The return of representational images to contemporary artwork has stimulated an unparalleled interest in all types of drawing materials. In an effort to profit from this resurgence, several manufacturers have developed new materials for drawing. Some of the effects that can be created with these products have resulted in a blurring of the boundary between painting and drawing. Yet, the general principles remain the same whether the drawing material is in a form that is dry, waxy, or wet.
Dry drawing materials, such as charcoal, depend entirely on the texture of the ground. Their overall appearance is reflected by the pattern, or lack of it, that is present in the surface texture. Bits of drawing material are rubbed off, just as sandpaper scrapes off bits of wood, and are trapped within the surface and held there. These collected bits of dry drawing material can be brushed off easily if they are not fixed with a gum or resin. Waxy drawing materials, like crayons and oil pastels, are not so easily brushed off because of the wax binder. Wet drawing materials often have the advantage of a resin binder and the ability to soak into a surface. But whether wet, waxy, or dry, all drawing materials depend on the nature of the surface for their overall appearance. It is this fact that has led many artists to study, often for momhs and sometimes for years, various grounds and their finishes in a effort to find the one that best reflects their vision.
DRY DRAWING MATERIALS
Dry Drawing materials are either carbon-based or chalk-based. Although the use of both types dates back to prehistoric times, carbon-based drawing material, and particularly charcoal, is credited with being older because it was common to every fireplace, whereas deposits of pure chalk are quite rare.
A dry drawing material can be easily applied to any surface as long as the surface has some tooth to bite and hold its powdery consistency. It can also be easily blended or erased. Blending can be done by rubbing or by wetting the drawing with either water or turpentine. At one time, a technique was developed of dipping the dry drawing material first in a drying oil, such as linseed oil, to create a darker line and improve adhesion. However, this tends to form a yellow stain around the edges of the applied drawing material and to acidify and rot the paper. The primary disadvantage of dry drawing materials is the difficulty of storing and protecting the final drawing. The use of a fixative will help, but it will not completely protect the surface. Protective coatings and picture framing in combination provide the only long-term protection.
CARBON-BASED DRAWING MATERIALS
There are two forms in which carbon is commonly found in nature: crystalline and amorphous. The crystalline form has two further divisions. One type of crystal involves six carbon atoms, which combine to form a ring. Carbon rings of this type tend to arrange themselves in sheets, which slide easily over one another. They are so slippery that this crystalline form is often used as a lubri cant. When the first natural deposits of carbon were uncovered they were mis taken for lead and named plumbago, or black lead. After many years of use as a drawing material, it was discovered that the substance was not lead and the name was changed to graphite, from the Greek word graphein, which means "to write."
In the second form of crystalline carbon, the carbon atoms link together to fonn a rigid stmcture. This structure results in a highly transparent and very hard crystal, which cannot be used as a drawing material. This type of crystal is a diamond.
There are four kinds of amorphous carbon--charcoal, lampblack, coal, and coke. Charcoal is an impure form of carbon and is obtained through the incomplete combustion of plant matter, wood, or bone. Lampblack is obtained by collecting the soot from the burning of oil. Coal and coke are mined and are not workable as artists' materials. Carbon black is a term used to describe any intense black made from amorphous carbon that has been divided into fine parti cles. Soot has some of the most finely divided particles known. The smallness of these particles is what gives such subtlety to the ink paintings of the Orient. The particle size can be varied during production to create various effects. Another interesting fact is that charcoal can be turned into graphite at 5400°F.
Charcoal is the carbon-rich residue of incompletely burned wood, bone, or vegetable matter. Artists' charcoal is made by heating wood in a chamber or kiln without air. This process produces a piece of charcoal that makes a uniform black line.
Vine Charcoal is produced by burning sticks or twigs of wood in a kiln without air. Some manufacturers shape them to produce sticks of a more uniform appearance. Willow is the wood of choice, because of its even consistency and fineness of particles; however, linden is more commonly used. Vine charcoal is available in soft, medium, and hard consistencies.
