Staedtler have made a new version of their trusty Lumograph pencils, that are as good as the old ones, but solve an enormous problem. The very thing that makes graphite beautiful – that silvery lustre – loses it’s subtlety when photographed. Great in a gallery, not great online. These days, when one is far more likely to share one’s work via social media, than a social occasion – that’s a problem.
I use graphite a lot, but end up with little to show on Instagram because I am not going to share something that looks nothing like the work in front of me.
In the photo above – comparing four grades of the Black pencils against the same in the original Lumographs – it’s easy to see the dulling in the middle tones of the graphite – the 4b and 6b look pretty much the same. In the real they’re as close to matching as I could make them, in a reasonable amount of time on ordinary cartridge paper. Now, I am certain that special paper and a pro photographer with fancy lights could make it come out looking right, but who has that on hand for capturing a sketch to put on Twitter?
And with just four grades – 2B thru 8B – one can do a passable rendition of a 10 step Munsell scale and photograph that too. I’m impressed.
I can hear someone our there muttering that the same value range with a matte finish can be had with charcoal. True, but it isn’t going to offer up a super long point via an electric sharpener (or helical crank or a KUM long point) and be tough enough to scribble and shade with abandon. I think we’re talking graphite tough with charcoal benefits.