Monday, March 26, 2012

Drawing Materials - Crayons 2 - Wax Crayon

Crayon is defined in a dictionary as: 
cray·on  n. 1. A stick of colored wax, charcoal, or chalk, used for drawing.

Wax crayon:

In the U.S.A. the wax crayon is commonly known from our childhood drawing experiences in school - mine at least. Crayola is so common that it is the crayon that comes to mind first.  I still remember a holiday gift of a treasured box of 48 Crayola crayons from my childhood.

Ballerina in Caran d'Ache wax crayons

 The brand that I use is Caran d'Ache, Neocolor I.  Neocolor I is the water resistant wax.  Click on the this LINK for their home page. See the PDFs for their brochure and another PDF on colors.  They are made in Switzerland and their performance matches their reputation.  There is also a Neocolor II which is water soluble.  I have not tried it.

And yes, I let my grand-children use them in the studio when they come for a visit.

Figure drawing using Caran d'Ache crayon on Canson Mi-Teintes.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Drawing Materials - Crayons 1 - Chalk & Pastel

Crayon is defined in a dictionary as: 
 cray·on  n. 1. A stick of colored wax, charcoal, or chalk, used for drawing.

Chalk:  The development of the chalk used 30,000 years ago to the present is minimal.  Chalks are calcium carbonate and maybe some color pigment, if used and a binder.  Blackboard chalk is the simplest version.  

My drawing of white pastel on burgundy Canson Mi-Teintes

Pastels: A sophisticated crayon composed of mostly pigment and a minimal binder to keep it in a stick form.  Softer pastels are usually wrapped in paper to help hold them together.  The harder pastel sticks are shown in the lower right

A few pastel samples from Dakota Pastels.  See this chart and the details HERE.

Pastel of my grandson

Pastels also come in a pencil form.  The pastel in the wood pencil casing is a little harder for better detail work and sharpening.  It still crumbles easily if not careful.
My drawing using Conte pastel pencil

Pastels and pastel pencils, especially Conte brand, are very difficult to sharpen to a point in my experience. The pencil is thicker than most in the wood and in the pastel core.  A course sandpaper glued to a flat 1" to 2" stick seemed to work but was very messy.  Pencil sharpeners, mechanical and manual, always snapped off the tip just as progress was being made.

While in the local hardware store, I happened into the kitchen area and saw a Microplane zester.  I could tell that it was going to work.  It was a stainless steel woodworking tool initially with very small razor sharp raised edges.  

This is the Microplane zester in the lemon zester mode. 
What I found is that if you hold the pencil or stick of pastel at a low angle on the tool with the tip pointing into the cutting "teeth", then the wood is removed and a slight bit of the tip is sharpened. A light touch is suggested as the "teeth" grab on and cut. If you go in the other direction the cutting is as if you were using a matte knife or razor blade, over the wood and on to the point.  You know what happens when you get close to results: the point breaks off.

Microplane, pointed Conte pastel pencil. pointed Sanguine Conte crayon, and a pencil extender for bits of Conte crayon.  Notice the sharp points without breakage.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Drawing Materials - Ancient Stuff

Recent studies of 2011, have dated drawings and paintings in caves of southern France as having been made from 30,000 to 33,000 years ago.  Many of the drawing are in charcoal.  Some of the drawings have been rubbed with colored earth pigments.

Charcoal is wood that has not been completely burned in the fire pit.  It could also be made by heating wood to a high temperature in a vessel without oxygen.  This would drive off the moisture and combustible gases.  It is done in a similar manner today.  In addition to charcoal, black was also obtained from black carbonaceous shale.

The colored earths are inorganic compounds found freely on the earth's surface.  Some are  calcium carbonate, lime stone or chalk, for white pigment.  Another easily available earth color is ochre which is hematite, an iron ore, colored in yellowish, reddish, and brownish tones depending upon the chemical variations of the iron oxides.  The reddish shade was commonly called "sanguine" (blood in French) and was used by the masters.  The color name is still in common use today as a Conte Crayon color. 

Leonardo da Vinci - self-portrait in sanguine

Monday, March 12, 2012

Drawing Grips

Normally, when using a brush or pencil or pen, I use the three finger pencil grip, where the tool is parallel to the fingers. The line work is mostly done below the wrist.

Customary Pencil Grip

However, for stick materials, I grip the stick with all of the finger tips where the material is perpendicular to the fingers with easy access to the edges and side of the stick. The line work is mostly done with the arm.

Customary Stick Grip

Friday, March 9, 2012

Drawing Materials: Graphite & Charcoal

Let's look at the more common dry drawing materials.

Graphite and Charcoal:

These are being treated as one category because of their similarities and not because of their differences.  The sticks and pencils of both materials come in various degrees of softness.


Graphite Sticks

Charcoal Willow Sticks

Charcoal Compressed Sticks

Graphite and charcoal are ancient materials and still popular.  They also come in pencils in standard wood casings. Also, we must not forget monolithic (no wood casing) graphite pencils and the more recent water soluble graphite pencils.

Years ago I explored these two materials but they were difficult to master. They were replaced by other drawings materials as I discovered them.

See the next post for more information.