The Lowly Pencil by Roger Greengo

Art Projects In Graphite

Sunday, March 07, 2010

The prairie wolf

I was looking at photography on the internet one day and came across this wonderful Coyote picture taken by Sue Weisensel at Antelope Island State Park in Utah.  I really love the picture and wanted to draw it, so I contacted Sue by email to asked her permission.  She kindly agreed and I had a great time drawing it.  My scanner is too small to get the whole picture in, but this gives a good idea of what it’s about.  

You can see Sue’s photography at 

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Annie and Blackie

Pencil art for me is like Yoga or Transcendental Meditation to others, and when I add the chance to do something that means a lot to someone else, my enjoyment obviously multiplies. So, you can understand my joy when my cousins in Oregon commissioned me to draw their two cats Annie and Blackie. Annie had already passed away and I’m sure they miss her as only animal lovers can. She went outside one day and never returned.


Since Annie’s demise, Blackie seems to be a happy camper since he doesn't have to share the attention anymore, or get hollered at for chasing Annie around the house. They both were Feral kitties so they had a lot of back and forth encounters.


For me, Blackie was a wonderful challenge. I experimented with different methods to get the soft light reflection from the totally black fur. I finally ended up indenting the paper with 4 and 6H (hard) pencils prior to using the heavy black. This not only gave me the light reflected areas needed but also made the fur look more realistic. The indenting was done primarily on the cheeks and side toward the rear. For those interested, I used Canson smooth Bristol 100 lb. paper. It does well with indenting and also accepts heavy black applications with little effort. Blackie was a lot of fun to draw and another great learning experience for me.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I finally finished this drawing of the covered bridge and not a minute to spare. They are now disassembling it for a long needed rebuild. Since they started, all of the lush vegetation and trees surrounding it were cut down. I'm happy that I took so many photos prior to the destruction.

10"x10" Groton Street Covered Bridge
In Pepperell, Massachusetts


Jack is a cute little Bichon Frise. His owner is a Dentist who takes him to the office on a daily basis. Jack just eases the pain and has been known to sit on the lap of some patients. One of the Dentists patients thought it would be nice to have Jacks picture hanging on the wall, so commissioned me to draw him. A totally white hairy dog is quite a challenge but it turned out to be a very fun project none the less.
9"x12" Jack


A friend of mine asked me to do a picture of his dog Mowgli. I eagerly accepted, but the photo he gave me looked a bit funny around the mouth area. I asked him for another photo, but he said he liked this one, and it was then I discovered that Mowgli actually had a ball in his mouth which he carries around at all times. However, the ball wasn't visible. I brought the ball forward so you could actually identify it. Mowgli has since died and I received a note saying that his picture will be cherished.

11"x14" Mowgli

This drawing of SHANE was a Christmas gift for the owner who lives next door. The owners Mother brought the dog over one day for a photo session in the front yard. We liked this profile the best and I’m very happy to report that Shane now hangs in a most honored place in their living-room. This picture is too large for my scanner and is a bit clipped.

11"x14" Shane


Last summer my Daughter and her family came to visit us from Swansea, South Wales. That was about the most fun a person can have in a short ten days. We took many photos so I couldn’t help but go to the drawing board after they left. When drawing pictures like these, you become very familiar with every small feature. No one will ever know how much I enjoyed drawing these pictures of my Grandchildren, who I very seldom get to see. The oldest is Megan who was 13 at the time, Bethan was 11, and Ellen was 8.

11"x14" Megan

11"x14" Bethan

11"x`4" Ellen

I enjoyed drawing the girls so much that I just continued to draw my other two Grandchildren, who live on the south coast of England at Bournemouth. I used the most recent photos I had received from my son and Daughter-in-law. The first is Scott, who was five at the time and his little sister Darcy, just under a year. What a joy!

11“x14” Scott

11"x`4" Darcy


I recently purchased a new kind of paper, Foray Bristol - 110 lb - Smooth Acid Free, which I’d never heard of before. To test it, I was going to draw one small animal and let it go at that. However, one thing led to another and another and . . . well you see what happened. The ground squirrel was to be the test, but as you can see, I got a bit carried away. For lack of a better name, and to justify it’s very weird existence, I call it “Without Perspective.” The nice rich blacks have been lost through the scanning and reproduction process. I’m still on the fence as to whether or not I even like this picture, although I’m quite happy with the paper. It lends itself very well to indenting and does accept very dark heavy work. However, forget repairs and erasing. Once the graphite is laid down it’s pretty much a done deal. Another plus for this picture is the attraction to children. While this was hanging in one show I witnessed children trying to count all the different animals and birds. Was nice to watch them enjoy a drawing.

