Straight from the master's mouth, er, hand. Study
Rembrandt's drawing techniques and you'll find short strokes and quick crosshatching
that the artist used to get to the heart of every visual impression he wanted
|The Three Trees by Rembrandt, 1643, etching with burin
drypoint in black ink on cream laid paper, 8 x 11.
But Rembrandt was not a quick sketcher just for the sake of
speed. According to Rembrandt expert Jakob Rosenberg, the artist combined
"brevity with suggestiveness ... the result of sensitive selection, with an
emphasis upon significant features and an appeal to the spectator's
This can certainly be seen in Rembrandt's use of line. After
sketching an outline, Rembrandt would go quickly into establishing masses with
shading marks. He deftly used a light touch and took advantage of the surface
texture of his drawing to create airy cast shadows and halftones.
|Old Man Seated in an Armchair, Full Length
by Rembrandt, ca. 1631, red and black chalk, 9 x 6¼.
Adapted from an article by Joseph C. Skrapits.
He would also use line to visually connect figure to
environment to atmosphere, joining them all in a narrative sense that is quite
modern. Old Man Seated in an Armchair
shows how the artist's buildup of crosshatched line allowed for subtle layers
of shading and a visual merging of everything depicted-the figure's beard blends
into his chest, the blanket he is wrapped in blends with his legs, his legs
with the chair legs, the chair with the cast shadows behind the figure, and so
When it came to drawing shadows and the darkest darks, the
marks of the artist are quite vigorous. He put down such heavy shading strokes
that the grain of the paper is often undetectable, but the objects never lose
their volume because Rembrandt was so skillful at bringing back in the midtones
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P.S. For more on Rembrandt's speed-driven draftsmanship, check out our exclusive article, Rembrandt's Shorthand Drawing Style by Joseph C. Skrapits.