Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Colored Pencil Smudging Tests with Blenders

Tools I tested with colored pencils for their effectiveness
in smudging.

Yesterday you saw the results of a minor “eureka” moment when I used a tortillon to smudge colored Derwent Drawing Pencils during life drawing. I’ve been using a tortillon (or even just a piece of tissue – Eduardo Bajzek’s suggestion) to smudge graphite, but for some reason, it had never occurred to me to use one with colored pencils. The results were much better than the fingertip I had been using before that.

During the time I was studying colored pencil with Suzanne Brooker, we never used blending tools or materials – not even mineral spirits, turpentine or other materials used by many traditional colored pencil artists. Her methods are to use nothing but colored pencil pigments, and since I don’t favor using unnecessary and possibly toxic chemicals anyway, I was happy not to use them.

I do, however, have several blending tools that I have experimented with occasionally. When I got home from that life-drawing session with the tortillon, I pulled out some other tools intended to be used with colored pencils. Some blending tools, like the Caran d’Ache Full Blender Bright, are not effective for smudging at all – the only thing it did was make the applied pigments appear more cohesive (which is the purpose of it, I assume). Strangely, though, other tools that are also called “blenders” did an excellent job of smudging.

Results of smudge test with four soft colored pencils
Shown here are two “colored pencil blender” tools that I tested against the tortillon. I tested them with some of my softest colored pencils – Uni Pericia, Caran d’Ache Luminance, Derwent Lightfast (all wax- or oil-based) and Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelle (water-soluble).

The Derwent Blender turned out to be even better than the tortillon for smudging and pulling out dry color. Although the Finesse Colored Pencil Blender, which is like a marker containing an alcohol-based material, also pulled out color well, I don’t care for the marker-like look it produces. (And on the water-soluble Museum Aquarelle, it worked just like water does.)

One challenge of the simple fruit still lives I’ve been practicing is to evoke the subtle reflection of the white table’s surface on the lower part of the fruit. If the reflection is too bright, it competes with the highlight, so I try to include some of the color from the rest of the fruit, but not too much.

This challenge gave me an idea for another test: I drew a pear with Pericia pencils and used the Derwent Blender to smudge the color away from the rest of the pear into this reflected area without putting any pigment directly in that reflected area. It took some work to smudge enough color out, but I like the subtle effect. I have no idea if this is the proper use of the tool (and I guess I don’t care), but I’m going to bring it to life drawing to continue experimenting with it.

3/1/19 Pericia colored pencils in Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbook
(reflection of table surface made by smudging color from rest of pear)

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