Vine charcoal is easily removed by dusting and by erasure. This makes it ideal for preliminary sketches for oil painting where changes are frequently made before the final outline is completed. Before painting begins, however, the char coal sketch must be fixed to the canvas or the paint will pull the charcoal off the surface and mix with it. It is best to use a retouch varnish to fix the sketch.
Compressed Charcoal is available in round and square sticks. The charcoal powder is mixed with a gum binder and compressed into sticks. The amount of binder that is used regulates the degree of hardness, which gives a wider selec tion and greater consistency of quality from stick to stick. Several degrees of hardness-HB, B, 2B, 3B, 4B, and sometimes 6B-are available. Sticks of compressed charcoal do not break or erase as easily as vine charcoal. Vine char coal has an irregular shape that does not allow the edge to be used for broad strokes, but compressed charcoal sticks are ideal for this.
Charcoal Pencils are made from compressed charcoal. The charcoal is protected with wood, or a paper wrapping, which is the only real advantage of the pencils. The covering helps to keep your hands and your working environment clean while drawing: it also reduces breakage and permits by sharpening to produce a point. In the paper-wrapped version, the charcoal is exposed by peeling rather than by sharpening. The pencils are available in the same general range of degrees of hardness found in compressed charcoal sticks, and are classified as extra soft (96B), soft (4B), medium (2B), and hard (HB). They are best used for making smaller, more tightly rendered drawings, which require greater control, or for adding detail.
Carbon Pencils are made from lampblack, which is purer than charcoal and is therefore more consistent in quality. This consistency is maintained throughout the available range of degrees of hardness, which is generally identical to that of compressed charcoal.
Graphite was used as a marking tool by the Aztecs long before Columbus went on his Caribbean cruise. Europe did not discover graphite until 1400, when it was found in Bavaria and promptly mistaken for lead. The substance was not called graphite until 1789. The purest deposits of graphite ever found were dis covered in Cumberland, England, in 1564 and were in continuous production until 1833.
The advantage of graphite over charcoal is that it is less dusty and naturally adheres better to a ground. It can easily be fashioned into a variety of writing and drawing instruments, which can be used to express great detail and subtlety. Graphite is also more easily fixed to a ground and in general has a more durable surface.
Graphite Sticks are relatively new. Originally, graphite was sold in pieces for marking stone. Later it was shaped into sticks, which resembled today's artists' graphite sticks. Today's sticks, however, are not pure graphite, but mixtures of powdered graphite and clay, which has been fired at about 1900°F. The amount of clay present determines the degree of hardness; the more clay, the harder the stick. A narrow range-2B, 4B, 6B--comprises the available degrees.
The Pentalic Corporation has imported a graphite stick that has a heavy resin coating. It is called the Woodless Pencil and is ¼-inch round, as opposed to the rectangular graphite stick. The Woodless Pencil is available in HB, as well as 2B, 4B, and 6B, and can be sharpened easily in an ordinary pencil sharpener. Of course, the edges cannot be used for broad strokes, as can the edge of the uncoated rectangular stick.
Graphite Pencils are the most common writing and drawing tools today. In Latin pencillus means "little tail" and describes a small brush used in medieval times for drawing with ink. The term "pencil quill" is still used sometimes to describe a type of small pointed brush used for signmaking and graphic arts work. In some cultures, the word "pencil" is still used to refer to a small brush. It would seem that the graphite pencil derived its name from the fact that it has a wooden handle, like a brush, and a small tip that can be fashioned into a point. The first graphite pencils were blocks of graphite that were shaped into sticks and wrapped with string. Since graphite was at first mistaken for lead, they were called lead pencils. Soon after the discovery of the graphite deposits in England, it became clear that the amount of available graphite was limited and conserva tion measures rapidly followed. Several attempts to extend powdered graphite with gums, resins, and glues, which were pressed into blocks of grooved wood, had only limited success.