11“x14” Without Perspective


Once again, with The Pond, I was testing a new brand of paper. Well, new to me anyway. It’s done on Canson Bristol 100 lb Smooth Acid Free paper. The picture is 10“x10” and I had a great time drawing it. This paper is very receptive to indenting with a harder pencil, in this case 4H and 6H, for the hair on the Coon. I also like the water reflections. I’ll certainly be using this paper again very soon.

10"x10" The Pond


I’m drawing larger pictures these days, so pictures like this squirrel are chopped because my scanner just can’t get it all. I suppose I could do magical things if I were to use Photo Shop. Well, for the purposes of this blog, the smaller pictures will suffice. This squirrel is using the lilacs as a pathway to my bird feeders. This drawing, by the way, received a blue ribbon at the Beaver Brook art show in New Hampshire, for Best In Theme - “Local Wildlife.” I liked that so much that I took it to another art show in Jaffrey, NH, and received second place through peoples choice. Wonders never cease.
(Note: For anyone interested, the hair on the squirrel was indented with 2H and 4H pencil creating more realism)

11"x14" Winter Foraging


At Christmas this year, the daughter of an old friend of mine commissioned a portrait of her mother with her grandson. I really enjoyed working on this. One of these days I’ll get a scanner that will do justice to the delicate shading on faces. This seems to be a problem with all of my portrait art.

Friday, July 21, 2006

What's in a name?

Funny thing - I keep looking at the title of my blog, and wondering if I couldn't come up with something more positive. "The Lowly Pencil" might not have what it takes to entice a person to stop by and have a little read, and a look-around. I've tried The Art of The Pencil, ART and the Pencil, Pencil art and me, but all seem undernourished somehow. Well, until someone comes up with a better name, I'll have to stick with it. In the meantime . . . . .

One of my "Lowly Pencil" favorites is "Seeds or Berries" with a Blue Jay in a tree. Again, the Jay, sunflower seed in beak, was captured, on my digital camera, on one of my backyard feeders, and I found the tree (type unknown) along the "Rail Trail" in Pepperell. (
This piece has hung in several shows, including a Juried show At Sharon Arts Center in Peterborough, NH.
Nice place that!

"Finch Feeder", with all perches filled with cute little American Gold Finches, is also a product of my back yard. I keep the feeders full at all times, and take lots of photos during the winter months. The photos are well worth the small amount of cash for all the seeds I go through, and I've gotten some really special material. I never complain about the squirrels getting their share either.

I must have fifty photos of a little Chipmunk who totally cleaned out one feeder all by himself. I followed his path to my cellar, but to this day I haven't come across all those Sunflower seeds he stashed away. I eventually used a live trap on the little guy/gal, only to discover there was more than one. So, this will have to be another pencil project in the near future.

"After The Rain" was a special project because I wanted to see how I would do drawing a complex arrangement, and see what kind of depth I could achieve. The small rodent peeking through the leaves was an afterthought, but it's what most folks remark about. Does the rodent make the picture, or would it have been better on it's own? At any rate, it was fun trying to figure out exactly where to put the little guy.

I've taken many photos in the woods, weeds, and wherever I thought I could get good reference material for my Pencil drawings. I have found, however, that it could be hazardous to your health. I believe it was in pursuit of butterflies when I picked up a tiny little wood tick, who happily (or otherwise) gave me Lyme disease. How do they know where to install themselves where you can't see them? I'm very careful these days, and do a good exam after my field trips. My best guess is that the tick found me while I was in persuit of this lovely little Tiger Swallowtail, which I drew with "The Lowly Pastel Pencil." One of my daughters is crazy about Butterflies, so I couldn't resist doing this one for her for Christmas.

Well, with that bit of color, I'll bid ado until next I post for the Lowly Pencil. I'm beginning to like that title.

Oh yes, I forgot to mention my chorus again. Go here and check it out. It's way more than just a hobby!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Portraits and Whatnot

Well, this seems to be developing into a picture journal rather than a full fledged blog. I haven’t been keeping up with my entries, so this one will be a bit long. I guess I dropped the ball after making my initial entry, but things seem so busy around here these days.

Not long ago my friend asked me to do a commissioned portrait of his wife as a surprise birthday gift. I’m very happy they agreed to let me post this drawing here.

I later entered this piece in an art show in Jaffrey, New Hampshire, and couldn't miss the opportunity to have my picture taken with the live subject.

