Question about technique (i think?)
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  1. #1
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    Question about technique (i think?)

    I just read this post on Nathan Fowkes' blog posted by Hexokinase in the Critique Centre
    link
    and it brought up a problem that I've been having and I'm wondering if I could get some opinions or suggestions.
    So at step four Mr. Fowkes writes:
    Step 4: Work the halftones into the light. Wrap your strokes around the forms to help the illusion of 3-D. No mindless details! Make sure every tone you put down usefully describes the underlying form. I'm using my fingers alot in this particular drawing but technique is not nearly as important as getting the right value in the right place. Pencil strokes, tissues, blending stumps, bristle brushes, finger smudging and anything else you can think of can be useful techniques.
    And then next comes this:
    Final stage: Add highlights and refine the drawing (I'm using a kneaded eraser at this stage). Always compare highlights to each other to judge their relative brightness. For instance, a highlight on a clean shaven chin may look very bright in contrast to the dark shadows surrounding it but don't be fooled. It will almost never be as bright as highlights on the cheek and forehead. The values of light and shadow must always maintain proper relationships to each other. Ignore this and you'll end up with something like the image below.

    Now here is my problem. After blending with stumps I often find it very difficult to remove sufficient amounts of the graphite with my kneaded eraser to achieve the desired brightness for some highlights. It seems that the stumps 'flatten' the 'tooth' of the paper (or illustration board) and the result of that is sort of a 'point of no return' or a layer of graphite that will not come up.
    This is not an insurmountable problem, I mean I've learned to work with it (I think). I'm just wondering if there may be something I'm missing, since the venerable Mr. Fowkes makes no mention of this pitfall in his post. has this happened to anyone else? how did you overcome it?


    P.S. I get the feeling that there are many out there that look down on blending (and the use of stumps in particular), However I would appreciate it if this did not devolve onto a debate on blending versus rendering with the pencil. If you encountered this problem and dealt with it by avoiding blending all together, that's perfectly valid and I'd like to hear about your experience. I'm just trying to avoid a "polarizing, rant filled, bulletin-board brew-ha-ha ", If you get my meaning.
    Thanks.

    Last edited by Chas; December 25th, 2012 at 09:53 AM.
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    I believe Nathan is using charcoal, not graphite. Charcoal is inherently a more "fluid" medium than graphite, allowing for easier blending and erasing. Your issue may also be coming from how hard/vigorously you are using your stump, and the kind of paper you're using.


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    You just discovered why lots of people do not use stumps or fingers...

    Last edited by eezacque@xs4all.nl; December 25th, 2012 at 11:28 AM. Reason: fixed typo
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    You can use "make-up" pads to blend, which Pan-Pastel makes(http://www.dickblick.com/products/pa...-pastels-sets/). They won't damage the paper as much, and I use them primarily for graphite. You can also blend with your finger, which I use primarily for charcoals.

    The struggle with blending charcoal or graphite is knowing the value the charcoal strokes will blend to, but beginners are not used to this, so they blend without thinking about this only to find their formerly appropriate values ruined. If you are to use Pan-Pastel pads on a charcoal stroke, it will turn darker than it was beforehand, and this is because by blending, you have covered more of the untouched teeth of the paper.

    Blending in charcoal is also harder because if you make a mistake and erase too often, then the more you erase a certain spot, the worst the paper quality becomes, and the less harmonic that particular over-erased spot is with the rest of your picture.

    When you use a blending tool, don't take it as a secondary or less important tool to the charcoal or graphite, but rather keep it in mind as a tool as important as the charcoal or graphite you are drawing with, because you are altering the charcoal or graphite with it. This means varying the pressure you blend with; don't go in swashbuckling with your blending tool and hoping for magical renderings.

    Also note, a blended charcoal drawing is less prone to value changes over time due to fall-off of charcoal dust, than a non-blended one. Another thing, blended charcoal drawings won't get as drastically smudged by accident as a non-blended charcoal drawing, which is simply because the blended charcoal drawing is already smudged, which is because you have blended the charcoal more against the fabric of the paper already, so smudging again won't produce prominent changes in value; however, if you smudged a non-blended charcoal drawing by accident, expect some prominent value changes.

    However, from looking through your sketchbook, I can say the ultimate problem here is that you are drawing largely from photographs without the firsthand necessary knowledge of fundamentals. Draw more from life; sign up for ateliers or set up still lifes. Learn the nuances behind rendering of light and form, such as the gradual transition on the curved form, or abrupt transitions of angular forms. As you do these, keep in mind value relativity as mentioned in Fowke's post, e.g., the highlights of a dark haired person might look bright, but they are actually quite dark, and in some cases as dark as parts of shadows. Most importantly draw daily; repetition comes first, then consolidation of knowledge or muscle memory, then it becomes a wired and intuitive process.

    Last edited by Vay; December 26th, 2012 at 05:49 AM.
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