Pencil or lapis drawing

The word derives from the Latin lapis haematitas, "stone of hematite", seeing as before the discovery of graphite, little sticks of carbon or hematite, an iron oxide of a reddish or grey-black colour, were used for drawing.

The common pencil, the so called lapis, is made up of a stick of wood inside which a central element of graphite is inserted, the mina or pencil lead. One of the ends is sharpened with a sharpener so that removing the wooden covering and enabling the graphite to emerge a mark can be made.

With a perfect point a correct drawing may be produced.

The pencil may have its lead made up prevalently from graphite, for this reason the marking will be dark grey, or with a coloured lead, the pastel.

A particular type of pencil is the propelling pencil, made up of a structure in plastic or in light metal, with a button at the end, which when pressed cases the lead held within to emerge. In this case, the lead should only be sharpened with a scraper or a lead sharpener.

The pencil which is used to write almost exclusively on paper, leaves a relatively light marking, which can be removed with the rubber, and so is especially well adapted for drawing, both artistic and technical, both as a quick means and a delible form.

A soft rubber is perfect for extended surfaces, those in pencil form to make precise corrections.

For a particularly soft drawing a malleable putty rubber can be used. The putty rubber can help to lighten the blending, using it as a dabber and pressing it delicately on the area identified. The putty rubber can be used, besides, to obtain particular effects on drawings that are already finished.

Using a hard pencil to draw a soft grey effect is obtained, with a soft pencil a black soft marking is obtained. The various tones of marking are produced varying the pressure of the hand on the pencil. The intensity of the marking varies according to the type of paper used for drawing, the marking will be clear on smooth paper, cracked on rough paper.

For pencil/graphite drawing and rubber paper able to support the pressure of the pencil and rubber is required. According to the style of use, the “weight of the hand” and the refining different thicknesses of paper may be chosen; that is of different weights, and with smooth or rough surfaces. The smooth surface is better indicated for harder pencils, from pencil “F” and beyond it is preferable to use heavier paper.

All pencils are classified with a European system in which the letter and the number identify the hardness and therefore the marking they will leave.

The scale foresees three letters H (from Hard), F and B (from Black). The letter identifies the type of pencil, hard or soft, while the grade of hardness or softness is indicated by the number next to the letter. The F identifies a pencil with a fine point, of medium hardness. B identifies the colour, the higher the number next to the letter B, the closer the pencil will be to leaving a wide marking tending to black.

The Anglo-Saxon system uses a scale made up only of numbers. The United States use a numerical scale, based approximately on the British one.

The pencil is held between the thumb, the index and the middle fingers, without exercising too much pressure on the index finger and trying to not press excessively with the fingers when holding. Holding the pencil correctly, better control will be exercised.

Amongst the most common techniques to give life to a pencil drawing there are:

  • shading, which is obtained drawing parallel lines with white breaks. To obtain the intensity of different colours, it is sufficient to vary the thickness, the strength and the density of the lines. If a round object is drawn, it is preferable to curve the shading slightly. If very clear borders are required a masking line can be used.
  • Cross shading consists in drawing two or three parallel layers that cross each other. Different effects are obtained by simply varying the density of the lines and the pressure of the pencil.
  • One directional shading, used for drawing hair, fur or grass, when the element to be reproduced is made up of small filaments that move in a certain direction.

With the technique of puntinismo (pointillism) placing on the paper, one near to the other, many points of colour variable in size and intensity, vibrant mixtures are created.
Brunitura consists in applying a veiling of very clear white or grey to the colours already lain out. This effect tends to liquefy the colours and lighten them and it is particularly adapted for creating an effect of precise light. Repeated bruniture may give a marbled effect. At the end of the drawing it is necessary to protect the base with a fixative spray.
Frottage is obtained placing the paper on an irregular surface and passing a pencil over it.
To blend the pencil, some artists use the finger directly, alternatively a blender can be used, a paper towel, a piece of cotton wool. In any case, you must always be careful not to dirty the paper.