The invention of the modem pencil has been credited to Nicolas-Jacques Conte, a French scientist under the commission of Napoleon. In 1795, he devel oped a manufacturing process of roasting a mixture of clay, purified graphite, and water in a kiln, and then encasing the substance in wood. Soon after, Joseph Hardmuth found that the greater the amount of clay used in the mixture, the harder the pencil point. This led to the development of the various degree of hardness of pencils. The modem process for making pencils involves producing a paste, like that of Nicolas-Jacques Conte, and partially drying it through filtra tion. It is then extruded into long strands and fired at 1900°F. The strands, which are still slightly porous, are then filled with natural waxes for the purpose of lubrication and to help the graphite adhere to the ground. They are either pack aged for use in a lead holder or inserted into a wood casing.
Today, graphite pencils are made in different degrees of hardness by regulat ing the amount of clay added. The greater the quantity of clay, the harder the lead and the lighter the overall drawn line will appear. It is common to have several different degrees of pencils to vary the detail and the light and dark areas of a drawing. The more "Hs," the harder the lead. The more "Bs," the softer the lead. HB and F are intermediate grades between the two types. B through IOH are commonly used in drafting. 8B through F are preferred for artwork. Writing pencils have their own hardness scale, which roughly coincides at cer tain points with the drafting scale.
SCALE OF DEGREES FOR ART AND DRAFTING PENCILS
8B. . .4B-3B-2B-B-HB-F-H-2H-3H-4H-5H. . . IOH
SCALE OF DEGREES FOR WRITING PENCILS
*degree within parentheses is the rough equivalent to the drafting scale
The primary differences between school-grade pencils and professional-grade pencils are the larger range of degrees and the uniformity in the manufacturing and performance of the professional-grade pencils.
There are several unique graphite pencils such as the Blackwing, which has an oversized eraser; the Negro Pencil, available in three thicknesses of leads; and the Eagle #314 Draughting Pencil. All of these are soft drawing pencils that are similar to a 6B art pencil. Most have slightly thicker leads than the average drafting pencil, yet are less expensive. Flat sketching pencils have a rectangular shaped lead enclosed in a similarly shaped wood covering, which is sharpened with a razor or a knife. They come in a limited range of degrees-2B, 4B, and 6B. All of these graphite pencils are used primarily for broader, more expressive drawing or for quick sketching.
Drafting Leads and Metal Lead Holders were developed before the wood graphite pencil. The lead, which is the same as that used to make graphite pencils, is held in place with a three-to four part vise. A button at the top of the lead holder, which acts like a clutch, is pressed to open the vise and release the lead. Caution must be exercised to prevent the lead from falling out of the holder. A test of the quality of a lead holder is to see if the lead slips in the clutch when it is locked in place. The primary advantage of a lead holder is that the implement does not get shorter as you sharpen the lead, and a sharper, more tapered point can be produced with the aid of a lead pointer than can be had with a pencil and pencil sharpener.
Drafting lead is available in the same degrees of hardness as pencils. There are also limited selections of colored lead available, as well as leads designed specifically for the surface of drafting film. The "E" series of drafting-film leads produces well-defined lines and less graphite dust on the drafting film.
Mechanical Pencils were first introduced in 1822 by S. Mordan and J. I. Hawkins. The first spring-loaded mechanical pencil was patented in 1877 and a twist-feed mechanism was developed in 1895. The primary differences between mechanical pencils and lead holders is that the mechanical-pencil lead is advanced in increments and will not accidentally drop out, and the lead does not have to be sharpened. Since a vise is not used to hold the lead, it is free to rotate as a line is drawn so that a consistent line width is produced. Consequently, the lead is available in four widths-0.03mm, 0.05mm, 0.07mm, and 0.09mm. The 0.09mm was introduced in 1938 and led the way for the rest. Today, mechanical pencils are designed to be self-feeding and several leads can be loaded through the top at one time. The technology has advanced so that there are mechanical pencils that automatically advance the lead as it is worn down, eliminating even the need to stop and make adjustments. These are expensive, however, and are not widely available.
