10 beautiful pencil drawings to inspire you

Our pick of stunning sketches that’ll make you want to dig out your pencil case and get drawing.

Whether or not you know your ‘H’ from your ‘B’ from your ‘F’ when it comes to the best pencils, sketching in graphite is a great way to kick off or restart your creative drive. Here we’ve sourced a selection of inspiring pencil drawings that demonstrate the wonderful (and sometimes wacky), art you can produce with a humble pencil.  

01. Venetian Morning Light 

Ian Murphy draws inspiration from travelling [click the icon to enlarge the image]

In this wonderfully atmospheric drawing, artist Ian Murphy uses graphite pencil to explore how light disperses around Venice’s confined waterways. Murphy works mostly in pencil and oil paint, and focuses particularly on architecture, emphasising the layers and textures of the buildings he recreates. To see more of his sketches and his paintings, visit his website.  

02. Estudios internos (Internal studies) 

This is one of many surreal sketches by Osorno [click the icon to enlarge the image]

Many of Colombian artist Juan Osorno’s surreal pencil studies depict voided human faces with unusual objects, landscapes or natural phenomena in the place of facial features. You can view the full collection of these abstract sketches on Osorno’s Behance page. 

03. Standing Man & Stretch  

Mike Lee also draws still lifes [click the icon to enlarge the image]

We just couldn’t pick a favourite from Mike Lee’s superb pencil drawing collection Repose, so we chose two. Lee uses only simple lines and shapes, reducing his subjects to their most basic forms. He has an extensive portfolio of pencil artwork, and you can discover more here

04. Untitled 

This sketch is a great example of wonderfully weird pencil art [click the icon to enlarge the image]

Is it a bird? Is it an eye? Or could it even be a pencil? This weirdly wonderful sketch was created by Danish illustrator Fotini Tikkou, whose Instagram is full of bright and bold illustrations, favouring coloured pencils and gouache. We love the contrast between the foreground image, drawn in solid lines, and the wavy lines of the now-empty cage. 

05. Untitled  

Els Dufourmont is a talented painter, too [click the icon to enlarge the image]

Less weird but no less wonderful, our next choice is Belgian artist Els Dufourmount’s untitled sketch of a girl. Combining a close-up focus and bold shading, Dufourmount uses light and dark to add life to the girl’s face. 

06. Festival  

Ye Xien was first published in the 9th century [click the icon to enlarge the image]

Bristol/Falmouth-based artist Bethany Lorna’s sketch is inspired by the story of Ye Xien, one of the oldest known variants of the Cinderella fairytale. This illustration – one of two influenced by the story – depicts Ye Xien at a New Year Festival. You can see the second Ye Xien illustration, and Lorna’s other work, here

07. Hands 

Self Deception is a series of quirky self-portraits [click the icon to enlarge the image]

Gillian Lambert’s Self Deception series is stunning, and we struggled to chose just one illustration to feature. In the end we went for ‘Hands’ because we love the simultaneous indifference and exasperation of the subject’s face as it is moulded by their own hands.To see the full series, and Lambert’s other work, visit her website.  

08. Untitled  

This was composed with watercolour pencil [click the icon to enlarge the image]

This sketch of a commuter on a train uses watercolour pencil, which we think conveys the artist/commuter relationship brilliantly. It provides enough detail to give the subject an individual face, but detail is deliberately missing. Artist Josu Maroto works in a variety of mediums, and you can explore more of his work here

09. Self portrait with a cup of tea 

The blue/orange contrast really makes this image stand out [click the icon to enlarge the image]

21-year-old French illustrator Cécile Metzger’s quirky self-portrait is fascinating for its use of colour. The hint of red pattern on the cup immediately attracts the eye, and together with the contrasting blue cup and orange top – opposite colours on the colour wheel – keeps focus away from the girl herself. To see more, check out Metzger's Tumblr.  

10. The Least Likely Thing  

We love the blurred effect of softer graphite [click the icon to enlarge the image]

Composed using soft and therefore much darker graphite, this sketch by Charley Mackesy shows how effective blurring can be through two indistinct figures. Mackesy is a master of painting and sculpture, as well as drawing, and you can browse his portfolio here.  

Feeling inspired? Check out our expert pencil drawing techniques and get ready to have a go yourself!

Once you’ve mastered the basics, read our guide on how to develop your pencil art further by giving your drawings rhythm and shape.

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