Drawing with coloured pencils

Coloured pencils consist of a coloured pencil lead, made up of finely ground pigment and mixed with chemical substances, closed in a wooden holder. Coloured pencils are very useful for shading and for complementary re-touching.

The pencil is held between the thumb, the index finger and the middle finger, without placing too much pressure on the index finger and trying not to bend the fingers excessively to hold it. Holding the pencil correctly greater control is exercised.

The picture is started with a very light stroke and, once all the parts have been defined, you can proceed to the completion of each single detail.

At the bottom of the paper used you may obtain different effects. For a detailed and precise drawing it is preferable to use smooth paper, if on the contrary granulose effect is desired rough paper is better.

A vast range of colours may be obtained from one pencil, simply varying the density of shade. A better colour can be obtained with less pressure and re-passing several times over the same area, rather than applying more pressure with the hand.

Amongst the most common techniques to give life to a picture performed in pencil are:

  • Shading, which is obtained drawing parallel lines with white breaks. To obtain intensity of different colours, it is sufficient to vary the width, the force and the density of the lines. If a round object is drawn, it is preferable to lightly curve the shading. If a clearer shading is required a masking line may be used.

  • Cross shading consists in drawing two or three parallel layers that cross each other. Different effects are obtained simply by varying the density of the lines and the pressure of the pencil.

  • One directional shading, used for drawing hair, fur or grass, when the element to be reproduced is made up of small filaments that move in a certain direction.

If each section of the drawing shows the shading that follow a direction which is slightly different, the drawing in its whole might seem strange.

Circular shading, which is usually used to draw the structure of the skin, is a technique which consists of a myriad of overlaying small circles.

The mixing of colours with colour pencils is effected on the paper; increasing the pressure of the marking more lively and enlightened colours are obtained, decreasing the pressure, on the contrary, weaker colours are obtained.

To render the mixing of the two colours gradual the two colours can be shaded one on top of the other. Varying the pressure on one or on both will alter the resulting colour.

Marking different colours in the same direction, varying the length, the number of lines and increasing the distance between them and the pressure of the pencil discreet results may be obtained.

The colours can be mixed also crossing the markings and putting one colour on the other, or putting one close to the other of the points or the markings.

The white pencil, together with other colours creates a soft effect, adapted for blending.

Using a water-colourable pencil, the colours can be liquefied wetting them with a damp brush.

Coloured pencils may be combined with other pictorial techniques, for example they can be used over coloured tempera drawings to create particular effects.

As opposed to graphite pencils, coloured pencils cannot be easily cancelled.



Ink and India ink drawings

Ink drawing is characterised by clear and lively lines, which vary in relation to the type of pen or nib, brush and ink, in an interesting fusion of drawing and painting.

Ink drawing requires that you proceed with a certain security, without re-thinking, with clear and precise strokes, because it is not possible to erase. The inks are shiny and they dry rapidly. You can work on smooth or rough paper, using pens of different types, nibs or airbrushes.

With the pen you can trace lines of different thicknesses and varied styles, both freehand and with the help of a ruler.

Due to the fact that an ink drawing is substantially made up of lines, there are techniques that allow you to create both variations in tone and the depth of the shadows, that is the outline, stippling, the scribbled line or graduated thick or thin parallel lines, creating real and true textures.

The drawings can be water coloured, using the ink with a water colour technique.

India ink is black and has a covering property, that of a fountain pen, more fluid and transparent. In the fountain pen, the continual flow of ink in the sac, allows you to work without interruptions, but the choice of nibs is limited and you must use water soluble ink.

Other pens with a sac, created for drawing, are the graphos, which use special inks, in a great variety of colours, they have nibs in different forms, each one has a different thickness that draw wide, thick, thin or very thin lines; The Rapidograph, has an interchangeable nib, it is used with India ink and produces a clear and uniform stroke.

In ink drawing the ballpoint pen is also used, particularly suitable for sketches and loose drawings as far as it is very flowing, it is to be used preferably on smooth paper.

