Monday, February 18, 2019

More Dull and Rough

2/15/19 Utrecht brand colored pencils in Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook

A few weeks ago I sketched an avocado and a satsuma to get some practice with rough and matte surfaces. (Shiny, smooth surfaces are easier because their gleaming highlights do much of the work of evoking the forms.) Looking for more practice, I found a potato and a sumo orange in our kitchen. The orange’s strange, bumpy texture and equally strange shape were a fun challenge.

The potato turned out to be more difficult than I expected. As I tried to depict its shape, which is less textured than the sumo orange but irregular, I was reminded of the landscape-drawing classes I took from Suzanne Brooker. We frequently worked on the challenges of conveying gently sloping hillsides and bumpy terrain.

Technical note: The potato was challenging in another way: I hadn’t used Derwent Lightfast colored pencils in a while, so I pulled out my smallish collection, which I knew had mostly earthy tones that would work well on the potato. Quite possibly the softest, waxiest pencils I own, they were at first easy and very smooth to apply. With subsequent applications, however, they were so waxy that they started feeling like they were sliding off the previous layers – like walking on ice (doing that in the days following snowpocalypse is still fresh in my memory). Harder pencils don’t have that effect. The more I use very soft colored pencils, which I favored at one time, the more I prefer harder ones like Faber-Castell Polychromos.

2/15/19 Derwent Lightfast colored pencils in Stillman & Birn Zeta sketchbook
Choosing among colored pencils with hard or soft cores is a difficult question, and the choice depends on preferred ways of working. My shift in preference from soft to hard points out a difficulty in choosing materials when one is relatively inexperienced with working in a particular medium. I think this happens frequently with other media, too: You just don’t know what you’re going to like until you’ve used it a while. That’s why it’s so difficult to make recommendations when asked about materials: I think it’s always best to try a variety of options instead of simply duplicating someone else’s choices.

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