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October 2014

The Drawing Ezine

The time-tested learning process of progressing from
drawing to painting involves several intermediate
Before embarking on working with paint, and the mani-
fold technical disciplines of oil paint, for example, the
traditional art academies would frst introduce the study-
ing artist to sanguine cont which can be pushed and
pulled much like paint.
Cont is a hard earth-red pigment shaped as a long
rectangular crayon. There are various brands available
that bill themselves as cont but they are closer to
pastel. You can use the side of a small piece of cont
to block in large areas; it can also be sharpened into a
chisel shape for drawing elegant serpentine lines; and
also sharpened to a point using a safety razor blade
and medium grade sandpaper.
For this drawing I started with a Koh-I-Noor light red
cont crayon on Fabriano Ingres drawing paper and
then to push the darks down I switched to Sanguine
The 7/8s Profle in Conte
Materials used in this lesson
Knitting needle for sighting
& checking your measures
Koh-I-Noor Conte
crayons #8580/25
Cont a Paris,
Sanguine #2451
Medium grade
[not shown]
Paper: Fabriano Ingres
choose a light colored
paper such as Ivory, Buff,
1998-2014. All rights reserved.
The 7/8s profle view is the pose where
the far eye can be seen. The common
diffculty with the far eye is if youre not
careful the eye will bulge out due to
over-exaggeration both in terms of size
and placement and also rendering it
with too much detail. Highly rendered
features will advance out of the picture
plane. For some features such as the
nose this is desirable, but with others
like the far eye in the 7/8s profle view
this is less so.
Using a sharpened Koh-I-Noor light red
crayon I quickly established the ara-
besque of the entire head. Of important
note is the facial angle: I have delib-
erately ignored the nose and muzzle
(mouth area) and simplifed it com-
pletely. If you try to incorporate the
features at this point it is practically
guaranteed that you will get it wrong.
The short and simple answer is SIM-
PLICITY. This goes for both the begin-
ner and the highly advanced artist.
The Koh-in-Nor crayon is very soft and
does not hold a sharpened point for
long. Its beneft though is that it is
easily manipulated in terms of erasures
and smudging.
Once the arabesque is established and
its height/width proportions and shape
verifed and corrected, as necessary, the primary elements of the head are placed. These are the
browline, the base of the nose, the hairline, hat, ear and Condyle (where the ear-lobe meets the jaw).
Having the browline and base of the nose placed I can now assess the negative shape that is formed
by the nose and the simplifed shape of the far eye. Using negative shapes in your drawing will help in
more accurately rendering the positive shapes. i.e., the nose is a positive shape; the < shape is the
negative shape.
1998-2014 All rights reserved.
The drawing is blocked-in and vigorously stumped down with my fngers. My intent is to produce a fat
even wash. It is nigh impossible to articulate small forms (details); the objective is to effect a ghost
image. I am interested in only the BIG shapes. You should always work from general to specifc.
The forms are then vaguely articulated by painting out with a kneaded eraser. This is a painterly pro-
cess that is akin to underpainting. Traditionally for underpainting in oil Raw Umber or Yellow Ochre is
loosely brushed or rubbed on and then the lights rubbed out with a rag or with a clean brush. This is a
subtractive approach (lifting out). You want to keep things loose yet still reasonably accurate.
Sharpening the Koh-I-Noor crayon to a point with sandpaper I sketch in the basic facial features and
the ear. The soft crayon is a bit tricky to sharpen, it crumbles easily so dont expect to get a razor sharp
In the 7/8s profle view the inner canthus (corner) of the eye plumbs back of the nair of the nose. Using
a plumb line (a thin weighted string) held up to and aligned with the inner canthus will go a long way
towards illuminating the vertical placement of the eye, nose and node of the mouth.
The area of the eye is now worked up.. Until now I have been working the drawing generally and resist-
ing the temptation to delve into details. That has now changed. I am now switching gears and focusing
on specifcs. But I still want to hold back to about 75% full resolution. I do not want to fully commit
myself yet.
Plumb Line
Leaving the upper face underresolved I now lightly block in the lower facial arena. The darks here are
mostly thin and elongated, especially the underplane of the jaw. The nasolabial furrow (the smile line)
is best left well understated. It can, at times, be a signifcantly darker value but it is the devil to strike its
dark value without the expression taking on a snarling grimace. Again, less is not only more but also
a safe ground to scurry onto.
A big leap forward is taken here. First I stumped in then painted out the lights of the lower facial arena
with my kneaded eraser before delving into the ear and modeling its fve elements (the scapha, the
outer helix, fossa triangularis, concha and tragus).
The hair is more suggested than rendered with a few combed strokes of kneaded eraser. Be careful
to avoid parallel lines when combing the hair as parallel lines draw undue attention to themselves. The
hat is also worked up quickly and I felt it best that it retain a sketchy quality that would contrast with the
more resolved face.
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And again into the lower face and neck with the kneaded eraser. I feel that it is important to say
that although I am separating each subtle step of building up form and tone I am actually holding
all three implements cont, tortillon and eraser in my hand and am switching tools at a fast and
rhythmic pace. Unfortunately this is a big limitation when writing and illustrating the processing of build-
ing form and tone in print, however this is where DVD format shines; to fully appreciate and learn the
additive/subtractive process of building tone you may want to invest in my Practice of Tone Work-
Strive to pull up the drawing into a cohesive whole. This involves working up the ear and hair and, as
is wont with many a drawing and painting, making those minor corrections that until now escaped my
notice. Viewing your drawing in a mirror is a merciless method for picking up drawing errors.
Now that the drawing is on its fnal approach I turn my attention to the background and lift out the areas
that are juxtaposed to the darks of the head. Placing a lighter background area next to a dark area of
your subject is called counter-change.
The drawing has now come to an impasse: I could leave the drawing where it is and some may prefer
that I did as the Koh-I-Noor crayon produces a softer portrait. But I felt dissatisfed with the drawing: it
required more contrast between light and dark.
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I had taken the Koh-I-Noor crayon as far as it could go and, thus after some thought, I picked up my
Sanguine Conte (#2451), sharpened it with sandpaper to a fne point and went to work. I had to accept
that there would be a signifcant risk to losing the drawing, but that is part and parcel of growing as an
artist pushing, pushing, pushing. If you lose a drawing, well it is only a piece of paper. The lessons
taught, though, are invaluable.
It immediately became apparent that applying the Sanguine cont involved not only deepening the
darker values but it also introduced elements of fesh hues. The nair and alar of the nose and cheeks
are imbued with a reddish hue (in oil painting the color Indian Red would be a strong candidate) and,
hence, I color (a ghastly inference, I know) them as such.
I also use the kneaded eraser to paint and effect a texture that reads as fesh. Flesh has a subtle, and
also not so subtle, patina. It does not have a smooth, air-brushed quality that we so often see in fashion
advertisements that is an artifcial conceit.
A fnal decision is now required: should the hat also be worked. Rendering the hat further would sig-
nifcantly change the look and feel of the drawing. My decision, at least for now, is to leave the hat as it
is. There is no right or wrong answer and it is possible that I may decide that the hat needs to be further
developed. And again I might not.
1998-2014. All rights reserved.
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