I’ve been doing a lot of drawing with graphite. Mostly this has been done in a 4×6 book I carry everywhere. I have come to a couple conclusions:
1) I think I prefer using graphite IF I approach a sketch as a watercolor, not a line drawing.
2) I don’t have enough patience to use graphite as an end product drawing tool.
Let me explain these one at a time. I started running down this road because Shari Blaukopf showed me what is possible if you allow watercolor and not ink pen lines to define the edges of a drawing. Clearly she is right. She’s Shari Blaukopf after all (grin). Thus, I won’t throw my pens away and I’ll use them to do line drawings, but if I’m going to do color, I’ll switch to pencil so I can take advantage of the power of watercolor/gouache.
Ok…number two. I’ve done a few drawings where I’ve used pencil work to tonally create objects. To do it right, it just takes too darn long for sketching. Throw on top of that the fact that the graphite gets smeared either during sketch creation or while it sits inside your sketchbook. I don’t like it, not at all.
So, what are the alternatives? Well, there’s not much that can be done about the second problem as long as you want to stuff your sketchbooks in a pocket or backpack but it is possible to simply be faster in the sketch creation. This means speeding up the toning process and accepting the compromises it entails. Everyone has their own thresholds for when these compromises are unacceptable.
Here’s one such compromised drawing where I’ve added tones more quickly in a scribble fashion. This produces a sketch more quickly but I’m not happy with the messy results. And yes, I know that with practice I can get better at this but, why bother when watercolor over pencil layout brings so much more to my sketching.
I can always wield the pencil the way I do my fountain pens. In my opinion, however, the results are not as nice as if I’d done them with a fountain pen. Not bad, not good. But if I’m going to do a line drawing, I will pick up a fountain pen.
Re: the smudging issue (which I also hate, though I love using graphite): I tape a sheet of glassine over the sketch in my sketchbook.
Clearly there are solutions. One would be for me to stop drawing with my hand on the paper 🙂 But I view pointy stick work to be observational sketching work. The idea of dealing with separate pieces of paper as a hand rest is very unappealing. I may take a look at using colored pencils or Conte pencils, which don’t smear nearly as much.