Pencil Project part 2

Throughout the month of October, I've been creating a pencil drawing each day to encourage conversations about drawing and challenge myself to the discipline. 31 days later and I've had ample time to consider what I'll take away from this project, recommendations for others considering daily drawing and what I'd do differently.


The biggest success of this challenge is the benefit to my own practice. I've found an ease and spontaneity in drawing that I've not seen in years and an improvement that filters down into other mediums. This is the effect of daily drawing; as with any skill, purposeful, regular practice is the best route to improvement. Think musical instruments, fitness and sport; daily challenges like this are the couch to 5k for artists and any form of daily practice can have this effect.

Pencil is perhaps more effective than ink for getting back to the basics and practicing foundational drawing. This is the reason I didn't simply take part in Inktober, but I have missed the graphic elements of illustration that I would normally have dedicated my spare time to. I'm glad to have given this time to the humble pencil and focus on subjects that inspired me to draw to begin with, but I'm already lining up my next challenge for more illustrative theme.

I've been overwhelmed by the response to this project and am delighted by all the people who have followed along with my daily posts. One of the things that I'll take away from this challenge and my regular classes is that I'd like to talk and engage more about the importance of traditional drawing and how others can get involved.


Given the chance to do this again, I'd consider doing weekly posts rather than daily ones. This is due to the time taken creating the posts each day, which I'd've liked to put towards different resources; videos, tutorials, reviews and other content. I also felt it took time away from the drawn part of the challenge.


This month has reminded me of why I chose to become an illustrator over a fine artist, despite being greatly inspired by classical paintings. The things I enjoyed drawing the most tell a story or are the kind of images I can imagine in books; my mug of tea in the morning or the autumn leaves and brambles that made me think of old scientific illustrations. Additionally, I'm very much a portrait artist, so I found the dedication to still life objects to be a pleasant challenge for my rusty techniques. Inevitably, this brings me back around to a joy in drawing people and seeing the benefit of the regular practice come out in the life room.


At the start of this challenge, I thought that I'd end up experimenting and pushing the bounds of pencil drawing by moving into quicker, possibly abstract sketches, but I was surprised to find that I was consistently inspired to make longer, detailed studies. This has taken me back to a lot of traditional routes in how I began drawing and what inspires my work; always an underlying observational trend. Another unexpected element was the enjoyment I gained from putting aside an hour or two a day for drawing and spending it listening to a variety of Podcasts, inspiring a great deal of mental 'pondering' on interesting subjects which, too, begin to trickle into my work.

My favourites from this month are:

  • Palaeocast - A palaeontological podcast that explores the fossil record, covering new and amazing research, whilst restoring my childhood glee in the prehistoric.
  • The Countryside hour - weekly interviews with Chris Skinner, describing the wildlife of his farm in Norfolk and his conservation work.
  • Draftsmen - Master artists Stan Prokopenko and Marshall Vandruff talk about all things drawing.
  • The Illustration hour - A long-form interview podcast about the craft and business of illustration and design, hosted by illustrator Julia Dufosse.
  • Creative Catchup - Mel Chadwick, illustrator/designer and Natasha Newton, artist/illustrator's podcast where they chat about running a creative business.

That's it! As always, I hope that you've enjoyed reading this post and following along to the challenge. I'd love to see any work that you've created, please tag me with @valerianstudio! If you've enjoyed this post you can subscribe to my mailing list for monthly updates via the homepage.

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