India inks have a particular covering property, are water resistant and on drying form a shiny surface on top of which it is possible to paint again. The drawings can be in black and white or in colour.

A cartridge pen is the most common, usable with a great variety of nibs, with a fine or thick point.

The nibs can use any ink in the quantity necessary to obtain heavy or light strokes and have the benefit of not getting stuck, at least not if the paper is not too soft or hairy.

Ink drawing is typical in the oriental artistic tradition. In China and in Japan, it has been popular since 2000 B.C. In Europe it was popular in Medieval times, through the monks who generally executed their drawings with quill feathers on parchment. This type of pen continued to be used alongside other instruments, until the last years of the 1800s. During the Renaissance when tracing and chiaroscuro continued to be the basis for the teaching of drawing in art schools, the Academies, the techniques and methods became experimental, the choice of subjects extended and different painting methods were brought together. The artists of the Renaissance started to use pastels, water colours and white highlighting.

The use of ink ranges from the fine arts to the graphic sector and manga drawings.

Charcoal drawings

Charcoal is, essentially, a "chalk" of vegetable carbon made up of subtle wooden branches, which are burnt without, however, reaching complete combustion.

Natural charcoal takes its name from the spindle tree, in the form of a dark cylinder it is made up of willow or vine twigs, and leaves a soft mark which is blended and easily erasable, nut twigs, which are very hard are used to refine the details.

Artificial charcoal is made up of charcoal dust or a mixture of graphite and clay bound together and pressed into sticks.

There are charcoals of differing dimensions that vary in thickness and hardness, with the thinnest you can realise the outlines and with the thickest you can obtain broader strokes.

Charcoals with round sections, in four sections and in triangular sections exist, this last type is usually used for scenographic drawings.

The charcoal pencil is made up of pressed charcoal contained in a wooden cylinder. It has the advantage of not dirtying the fingers and of having a thin point that allows you to obtain a uniform line. It is particularly suitable for drawings that will then be painted. With the charcoal pencil it is possible to draw details, and it is generally used to refine the drawings executed with classic charcoal. The external protection, however, impairs its use with oblique angles to perform larger strokes.

Charcoal is used by rubbing and it allows you to reach intense blacks, it can be used flat or with a point, according to the effects that you want to obtain. The type of mark that is left on the paper depends on the pressure exercised and the angle at which it is used. With charcoal you can draw with strokes tracing lines, or accurately blend the marks with the fingers, with a blending stump, a rigid dry-brush, a soft napkin or absorbent cotton. You can give luminosity to the work dabbing some points with particularly soft putty rubber, adapted for collecting the pigment without dirtying the picture. The mark can be erased immediately with a cloth or lightened with a putty rubber.

The charcoal stroke highlights the texture of the paper on which it is performed, so based on the effect that you want to reach you can choose a type of paper which is rougher or smoother.

Charcoal is dusty, so at the end of the work it is necessary to spray a fixative, made up of shellac and alcohol so it does not deteriorate. The fixative is sprayed evenly onto the picture from a certain distance, avoiding certain zones becoming too wet and turning yellow.

Charcoal is one of the oldest means of drawing used since prehistoric times when primitive man drew on walls of caves with pieces of carbonized wood. In western society, for its speed of execution, it has always been used to trace preparatory sketches for paintings, on canvas and cardboard, or to take down images and ideas, that is to elaborate “sketches.”

Sanguine drawing

Sanguine defines a particular graphic technique and also identifies a painting instrument amongst the oldest. It is obtained by mixing hematite, an iron oxide, in pigment with a binding product. The mixture often enriched with small quantities of ochre is transformed into wooden pieces or pencils, with which you can make marks on paper of a characteristic reddish colour that looks like blood.

The stroke is very soft and changes with the variation of pressure which is exercised on the paper, creating subtle layers or neat clear marks with various intermediate degrees.

Sanguine, can be used as a common graphite pencil, taking advantage of the hatching technique for the shaded parts and leaving the paper surface clean for those parts in the light, or, using a cloth, blending stumps, a piece of cotton or your fingers you can spread the dusty marks so as to lower the tone of the whole surface, or you can create points of light removing the powder with a very soft rubber. Generally the two techniques of tracing and blending are used together.