The major disadvantage of mechanical pencils that use very thin leads is that the leads break easily. The softer the lead, the more easily it breaks. Some manufacturers impregnate their leads with a polymer to make them less break able. But only a narrow range of degrees-from 4H to 2B-is available.
CHALK-BASED DRAWING MATERIALS
Natural chalk is composed of tiny, prehistoric, salt-water organisms with a high calcium content, which formed a sediment that turned rocklike. Its appearance ranges from white to gray and, occasionally, red, or sanguine, when it is natu rally impregnated with ferric oxide (rust). Chalk-based drawing materials have been in use almost as long as carbon-based materials. Although chalk itself is abundant, the number of deposits of rock chalk is not, and it is this scarcity that prevented its widespread use. Until the fifteenth century, red and white chalks were used primarily for quick sketching. When an effective method was devised to pulverize chalk, wash out the sand, and combine the chalk powder with pig ments in a usable form, chalk-based drawing materials were taken more seriously.
In the sixteenth century, the Italians developed the pastel. It had a narrow range of colors consisting of some earth colors, white, and black. It was not until the introduction of a broad range of synthetic mineral pigments in the nine teenth century that the color range broadened to the hundreds of colors and shades that we are familiar with today. Pastello, which means "little paste" in Italian, was shortened by the French to "pastel." Today, pastel is the common name for chalk-based drawing materials; the chalk is mixed with pigment and a binder to a paste and then shaped and dried into sticks. Modem pastels may contain chalk, or such chalklike materials as kaolin (white clay) or lithopone (half barium sulfate and half zinc sulfide) as the white filler. The filler is mixed with a pigment and a binder such as gum tragacanth or methyl cellulose. (The binder for oil pastels is primarily wax and is discussed later under that heading.) Pastels can be used either as a drawing or a painting material, depending on the technique used. It is therefore common to find works called pastel paintings, as well as pastel drawings. Pastels lend themselves to blending with the fingers or with stomps. They may also give a more painterly appearance when wetted with a mist of water (however, this technique cannot be used on glue-sized canvas) or with turpentine. A more or less painterly appearance can be effected by the type of ground used (paper or canvas), its surface finish (laid or irregular), and color. The main advantage of pastels is that the appearance does not change with age, as do oil paintings, which yellow in time. The main disadvan tage is that the surface is easily damaged and is difficult to protect. The use of fixatives and final protective sprays will provide limited protection, but these tend to darken the overall appearance of pastels. (For information about proper use of fixatives and final protective sprays, more information about storage and protection, see Framing and Storage,
It is important to take note of the health hazards that are involved in using pastels. Although most manufacturers have stopped using some of the most haz ardous pigments, such as lead and lead compounds, professional artists' pastels should not be considered safe. Precautions should be taken to prevent inhalation and accidental ingestion of dusts. (See Hazards for more information.)
Soft Pastels are soft because they are low in chalk or chalk substitute and are primarily pigment with very little binder. Chalk has a cementing quality that is used to best advantage in the manufacture of hard pastels. Most manufacturers of artists' soft pastels use a substitute for white chalk, such as kaolin, lithopone, or titanium dioxide, as the base. This facilitates easy blending and results in stronger colors.
Every manufacturer of pastels begins with a set of colors that it considers to be pure and then creates additional colors, or tints, by adding a specific percent age of white (kaolin, lithopone, or titanium dioxide) or black (carbon). Manufac turers each have their own recipes for creating the colors and tints they offer, as well as their own symbols for indicating which are the basic colors and their tints. Taiens Company, for example, the manufacturer of Rembrandt Pastels, adds decimal points to its color reference numbers to signify the percentage of white or black. Of its one hundred and sixty-three colors, thirty-eight are pure colors, indicated by a three-digit number followed by a decimal point and the number 5. The number 205.5, for example, indicates the pure color lemon yellow. Thirty-six of the colors are mixed with a percentage of black and they are indicated by a three-digit number followed by a decimal point and the number 3. (For example, 205.3 is lemon yellow mixed with black.) The remain ing eighty-nine colors are pure colors mixed with white, indicated in the same way by following the color number and decimal with either a 7, 8, or 9. The higher the number, the more white. (For example, 205.9 is the palest tint of lemon yellow. Soft pastels cannot be blended on the palette, like paint, to create additional colors or tints. Virtuosity of color in pastel drawings is restricted by the available colors and the ability to blend them on the working surface. Since pastels are an opaque medium, they are difficult to blend and it is hard to get intermediate shades. Therefore, if you think you will need a particular color or tint, it is best to acquire it before proceeding. I recommend that you purchase the largest set of pastels that you can find and afford, and continue to build your color range whenever practical. The greater your choices of pastels, the greater your free dom. To accommodate this freedom, some manufacturers make up to six hun dred colors.
