Julie With Satchel (Pencil, charcoal dust, and watercolor on Bristol board, 8x9").
Lately I've been obsessed with trying to get a smooth pencil finish on works without using a finger or tortillon to blend. I don't like overly blended works. I feel like every 6th grade art teacher instructs drawing students to take a paper towel and blend the hell out of everything. That's what I was taught. The problem is the technique creates cool looking artwork while covering up a multitude of drawing inadequacies. As such, students never develop skills beyond this. Over-blending removes all nuance and results in a homogenized surface. We end up with a lot of blended artwork that hovers in this middle-ground of sound without fury.
I want to achieve a smooth and even finish using dexterity and technique, while softening the occasional edge with a quick stroke of my finger. I've been playing around with different combinations of attack, paper, and pencil. One material I was curious about was charcoal dust. I decided to try it out for this drawing. I started out with a pencil drawing and partially rendered face. I then applied the charcoal dust to the background and parts of the body using a brush. I encountered a problem with the paper. I used Bristol board which has a very smooth finish. It works well for pencil, but it had no tooth to trap the dust. It sat on the surface like beach sand on a boardwalk. Any contact or slight breeze, and it disappeared. I'll have to try it again using paper with a tooth.
In a related coincidence, an artist I admire posted a picture today of a beautiful pencil drawing with smooth and soft contours. On top of the drawing sat the utensils used to create it: a pencil, soft eraser, and yes -- a tortillon. Perhaps I can't escape its use and need to treat it like anything else -- all good in moderation.