Drawing Materials and Tools - | Bright Light Fine Art Tips and Advice
Drawing Materials and Tools

Drawing Materials and Tools

Today’s discussion is about drawing materials and tools recommended by Sherrie McGraw and Jacqueline Kamin.  Get some tips and ideas on how you can improve your drawing skills with the right drawing materials and tools.

Jackie:  Hi Sherrie.

Sherrie:  Hi Jackie.

Jackie:  Good to see you again today. So we’re going to talk about drawing materials, drawing tools, the obvious being pencils.

Sherrie:  You mean graphite pencils?

Jackie:  Yes. Graphite pencils.  And as you develop as an artist, your tools get more elaborate and more specific. But the basic drawing materials and tools for any artist can go outside with pencil and paper.  It can include lead pencils, graphite, pencils, range, and sets from 9H, which is the hardest, to 6B, which is the softest. You can do a lot with those pencils, as far as shading goes, creating line, etc. for a beginning artist. But there are other tools that as you become more sophisticated, you want something more elaborate. So do you want to get into what you use Sherrie?

Sherrie:  Yes, and it could be that it’s not necessarily more sophisticated, but it may be is different.  Drawing materials and tools that are not used may be as commonly, and you know, would be charcoal.  Specifically vine charcoal. And you just found out an interesting fact about the vine charcoal.

Jackie:  Yeah. The vine charcoal is burned organic material.

Sherrie:  Which is I know pretty interesting to think that it’s actually just something that’s been burnt. So charcoal is an interesting thing to use. It comes in basically hard, medium and soft. I tend towards using medium and soft because I’ll start a drawing with vine charcoal quite often.  That allows me to start more loosely and get the gesture of my subject. And then as I refine it more then I move into Conte pencils.  So Conte pencils will come and they’re a little harder; actually quite a bit harder than the vine charcoal.

Jackie:  Yeah. We want to say that the Conte is actually clay. It’s formed into the lead for pencils or into stick for as well.

Sherrie:  Yeah that is true. And so, I like the Conte brand, Conte pencils. And so they come in, the colors are black, sepia, white and sanguine.  They also come in stick form in those same colors and the stick form is a little bit softer than the pencil form.  I like to use both. And quite often I will start a drawing with a stick of the Conte because it is a little bit softer. It’s bigger, it’s easier to kind of wield.  And again, to start with the gesture drawing.  But the Conte pencils will allow you to go and put more information in your drawing and get more detail.  More so than the vine charcoal.

Jackie:  Another material that you like using is pen and ink. What kinds of pens and ink do you use, and what are you looking for as far as developing your ideas with that?

Sherrie:  Well, if I’m traveling I will get the micron pen (same as what Stacy uses quite a bit), so it’s archival and you can get them in different, thicknesses and so you can just draw in your little sketchbook and it’ll be archival.  That’s an easy way to use pen and ink. Another way and something that was used by the old masters, is two different inks in particular.  The sepia ink and the bister ink.

The bister ink is made from the soot that collects when you have a wood fire in a fireplace.  What they do is collect that soot and then grind it into again, some sort of a binder. I think it’s some sort of varnish or something that binds it together, and then you have a bister ink. The sepia ink is more interesting and a little rarer to get. Actually, it comes from the ink sac from a cuttlefish, which looks a lot like an octopus.

There is a place you can get this and it’s Kramer Pigments in New York City.  He prides himself, the owner prides itself on going all over the world and finding old drawing materials and old things and old pigments and all kinds of things that the old masters would use.  You can actually buy it already ground up and ready to use the bister ink and the sepia ink. So that’s pretty fun.

He also has an ox gall ink, which has a little bit of a cooler, almost purplish look to the ink itself. And that’s a lot of fun to use as well. Yeah. So, so those are the three inks, I’ve really explored, as well as the micron pens.  These are all great.

Jackie:  What about using different quills?

Sherrie:  Yes, there’s actually a book that will teach you how to cut your own Quill and so you can use a quill pen. It’s a little tricky to learn how to cut them. But they will, if you do it right, work the way they used to do.  I’ve used those quill pens. It gives a less uniformed quality to the line, which I really like.  As opposed to when you buy a metal tip and put it onto a pen, you know, you do the same thing.  You dip it into the ink and then you draw with it.

But it has a little more of a uniformed quality because they have all kinds of metal tips that are different widths, and you can pick that. With the quilt pen is really is unusual (as well as the reed pen), which is cut from an actual reed from a marsh. There is a book and I will post the name of that book, but it tells you how to make all of these things yourself, how to make all the inks yourself.

Like you can even make a Walnut ink, you know, from black walnuts. So there’s all kinds of things where you can find the ink naturally in nature.

Jackie:  Oh.

Sherrie:  And you never know what medium will actually kind of unleash your creative spirits, you know, different mediums. And the reason I try different mediums is that you never know which one is going to speak to you and allow you to do that thing visually that you have in your mind.

Jackie:  This is great stuff.

Sherrie:  It is great stuff. Let’s see, and then a kneaded eraser is actually a great tool.  Don’t be afraid of a kneaded eraser or a paper stump because they don’t have any power. You’re the one wielding it. So I can see why a lot of people will tell you not to use them because you need to learn how to really make a line.  Not depend on your eraser, and the same thing with the paper stump.

You know, people are afraid that you’re not going to really make a line.  but you’re the one wielding it and you can make a line and they both do wonderful things though. The kneaded eraser, you can pick out lights and create the feeling of bone. You can create planes and with the stump, you can soften edges and give a whole different value range to your drawing.  So don’t be afraid to use these two tools as well.

Jackie:  The one tool that we probably forgot to mention, and is one of the most important tools, is the sharpener.

Sherrie:  Ah, yes, yes, thank you. That is absolutely true.

Jackie:  Let’s talk about sharpening pencils and Conte and…

Sherrie:  Yes, it’s very important to have a sharp pencil or even vine charcoal to work with. Because again, all of this having a sharp tool to work with and using a razor blade to really get a long point will help you be able to draw longer, because the point will last longer. Obviously what it allows you to do is to make a line. And that’s the most important thing in drawing.

You know, the most basic thing that every draftsman has it can wield line. So that’s why you definitely want to learn how to sharpen your tools.  I mean, I’ve seen people use different things. I am so used to a single edge razor blade.  That is what I use. But you can use those matte knives, and that’s a little bit safer and easier to use.

Jackie:  What about a pencil sharpener?

Sherrie:  Well you can, you can, but quite often the Conte tick won’t fit in there. And the other thing too is that you just have a point for a short amount of time.  And that’s the reason most artists in history sharpen their own with a razor blade of some sort because you get a very long point.

Jackie:  Great. Great info. Okay. Thank you, Sherrie.

Sherrie:  Thank you, Jackie. That was fun.

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