I've recently decided to resurrect my old graphite pencils and concentrate on a few delicate portraits from the Victorian era and the 20's and 30's. The original images appear to have an aura and such a beautiful quality about them. Some of the women were actresses and some unknown. I scan through many images before one catches my eye. I need to have a good contrast between light and shade as well as good definition, I am currently experimenting with pale coloured paper including white, which I haven't used for over 20 years! I take my time with the shading and build it up gradually. and it does pay off. I discover that even with a 6B pencil I can't get the black that I need as it gives me a metallic dark grey finish and shade. So out come my trusty black pastels and they do the trick! I really love the added dimension that jet black and brilliant white gives me for adding shadow and highlights. I add the white right at the end as, if it's introduced too soon, it can turn an unwanted grey due to the black chalk dust which can easily be picked up. I also add more subtle highlights by using my eraser over the black pastel. I have only recently discovered that graphite pencil can be smudged to give more uniform shading...that was a bit of a game-changer for me! Obviously the pastels are King when smudging is involved as it can bring a portrait together in an instant, using the correct technique. I am aware that there are many different ways of smudging but I still think that my fingers are my best instrument for that. I would add that it's great to experiment with different subjects and techniques and everything that I create comes with practice and having the confidence to just try. Changing things up can be a gamble sometimes but it's a very positive move to escape that comfort zone!
Clara Bow