Focus: Marta Altés’ Playing with Pencil Shavings

By / Mar 2nd, 2014 / , / No comments
Marta Altes 1

Whether she’s creating a lion, a flower, a flamenco dancer, a surfer, a ballerina, a butterfly and a bull fighter, Marta Altés uses a few simple well-thought out dots and lines paired with some colourful pencil shavings to create utterly charming images. 

Somewhere between Javier Pérez’s kooky Instagram Experiments, and Kyle Bean’s brill’ Pencil Shaving Portraits, is Marta Altés’ Playing with Pencil Shavings project. Light-hearted, fun and brimming with creative juices, this is a neat little set of cute-as-pie images which warm the heart. Using her leftover pencil sharpenings, illustrator Marta Altés added in some cute doodles, transforming the wood shavings into adorable creatures and characters. 

Pencil shavings are one of the unwanted byproducts of creativity. They’re the proof that you’ve been slaving over a new illustration all day. Curly, wonderful and woody, these little nuggets of pencil poop are powerfully nostalgic and stupendously tactile. 

I’ve never been good at sharpening pencils. No matter how careful I am, something nearly always goes wrong. The lead breaks off, the pencil snaps, and for some inexplicable reason the pencil always comes out blunter than when I started out. But Marta has tamed the blood, sweat and pencils shavings from her art, and used them to create something new in this super twee project that goes to show that anything has the potential to be art. 

We spoke to Marta about the brand of pencil she uses and what she gets up to now: 

How did your ‘Playing with Pencil Shavings’ project start?

It all started one day I was meant to be working on the final artwork for my ‘I am an Artist’ book. I was procrastinating… my desk was a mess, and I started playing with the pencil shaving that were in front of me waiting to be thrown away. One became a lion! I took a photo of it with my phone and I sent it to a friend I was chatting with to cheer her up. Since that day, I look at them differently, and I’ve done different designs with them.

Do you start with the pencil shavings or the idea for a piece?

I think both at the same time, because unconsciously you think in the media and resources you have to create something, so I think about ideas that I think will look good with the pencil shavings. Then I try them. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t… But I don’t know until I draw them.

Do you just sharpen the pencils, or do they need sharpening?

I use the ones that need sharpening. I use colour pencils for my artwork anyway, so what I do now, is to keep the pencil shavings in a small box on my desk.

What brand of pencil do you use?

I usually use Caran d’Ache and Faber-Castell.

Some of the shavings look like they’re speckled with paint, do you add these details on yourself?

Nope, I don’t add anything, they are the shavings from the ‘Faber-Castell’ pencils. They are quite old, I think they have a new design now, without the dots.

Can you tell me a bit about your artistic background?

I used to be a graphic designer in Barcelona, and after 5 years working in the same studio, I decided to pursue my dream. I took the MA in Children’s Books Illustration at the Cambridge School of Art, and I graduated 3 years ago, I’ve been working as an illustrator since!

Can you tell me a bit about the rest of your illustration work and projects?

My illustration work is used in magazines, chapter books and picture books mostly. I’ve published 3 books in the UK. The first one called “NO!” was published by Child’s Play, and the other ones (‘My Grandpa’ and ‘I am an Artis'”) have been published by Macmillan Children’s Books, the publisher who I’m working with at the moment. My next book is called ‘My New Home’ and will be out in June! I’m currently working on the final artwork for my next book, but I’m not allowed to say how it’s called or what is it about. I always try to have a positive and funny vision about life and to get a smile from who is looking at my drawings or reading my stories is what I like the most about illustration.

You can see more of Marta‘s work on her

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