Monday, February 12, 2018

Smooth or Toothy

2/6/18 Polychromos pencils in Stillman & Birn Epsilon sketchbook
(in progress)

Experimenting with using both hard and soft colored pencils strategically in the same sketch continues to intrigue me. This time I tried a Stillman & Birn Epsilon sketchbook, which is much smoother than Alpha and can therefore be easier to use with a softer pencil.

Like last time, I started my sketch with harder Polychromos pencils. Although with less tooth to cover, I still worked for about an hour to put on several layers. I could have kept going with the Polychromos to finish
2/7/18 sketch finished with Pablo pencils
the sketch, but since I was experimenting with the hard/soft combo, I finished with the softer Pablos. Within about 20 minutes, I had easily laid on enough pigment to finish (at left). As on the toothier Alpha paper, I could move relatively quickly because the Polychromos had done the harder work of covering the paper’s surface.

As a final experiment, I used the soft Pablos alone to make another sketch on Epsilon paper (below). This time it took about an hour and 10 minutes total – actually a little less time than the Polychromos/Pablo combo, which surprised me. I thought the softer pencils would take longer, but used with smoother paper, the Pablos slammed right through (relatively speaking, of course). I should also consider that I might have worked faster simply because I’d practiced blending the hues of this particular combination of heirloom tomato, apple and banana multiple times by now. (The science of art is still mostly art.)

2/7/18 Pablo pencils in Epsilon sketchbook
What do my experiments teach me? 

1. On toothy paper, it’s more efficient to start with a hard pencil and finish with a softer one. 

2. On smooth paper, using a soft pencil all the way through might be more efficient.

But of course, efficiency isn’t the only factor to consider. There’s also the esthetics of the results and the esthetics of the working process. Sometimes I want the tooth of the paper showing through a bit, even when it requires more time and work. And often I simply enjoy the feel of pencil on toothy paper, even when using a smoother paper might look better or go faster. It’s a bit of a dilemma – results vs. process.

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