Drawing with Acrylics, Charcoal, Ink, & Conté

17 Aug 2009

Most of the students attending workshops and art classes rely on the instructor’s list of recommended supplies when deciding what drawing and painting materials to use, so their resulting artwork usually looks quite similar. However, when artists gather to draw from a model or paint on location, their selections of materials and finished pictures can be vastly different. I was reminded of that recently when I joined a drawing group and noticed that the members were using at least a dozen different types of tools with which to record the 10- to 25-minute poses. I’m in the habit of taking note of the exact brands of art supplies artists use because I like passing that information along to readers.

The artist to my left had bags full of Marvy Uchida Deco Color Brilliant Opaque Markers (with single tips) and Pigmented Artist Markers (with double tips) that are sold in the crafts sections of art-supply stores. He used them to draw the full figure on 18”-x-24” sheets of colored paper, often starting with bright colors to create the effect of drawing with neon lights. When he added blue and purple shadow colors next to the bright lines, the drawings really did seem like electrified images of the model.

The artist on my right was going for a completely different, subtle look in his drawings of small sections of the model’s overlapping arms and legs. He drew on black Revere printmaking paper with sharply pointed white Cretacolor Fine Art Pastel pencils (www.savoirfaire.com) and blended the values as if he were actually building up the layers of light illuminating the model’s flesh. The resulting drawings were mysterious and captivating because one had to study them to identify exactly what parts of the figure the artist had drawn during each brief segment.

Two of the artists in the group drew in Strathmore Windpower heavyweight paper-bound-in spiral sketchpads with finely tipped Prismacolor Premier archival markers. Each artist used patterns of hatched and crosshatched lines to defined the model’s pose and gestures. The fact that these small drawings were collected inside 8 1/2”-x-10” sketchpads made them seem precious – a completely different quality than one might ascribe to the neon light drawings or the white drawings on black paper.

The majority of the participants in the drawing session worked with General Pencil charcoal, either in pencil or stick form, and they used a kneaded eraser to pull out highlights or clean up edges of their black-and-white drawings. One woman used General’s willow charcoal that is softer and more easily blended with a stump to establish beautiful soft gray tones.

I hadn’t been part of a drawing group in 15 years, so I went back to the materials I found to be comfortable at that time. I used sticks of sanguine colored Conté crayon to establish the gesture and proportions of the model, roughed in the major shadow shapes with the same tool, and rubbed the areas with my fingers. Finally, I added dark accents with a black Conté crayon. It took me quite a while to get back into that process after so many years of neglect, but I’m glad to say my last drawing of the evening was the best. At least I was encouraged enough to attend the next session.

I’d be interested in knowing what drawing materials you use because I’m sure readers of this blog would benefit from knowing about a wide range of creative options. Be sure to explain why you prefer one drawing tool or another, and mention the surface you draw on if that is important to the performance of those tools.

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j.b2 wrote
on 19 Aug 2009 1:05 PM

For drawing I use the Strathmore 400 series paper, kneeded eraser, bullet sharpener and a #4 General pencil with a pencil extender. That way I can get the feel of a long handled brush when drawing.

Very basic stuff that always does the job...

Fahmikhan wrote
on 19 Aug 2009 8:15 PM

I enjoy drawing with 9B (staedler) and I also use the Sakura Micron pens (black). or india ink and a nib with a broken tip...make some great lines!  And another fun drawing is using the powdered graphite, which I just accumulate from sharpening my pencils with a blade.

Julia_Ayres wrote
on 20 Aug 2009 6:16 PM

I'm pretty much an art materials junkie, loving to try new effects with a different paper or crayon.  However, most often I draw with the closest pen and paper to capture an idea without thought to the visual outcome.

The most fun I had drawing from a model was wiping lights out of a dark ink field and printing it to Arches 88 by hand rolling with a PinPress. To have it read as I drew it I would have had to print the print to make a cognate print...or managed another type offset print method. However, in this session the reverse imagery was satisfactory.