The Magic Pencil

various drawing pencils
If I only had that brand of pencil, then I could draw like so-and-so.

When starting out many artists hunt for the magic pencil. We read books on what the "masters" used. We ask artists more experienced than us what pencil, brush, plein air box, brand of paint they use. I think this is because we're looking for the "right way" to make a picture, either to make it technically sound and "archival" or with the hope that we'll find some formula to make awesome pictures every time. I bet there are a ton of reasons why we do this.

I've been on the hunt for the magic pencil and I've seen others do it. It seems fairly common behavior so maybe it's just part of the process of developing ourselves as artists.

I think that to some extent, the tools matter. I would say they matter if they fit the criteria for an individual's idea of "good" or "useful" (if that tool yields the effect you desire). One type of pencil might yield a darker mark more easily than another. One brand of oil paint will be stiffer than another, or one brand's Naples Yellow is more yellow than that of another brand's. We have to ask questions and try the materials for ourselves to develop our own magic.

I think the tools also matter if you're studying under a particular artist who has found what works for them, and you wish to learn to paint or draw like them. The teaching artist would be most familiar with those tools and so better able to share what they know. If you use what they use you're both speaking a common visual language.

In any case I think it's not just the tools, it's the learned and developed skill behind the tool. We try the tools out and discover for ourselves what we like and what we don't. We ask because we're learning. We're searching for answers that make sense to us. Through gathering information, practice, and trial and error we learn and grow.