The picture above the portrait is a treed Bobcat. For some reason I did take a (not so good) picture of it when it was half finished, and have since shown it several times as a work in progress (WIP). It would have had much more impact if I had thought to scan it into my computer rather than take a photo of it. Oh well, live and learn.

Lately I've been doing a few pet commissions. I really love doing these for folks. Having Photographs of your pets, after their demise, is a wonderful thing, but I think an actual portrait, to hang on the wall, is a much better way to remember them. I have yet to do my cat, (below) but it's in the works, for I can't imagine not having something to remember her by. She's already thirteen, so I don't suppose she'll be with us much longer. How sad! Just look at that little face. We promise ourselves there will be no more animals after she's gone. Yeah, right!

I was asked to do a portrait of "Sebastien", a surprise Christmas present for my friends husband. I guess, from what I've heard, they are (hypothetically) joined at the hip. Man and dog that is. I was offered several different ideas as to what pose would work best. I was in favor of a "looking off to the heavens" type of picture, but the owners wife preferred something more personal. It seems the dog always has to have either the owner or a small token of the owner around him at all times, in this case a sneaker. So . . . . But wait. I was so sure I was right that I drew both pictures for her to choose from. I was nearly sure this would be her choice.

I was wrong! The customer chose the one with the sneaker (below). I guess it's the fact that it's much more personal a memory, and gives a better idea of just how the dog feels about it's owner. "I miss you when your gone." I've had some very happy emails from these folks. I love it! Well, they are friends you see, and friends always send "happy" email.

"Baxter" was a difficult commission since all I had to work with was one small, wallet size photo of him sitting on a deck. No close-up that's for sure. I was very happy with the outcome as was the recipient who wrote me a wonderful letter of appreciation. That kind of thing really makes my day!

And then there was "Tati." What a cute little dog she is. This one was a Christmas gift to my Son and Daughter-In-Law. I really enjoyed doing this one, and it seems easier when you actually know the dog your drawing.

Speaking of gifts. Here's a couple portraits of a few of my Grandchildren, given as Birthday gifts. I should get busy, because I have ten Grandchildren and three Great. These three seem to have a hard time staying out of the pool. I struggled with the fact that I'd have to draw water, which looked a bit frightening, but it came off all right, and was a great learning experience. The power of the lowly pencil cannot be underestimated. :-)

I also create drawings to enter into local art shows and contests. I managed first place and a little pocket money for "Who's Feeder" (below) with the Jays waiting patiently for their meal. I photographed all the main characters at my feeders, in the back yard, then found, and photographed the fence in another part of town. I learned a great lesson with this picture, and I'll never put the edge of one subject (the bird feeder) along the edge of another subject (the fence). This picture is 14"X17".

So, I'll just leave it here for now, and consider my next entry. I just got back from an International Barbershop Chorus/Quartet contest in Indianapolis, and am considering a paragraph or two on that subject next time I sit with this. Till then . . . . . . .

For Information about portraits and a price list, contact:

Thursday, June 15, 2006

In the beginning

It all started with frogs. Well, the actual magic started with frogs. I had been doodling, and making mediocrity called graphite art, or mixed media, but when I put forth the extra effort, and detail, I was amazed at the realism that can happen in a simple pencil drawing. I was immediately hooked on the pencil. I must say up front, that the above picture is as sexy as it gets, as far as my art is concerned, and I'm only displaying this in order to relate the beginning of it all. Obviously, I've named it "Sex On A Stick". From this point (I believe) the art does get better, and my purpose is served. What purpose? Creating wonderful pictures with the lowly lead pencil. I have tried Water colors, Charcoal, Pastels, Colored Pencils, and Acrylic, but I always go back to the lead pencil. To be honest, there's a bit more to a pencil than just the lead. The term lead is misleading. What we call a lead pencil is actually a nontoxic mineral called graphite, a form of carbon. Enough with the technical stuff.

Over sixteen years of playing around with the pencil I've learned a few things. I love drawing portraits of people and pets. Buildings and landscapes are fun as well, though I don't do much of that. It's very difficult to draw an actual tree (with leaves) so most of my drawing seem to be in the fall or winter. Hmmm! I am working on it though as you can see from my picture of the covered bridge. I live just down the street from one of the rare covered bridges (in New England) still maintained these days, so it's been on my mind to do a series of pictures. Here is the first of many, hopefully. This is a work in progress (WIP). It's good to show progress now and then, and I should have scanned it several times before I got this far.