Easy On the Eyes

Q. Can you recommend any ways to eliminate the glare that comes from a graphite pencil drawing?
Dave Schuppert
Nova Scotia, Canada

A. Although some artists integrate this glare, called specular reflection into their drawings, it can certainly be an annoyance to those who don’t want it. If you’ve ever tried to look at Thomas Eakins painting, you have firsthand experience with specular reflection. Eakins liked very glossy varnishes, and unless the paintings are very carefully lit, they’re difficult to see. Luckily, though, I can recommend three ways to moderate glare from your pencil drawings.

First, you can use a matte spray fixative on your drawing—a couple of light coats shoud be enough. The effect of the fixative will be to soften the surface glare by scattering the light. Be sure to follow the application instructions carefully, however, because commerical spray products usually contain harmful solvents. A safer alternative that will have the same effect on the surface appearance of the drawing is to use a matte picture varnish. For this, dilute the varnish with its thinner and then brush it on lightly with a soft brush.

Finally, if you don’t want to use fixatives or varnishes you can frame the drawing and glaze it with nonglare glass. But if you do this I’d recommend that you keep the glass from touching the surface of your drawing to prevent any alteration of the work, and this may require some expensive glazing material. In the end, each of these methods for minimizing glare appeals to different artists, so your choice will probably depend on your personal preference.

Diana De Santis graduated from the Parsons School of Design and also studied at Traphagen (New York City). In 1989, she was awarded a one-year scholarship to the Art Students League where she studied with David Leffel and Harvey Dinnerstein. De Santis’ work has won more than 100 awards, and her work has been exhibited at such venues as the National Arts Club in New York City and the Chelsea Mansion in East Norwich, Connecticut. She1’s listed in Who1’s Who in American Art and is affiliated with a number of art-related organizations, including the International Association of Pastel Societies, the Pastel Society of America and the Catherine Lorillard Wolfe Art Club. She1’s currently based in East Williston, New York.

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