I didn't care a thing about drawing in black and white (grayscale) but it's what is done. When I started the Drawing I class I still did not know why that is the standard. I wanted to learn to see color and draw and paint in color. In the past in college back in the 1980s we shot in film and in my college class we used black and white as we did our own lab developing and the chemical process for developing B&W is far easier than developing color film. So we were told back then that's why we were shooting B&W photos.
What I have come to learn by doing is that there are two main challenges with learning to draw. (And learning to draw is a skill foundation to learning to paint.)
The first skill to hone is to actually see a thing for the value and shapes that it is instead of seeing the sum total of the thing. I remember doing nature study with my kids in our homeschool and we were looking at a dandelion flower and my son was six years old and he drew a daisy looking thing even though the flower in front of him was nothing near that shape. He was drawing a flower that he saw in his mind and memory, a generic flower shape instead of the shapes of the dandelion flower in front of him. When a person tries to draw a self-portrait they may draw two exact looking eyes when in reality one of their eyes droops and one has a larger eyelid.
The second skill is to see the values. I have blogged already about values and my challenge with learning to see value. I believe that drawing is taught in graysale because color is too complex and color matching or color mixing of paint adds too many variables to the situation. In order to draw something that looks realistic you must see and replicate value correctly and it is simplest to train your mind and eye to convert the colored world in front of you to grayscale then use the simpler drawing materials of one thing such as graphite pencil, charcoal, or an ink pen in one shade. Perhaps you use a sienna colored conte crayon to draw what in reality is a green tree, that's okay, Focus on getting the value right and the brain will see and comprehend the object for what it really is even though it's in a monotone drawing.
Now that I am learning to see value I realize things are not what they seem. The leaves in my garden outside are not green. some are almost black, some have light reflecting off that makes it white, and then there are the many shades of actual green. Some are yellow green, some are gray-green and some are deep green. When trying to learn to draw something in perspective and to draw a correct shape, and to draw with a good composition in the scene, by narrowing down from full color to a grayscale it takes one variable in the equation away so we can focus just on the other foundation of making art basics.
So even if you have no desire to draw in pencil, it's really the easiest way to start so that is why every drawing class startss off with drawing with pencil. I'll blog more about why pencil in my next post because there are some other good reasons.