A week ago I sat down to draw a Rose. I wanted to try and get some nice smooth blends so looked for the smoothest paper I have. What a mistake that was! I chose Extra Smooth Surface Bristol Board (250 gsm) thinking it would 'be the business'. I wanted to build up my tones gradually so started light with a hard (5H) pencil. All was well until I started to blend, and then I found the tortillons were leaving unpleasant streaks on the paper rather than giving a smooth graduation of tone. I switched to paper-based stumps but they were just as bad. I persevered, building up tones with more graphite, switching to a softer (H) pencil, and blending, blending, blending. The end result was very disappointing ... and I was disappointed in my own efforts because I've never been a workman who blames his tools.
To try and salvage the drawing, I went over it all again with softer (2B; 4B) pencils and eventually, after a very many hours and much toil, achieved a result that was 'passable'. But it was bothering me that I'd had so much trouble so I just had to try again. I was unsure if the problem was the paper, the pencils, the blenders or me, I didn't want to change everything or I'd never answer the question. I've always felt happy with the pencils, the blenders have always worked before, and I didn't want to change 'me' or I'd have missed the experience, so I looked for a different paper. This time I chose Daler Rowney Heavyweight (220gsm).
Apart from the change of paper, I approached the whole thing as I did first time around ... but what a difference. The tones built up gradually, as planned, and the blending was smooth and delicate. I felt in control again and things were happening the way I wanted them to.
I can only conclude that the Extra Smooth Bristol Board just doesn't have enough tooth for this sort of work ... and if I'm wrong please don't tell me 'cause I'm finally feeling happy again. ;-)