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.

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