how you’re going to clean your fingers off before you start. This way you won’t end up with black marks all over the bathroom door knob and light switch.

(Text and images, L.L.  Used with kind permission.)

6 Replies to “Pencil Dust Finger Painting.”

  1. I love this! I, too, sharpen my pencils with a hand held sharpener. Much more efficient. I have these sharpeners all over the house, studio and in my purse. But I never thought to save the sharpenings. Bless you. We must reinvent the way we live, one sharpening at a time. I’m off to sharpen all my pencils so I can try this technique. Thanks.

  2. This sounds like something fun and simple to do! My son, who is 5, loves to color and draw. It’s one of our before-bedtime routines. I’m going to have to try this with him. Thanks for the excellent post!

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