Like with charcoal you can obtain softer and more compact tones, using a wet brush. You can obtain different effects, using the square tile, pointed, flat, cutting sanguine and with varying pressure.

It is not possible to erase sanguine, even if the colour can be removed almost completely from smooth paper with a rubber, although a stain will always remain.

For the whole of the Renaissance sanguine was a widespread drawing instrument so much so that it was commonly identified with the term “pencil (matita),” which derives from hematite. At that time sanguine was used in the form of wood-cased pencils and manufactured sticks. Only in modern times does sanguine appear with the hematite inserted in the wood whose lead can also be sharpened.

Given the tendency of sanguine to be dusty, works executed with this technique need a final fixative, made up of water based solutions of gum arabic or alcoholic solutions of shellac, sprayed evenly on the drawing from a certain distance.

Sanguine continues to be used by artists to draw even if, due to the industrialisation of the materials for the fine arts, imitations created from mixtures of soil, wax and clay are often called sanguine.

Clays are often used for mixed techniques, mixed with other media, like for example charcoal, pencils, pens, they can also be water coloured.

These products, if the pigment is mixed with a dry binding agent, leave a volatile and easily blendable mark on the paper. If, on the contrary, it is mixed with a greasy binding agent, like for example wax, they are more stable but less workable.

Clay can be found in round or square sections.

The density of the colour changes relative to the pressure applied, giving the opportunity to create a vast range of uniform colours with a clear or a darker tone.

Overlaying different colours with marks alongside, you can obtain infinite tonalities, the single strokes are mixed with each other creating other colours. The colour zones which are close, can be blended with the fingers or with a blending stump to mix the tones and produce delicate blends.

It is possible to obtain pictorial effects, liquefying the pigments, and using a wet brush delicately with oil or paint thinner.

The colour can be lightened eliminating a part of the support, scratching it delicately.

Drawing with pastels and chalk

Pastels of various colours contain substances in them which act as an adhesive with the pigment, they can be found in cylindrical form wrapped in a protective covering of paper.

The most common pastels are those amalgamated with wax, which present quite a hard mixture. In other types of pastel, like soft and intense oil pastels, the pigment is mixed with flax seed or chestnut oil, in the chalky pastels the pigments are amalgamated with gum arabic and other vegetable substances. The pastels can be superimposed, blended, they can be parallel or cross hatched so as to obtain different shades and hues.

Each type of pastel presents its own characteristics and allows you to obtain particular effects. Wax pastels possess a certain transparency, which can be noted in a particular way when they are superimposed one on top of the other. On the contrary, softer oil pastels, are amalgamated and mixed producing blends and new colours. In a particular way using oil pastels, which are soft, and superimposing two layers you obtain a fusion of colours.

In oil pastels, intervening on the drawing with cotton wool soaked in white spirit, which acts as a thinner, it is possible to obtain marking and blending effects.

Pastels can be used on every type of paper, but the best is rough paper, because it is adapted to maintain the colour. Pastel technique is almost exclusively used in western art and its use dates back to the Renaissance period. In the beginning, such a technique was used to refine and complete the pictures executed in pencil. After that, it was used as an autonomous technique and reached its maximum use in 1700, used overall for the execution of portraits.

Chalks are made up of dusty soil amalgamated with rubbery substances in cylindrical or square form, they are wrapped up in protective paper. They are friable colours, easily blendable, but unstable, even if they have the characteristic of remaining unaltered over time, for this reason it is necessary to stabilize the drawing spraying it with fixative. The best support is paper but you can draw on any base, obviously the roughness of the surface used allows you to obtain different effects. Chalks can be used making rapid sketches or delicately blending to obtain a more pictorial effect. You can blend with your fingers, with a piece of cotton, with a blending stump or a very soft paper napkin.

The characteristics are quite similar to those of charcoal, and also the way of using them, but with the difference that you can obtain polychromatic effects.

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