Price of a pencil project


I'm delighted to announce this one-month drawing challenge, celebrating the humble pencil and focusing on the roots of traditional drawing. When I discovered the #PriceofaPencil Campaign, I was struck by what a great drawing project this could be, both as a personal challenge to improve my practice, and to get others involved. The aim of this project is to encourage conversations and traditional, daily drawing, by dedicating 31 days to a celebration of the humble pencil.

This is a casual, online event open to everyone, with no costs, commitments or competition. Simply join me in creating a pencil drawing each day, during The Big Draw Festival 2021, when I'll be talking about all things drawing.

Throughout the month of October, you can follow along to my progress, tips, and tutorials via my Instagram:, and share your creations using the following hashtags: #PriceofaPencilProject #MakeTheChange #BDF2021 #TheBigDraw. Please don't hesitate to tag me in your work, I'd love to see what you draw!

Alongside this event, I'm also raising funds for the #PriceofaPencil campaign for drawing and encouraging others to contribute as little as ₤1-₤2 to this charity. To donate to my GoFundMe for this project, click here.


How can I take part?

This is an informal event that anyone can take part in, simply by following along with me on Instagram. You can join me in the challenge by creating a pencil drawing each day for 31 days (or simply as a one off). You can also contribute by taking part in the conversation about drawing.

What materials do I need?

Pencils: you can use any pencils that you have to hand, from those you get at the dentist to an artist's set. My go to is usually a H or 2B pencil, for basic outlines, and my trusty Palomino Blackwing, for darker shading.

Paper: I'm using artist's drawing paper (lightweight cartridge paper) but any drawing surface will work, be it a recycled paper bag, a newspaper, or standard printer paper.

Rubber and Sharpener: Sharp pencils make for better variation in your lines and a rubber can be used to adjust your initial drawing (although try to do this sparingly to avoid damaging the paper).

What if I can't draw?

Anyone can learn to draw but it's a bit like going to the gym; the hardest part is actually getting in the car and going regularly. Like any other skill, drawing improves with practice, which is why daily challenges are so popular. If you keep it up for 31 days you should see real progress in that time and establish a habit that you can continue long afterwards. The key is to find subjects that you enjoy and keep at it. Everyone has to start somewhere but there are a few techniques you can try to help you.

Here are my top tips:

1. Practice drawing from life as well as photos, it's important to get a good balance when you're learning. If you learn from from photos alone, you may find you can only draw scenes that have been pre-flattened to 2D images and this will quickly hamper your progress. It also takes some of the 'life' out of a scene.

2. Do underdrawings in light pencil that can be rubbed out easily. Getting things in the right place and proportions on the page before you add detail will mean you never have to rub out a really beautiful drawing that you've spent hours on, having realised it's to small or too far to the left.

3. Drawing should be 70% looking and 30% drawing. Take the time to really look at your subject, draw what you see not what you think you see.

How is this different to Inktober?

Inktober was started by Jake Parker in 2009 and has since become a world-wide, annual challenge, encouraging people to get involved in drawing. The ideology behind the #PriceofaPencilProject is similar but focuses more on traditional drawing, rather than graphic art. I took part in Inktober 2019 and enjoyed the challenge of regular drawing but felt I wanted to stretch further than the bounds of ink and the illustrative results that came of it. My hopes are to explore the routes of my work through traditional drawing, push my own ability during this challenge, and encourage others to have a go. This project does not have official prompts like Inktober but you can follow along with my daily themes if desired.

More information about The Campaign for Drawing:

Founded in 2000, The Big Draw is a visual literacy charity that promotes the universal language of drawing as a tool for learning, expression and invention. The charity leads a diverse programme of advocacy, empowerment and engagement and is the founder and driving force behind the world's biggest celebration of drawing, The Big Draw Festival. They support professional and emerging artists through The John Ruskin Prize and create platforms for each and everyone who wants to draw. For more information about The Big Draw Festival and how you can get involved go to:

That's it! I'm looking forward to dedicating a month to this project. For any questions please don't hesitate to get in touch via email:

Best wishes,


Ms Emma Leyfield currently trading as 'Valerian'. The copyright to all images and graphics used within this website are owned by Valerian, or Valerian has sought the appropriate permissions to use them.

Trademark number: UK00003464494

April Cottage, Kilcott Road, Hillesley, Wotton-Under-Edge, Gloucestershire, United Kingdom, GL12 7RJ