Major techniques of drawing

Chalk drawing

Chalk drawing in the visual arts: technique of drawing with chalk, a prepared natural stone or earth substance that is usually available in black (made either from soft black stone or from a composition including lampblack), white (made from various types of limestone), and red, or sanguine (made from red earths such as red ochre). The earliest chalk drawings date from Paleolithic times.

This technique has been favoured primarily as a medium for making quick preliminary sketches, occasionally for roughing in the background of a larger work, and increasingly since the late Renaissance as a medium in its own right for finished drawings. In the 16th and 17th centuries, Peter Paul Rubens and other artists often combined black and white chalk, a technique known as aux deux crayons. As developed by Rococo artists such as Antoine Watteau and François Boucher, the expressive range of chalk drawings grew as broad as that of watercolours or pastels. The devices employed in the 18th century to achieve this subtlety of effect included the use of coloured paper; combining red, black, and white chalk (a technique known as aux trois crayons); and manipulating the medium to create an effect of mass rather than of line. In the 20th century, chalk has been principally used by artists adhering to traditional art styles but also by such avant-garde painters as Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and Willem de Kooning. See also sanguine.

Charcoal drawing

Charcoal drawing: the use of charred sticks of wood to make finished drawings and preliminary studies. The main characteristic of charcoal as a medium is that, unless it is fixed by the application of some form of gum or resin, it is impermanent, easily erased or smudged. This characteristic determined its early use as a means of tracing the outline of a mural - either directly onto the wall or on a cartoon (full-sized drawing for transferring a design to a mural) - and its use as a means of roughing in the outline of a large painting on canvas to be completed in a more permanent medium such as oil. Artists also often produce small charcoal drawings as a means of working out preliminary ideas quickly.

Because of the softness of its drawing edge, charcoal tends to favour broad, vigorous draftsmanship, with an emphasis on mass and movement rather than on linear precision. A large number of such drawings have survived, including important work of Albrecht Dürer, Paulus Potter, and Italian artists of the 16th and 17th centuries. Later, far fewer independent charcoal drawings were executed, though there were some by such 19th- and 20th-century French artists as Édouard Manet, Edgar Degas, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, as well as the Germans Ernst Barlach and Käthe Kollwitz.

Metal point

Descendant of the stylus of classical times and ancestor of the modern pencil, a small, sharpened metal rod used for drawing precise compositions on paper or parchment. The metal could be lead, silver, copper, or gold, but silverpoint was the most common choice because it is the most suited to permanent drawing, its stroke adhering unerasably. The silverpoint was of great value in producing the hard, clearly defined line required, for instance, by miniaturists; modelling, emphases, and light phenomena, however, had to be rendered either by means of repetitions, dense hatching, or blanks or else supplemented by other mediums.

Silverpoint achieved great popularity with such 15th-century Flemish artists as Jan and Hubert van Eyck, Rogier van der Weyden, and Hans Memling, to whose styles it was perfectly attuned. The German artist Albrecht Dürer, too, used it with great effect, notably in the "Self-Portrait" (1484; Albertina, Vienna). The silverpoint lost favour in the 17th century but was revived by 18th-century miniaturists and is still occasionally used by modern artists.

Pen drawing

Pen drawing is an artwork executed wholly or in part with pen and ink, usually on paper. Pen drawing is fundamentally a linear method of making images. In pure pen drawing in which the artist wishes to supplement his outlines with tonal suggestions of three-dimensional form, modeling must necessarily be effected by the close juxtaposition of a series of strokes forming areas of hatching or cross-hatching. Many pen studies, however, are produced with the substitution of tonal washes (layers of colour spread over a broad surface) laid onto the drawing with a brush, in which case the outlines or other important definitions of the figures or landscape are established by the pen lines. See wash drawing.

Inks of various types used in pen studies contribute additional diversity to the final effects. Historically, three types of ink were most frequently used. One was black carbon ink, made from extremely fine particles of the soot of burnt oils or resins in a solution of glue or gum arabic. The finest type of black carbon ink was known as Chinese ink and was the prototype of the modern black India ink. A brown ink popular with the old masters because of its warm, luminous colour qualities was known as bistre. It was prepared by boiling wood soot to obtain a liquid, transparent brown extract. The third important ink was an iron gall, or chemical, ink. Its principal ingredients were iron sulfate, the extract of gall nuts, and a gum arabic solution. It was, in fact, the common writing ink for centuries and was employed for most early drawings. Its colour when first applied to the paper is bluish black, but it rapidly turns blackish and, over the years, a dull brown.

Pens are the oldest and most popular of all the drawing media of the Western artist, in part because of the variety of linear effects provided by the three basic types of pens and their adaptability to the changing styles of draftsmanship over many centuries. These three basic types are quill pens, cut from the wing feathers of fowls and birds; reed pens, formed and trimmed from stems of bamboolike grasses; and metal pens, fabricated from various metals, especially fine steel. The outstanding master of the reed pen, the Dutch artist Rembrandt, used it often in combination with the quill pen and washes to produce the richly suggestive atmospheric illusionism of his works. The reed pen never had the widespread popularity of quill or metal pens, but for special effects it has served artists admirably; for example, the 19th-century Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh in his last years used it in his drawings to produce the blunt, powerful strokes that were counterparts of the heavy brush strokes typical of many of his canvases.

Until the acceptance of the modern steel pen, most Western master draftsmen used quill pens. During the Middle Ages the quill pen was used for the fine delineations of images in manuscripts; its nibs, which can be sharpened to extreme fineness, permit the craftsman to create small linear figures or ornamental decorations on the pages or along the borders of the parchment leaves. This characteristic, combined with the flexibility of the quill point, which responds to pressure for varying the widths of lines or forming accents, made it adaptable to the diverse personal styles of draftsmen from the 15th to the end of the 19th century.

The development of excellent steel pens by the Englishman James Perry in the 1830s and the mass production by stamping pens from steel blanks led to the metal pen's supplanting the quill. Nevertheless, artists only reluctantly adopted the steel pen, and most drawings in pen and ink done before the 20th century were still produced with quills. The steel pen is now used for drawing almost exclusively and is available in many shapes, sizes, and degrees of stiffness or flexibility. It has become standard studio equipment of the illustrator, cartoonist, and designer. Pen drawings by such outstanding painters and sculptors as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Henry Moore demonstrate the virtue of the steel pen in producing the sharp linear definitions generally preferred by modern masters.