‘Smudging your pencil drawings with your fingers is bad practice’, this is what I was taught at school during my art classes. As it turns out this was, in my opinion, very bad teaching. It was only when I got a new teacher who actively made us try all the different techniques involved in creating pencil drawings that I realised how bad the teaching was.
So the title of this post may be slightly misleading as I do smudge my pencil drawings but only when necessary. I love how pencil looks on paper without being smudged so more often than not I do not use this technique as can be seen in this drawing. All too often I find that artists smudge drawings until all tone is a sort of medium grey, this is the reason why my earlier teachers told us never to do it.
What I learnt from David (my new teacher) was that this technique was only one of many different ways of adding expressive detail and effects to your drawing. Some of these different techniques involved using a rubber to create highlights, adding emphasis around detail, how to hold my pencil to create different effects, these ideas changed the way I look at drawings and gave me a huge variety of skills that I could put to practise when I wanted.
This drawing was actually a tattoo design for a client, the reason I decided not to smudge the pencil work was to capture the effect of the dark clouds. I think the texture created by the pencil on the paper creates the perfect atmosphere for the clouds and the couple embracing in the middle. I wrote this article because I am asked a lot if smudging pencil work is bad practice, I tell people that as long as you get the desired effect then nothing is bad practice in art. They ask me why then haven’t I blended my drawing, I say because I do not want that effect.