Following my continuing side-quest on the subject of pencils, I recently returned to the topic of maintaining a firm grip. Specifically how some very basic and mundane aspects of using this humble instrument, and how subtle factors can affect a beginning drawer, pedestrian matters like how you actually hold the implement. This baseline physical requirement for sketching, even more essential than hand-to-eye coordination, can be predicated on a lifetime of bad habits and can potentially undermine their efforts in the studio.
This is an example, along with posture, lighting and taking frequent breaks/pacing work sessions out, I think many instructors often fail to address what can be complete mysteries to a student. In my case, it is very humbling to realize what are long-held assumptions and instinctual habits on my part might be news to someone else just starting out (the flip side of this is at least knowing that you're still capable of learning, growing and changing).
Case in point, acute awareness of the angle of the pencil in relation to the surface of the paper, and also how different strokes will cumulatively effect not only the marks being made but how they will in turn change the pencil itself. Like so many other aspects of art, this peripheral awareness becomes ingrained, unconscious and reflexive with experience.
Gathering everybody around a demo piece on the main table in the classroom and showing how shifting grips and angles create different results is yet another detail to address along with the bewilderingly complicated range of all sorts of kinds of graphite implements to experiment with. This coincidentally goes along with the accrued meta-lessons in how observational skills require us as artists to stop and really look, and think about not only aspects that nobody else pauses to consider or reflect upon. It's not only in the eye of the beholder, its in the holder.