Mark Schultz Discusses Paper Type for Carbon and Wolff Pencils

A Flesk customer, Peter Taylor, recently wrote to me with a question for Mark Schultz, which I was happy to pass along to Mark. I found both the question and Mark’s answer intriguing, and something I thought would be of interest to others. With both Peter and Mark’s permission I am sharing their dialog here. A couple of Frederic R. Gruger originals supplied by Schultz helps to compliment the dialog. Gruger is regarded as one of the best at using carbon pencil.

Artwork by Frederic R. Gruger.
Artwork by Frederic R. Gruger.

Taylor: I have a technical question regarding Storms at Sea (Schultz’s latest book in development) and what sort of paper the art is being executed on? I’ve been using the carbon pencils quite a bit and trying it out on different surfaces and it doesn’t seem to like many of them, a lot of grainy powder and uneven finish. Oddly cheap newsprint works quite well (Life drawing was where I first started using them). Anyway I’d love to know since I’d like to continue exploring the possibilities of this interesting medium.

Artwork detail by Frederic R. Gruger.
Artwork detail by Frederic R. Gruger.

Schultz: I, too, have struggled to find the right surface for the Wolff pencils. The master of the that media, Fredrico Gruger, used a cheap photograph mounting stock called “railroad board” that gave him the surface quality he wanted, but that’s apparently no longer available. Wolff pencils seem to do best on a relatively soft drawing or pastel paper–Canson Mi-Tientes for instance–but, as I like to put a watercolor base underneath, paper doesn’t have the strength I need to handle the wet.

I have been using Strathmore bristol, plate, 4 ply; or Strathmore illustration board (use either side). The problems I’ve had with these, though, are the same as yours, I suspect–uneven finish as the already hard surface gets burnished by repeated applications. I’ve found that as I build up and get darker with my pencils that the General carbon sketch pencil, or a simple charcoal pencil, lies better, more evenly. So I’ve been experimenting with these to get a better finish. If I were you I’d just pick up a variety of carbon, charcoal or conte pencils to see if any of these give you the effects you want. For me, the solution seems to lie in mixing a variety of carbon media.

Unfortunately, the quality of the tools and surfaces today are not what they were back in the golden age of illustration. I’m still looking to find that perfect surface.

Thanks again to Mark for the tips!



John Fleskes
Flesk Publications
©2010 respective writers