Drawing was my favourite hobby in Primary School. At the time I preferred it to painting. Perhaps it was because of the immediacy of a pencil or pen, or perhaps it was simply because I didn't understand paints and colour at the time. Often I would just sketch ideas with a single HB pencil and that was it! Other times I would go over the outline in India Ink using a quill, then colour in with ordinary Derwent pencils.
I understood intuitively that an accurate sketch was where the skill was. Few people could draw accurately and their talent was recognised. In the days before the camera this skill was valuable and there was much work for illustrators. Today of course, photos do it all, more quickly and more accurately than any artist could manage. So perishes the glory of the drawer!
Drawing is still useful however, though in a less mainstream way than it's heyday. Drawers are still needed to produce pictures from inside the imagination, where they create the basis for movie animations and computer games. They are also needed to produce distorted versions of reality for cartoons and more serious Art.
Not all painters start their work with a pencil sketch, but I do. I like to get the shapes and proportions right before I pick up a brush, so it is important for me to maintain some reasonable skill with the pencil. If I'm working on a painting I prefer to spend my time with the brush rather than the pencil, so I will work from a photo if possible to save time. This is not always the case however: for example, in order to do my Hobyah paintings I needed to do a number of studies and sketches in pencil first, since these creatures don't exist in reality.
Sometimes I like to draw for its own sake and do pencil sketches as a finished work. In particular, I like to use a range of different grade graphite pencils and graphite washes to get that classic monochrome pencil feel. I also like the richness of colour that can be obtained with watercolour pencils and have therefore done a number of works with them. It's really quite amazing how bright some of the colours become once you put water on them! It's still true though that the colour is heavier and richer using paint, yet the pencils give an easy command of fine detail that is difficult or impossible to achieve with paint.