This drawing was an experiment witha better grade of paper than the basic everyday printer paper I normally use. I had bought a pad of 20 sheets months ago, planning on saving them for “special” or “serious” efforts… but have finally admitted to myself that that will never happen. I now reserve those projects for digital work, and my pencil work is for passing the time or for workshops. This paper ran something like 60 or 70 cents per sheet. It is Strathmore Bristol, 300 series “better”, vellum surface, acid free heavy weight (100 lb), 9×12.
I want to use these for portraiture, and attempt photo realistic pieces. As I had no model readily available, I grabbed the Harry Potter- Prisoner of Azkaban DVD and sketched up the boy wizard. The paper is thick- it does not bend when you hold it horizontally from its edge. It feels smooth, yet upon closer inspection you see there are little indentations. Of course as I type this, I find that the other side of what I used is much smoother. The rough side is what you find when you open the pad, and I never thought to look at the “back”.
The nice thing about the rougher surface is that it grabs the lead better, and it does not fade/smudge as easily as printer paper. The drawback is that it does not erase as well either, since the lead/charcoal/etc hides in those indentations. Being thicker, it also seems easier to dent with too rough a pencil stroke, again giving you trouble if you wish to erase. The rough paper does look much nicer when rendering skin or things that have texture… there is not that flat, never quite black enough look I see in the printer paper. Again, there is a drawback, that when you want pure, smooth, solid black, you do not get that easily at all… texture and grittiness always shows through. In the drawing above, you can see that problem in his sweatshirt and hair. Over all though, I think the face is much more realistic, and that outweighs the rest- not only is the face more important, but you can always argue that the grainy black areas are more consistent with the rest of the drawing, and in that regard not actually a drawback.
Who knows, perhaps all one needs is a darker pencil. I lightly outlined everything with a mechanical pencil (0.05mm HB lead), then used a 2B pencil for base shading (smudged with tissue paper), a second pass for detailed shading (smudged with a tortillon), and a final pass with a 6B pencil (the darkest I have) for the deepest areas. Surfing around the web and looking at professional artists who do photo realistic work, some list what types of paper and pencils they use. Many say HB mechanicals to begin, 2B pencils to base shade, and 9B pencils for dark details. They also mention “eraser pens” which seem to allow for fine, precise erasing, and all talk about the pencil stroke technique as being key… sticking with consistent, light and precise strokes, and layering a blending successive shades (i.e. avoid rough strokes which dent the paper and make shiny/reflective pockets that are glaring to look at and nearly impossible to erase or fix.
Ah well… another experiment for the future… or as they say “back to the drawing board”.