Chalk Pastels are harder than soft pastels because of the higher percentage of chalk. They are also less expensive because they contain less pigment. Not all of the commonly available chalk pastels are of artists' quality, they give no assurance of lightfastness; they are therefore not recommended. The color range is often quite limited, ranging from thirty-six to forty-eight colors.
Hard Pastels are harder than soft pastels and the average chalk pastel. At this time, however, there is only one effectively marketed hard pastel-Nupastel made by Eberhardt Faber Company. Although Nupastel is technically a chalk pastel, it is far denser than the average chalk pastel. Its primary advantage is that it is better for drawing thin lines and for holding details. Hard pastels can be sharpened to some degree, while soft pastels cannot. They are also less dusty and adhere better to the working surface, but this characteristic makes them harder to blend. Nupastel offers an acceptable range of seventy-two colors. This pastel is commonly used as artists' pastel, although the company's literature makes no claims of lightfastness.
Pastel Pencils are chalk pastels with a wood covering. They are also known as colored charcoal pencils because their consistency resembles that of charcoal pencils. The advantages of the pencil form of pastel is that it can be sharpened for more detailed drawing and it is less messy to work with. Pastel pencils were originally developed for the graphic artist and illustrator. As with chalk pastels, claims to lightfastness are rarely found. The available range is between forty eight and seventy-two colors, depending on the manufacturer.
Conte Crayons are named after their developer, Nicolas-Jacques Conte, who invented the modem pencil. They were originally a mixture of graphite and clay formed into hard drawing sticks. The process Conte used was similar to that used for his pencils. Today, Conte crayons are made with an alumina chalk (aluminum oxide) base. Because they are readily available in differing degrees of hardness, a range of effects can be consistently produced with these crayons. The white crayons are pure alumina chalk; the blacks and grays are carbon and alumina chalk. The reddish-browns, or sanguines, are ferric oxide (rust) and alumina chalk. Several shades of sanguine are widely available and the black and white are available in different degrees of hardness. Conte crayons have the consistency of graphite sticks and the appearance of hard pastels.
WAXY DRAWING MATERIALS
Waxy Drawing materials are relatively modern and differ from dry materials in two fundamental ways--they cannot be blended easily unless a solvent is used, and drawings done with materials havef more durable surfaces. It is basically a trade-off--durability for blending.
The basic recipe for a waxy drawing material is to mix a coloring material with a filler, then add a lubricant and a binder. The coloring material, or pig ment, may be water soluble or not, depending on whether the blending solvent is water or organic (mineral spirits or turpentine). The filler is usually clay or talc. The lubricant is a natural wax, if blending is to be done with an organic solvent, ur a fatly acid, if blending will be done with water. The binder may be fatty acid or wax, as well as gum tragacanth or methyl cellulose. The mixture is blended and is not fired. It is important to note that all drawings done with waxy drawing material must be fixed with a fixative or a final protective coating. This prevents the tendency of wax to rise slowly to the surface of the drawing, giving a chalky, or milky, apperance.
Oil pastels are a cross between wax crayons and encaustic (wax) paint in stick form. The amount of wax used in oil pastels varies considerably from brand to brand. With more wax, the pastel is greasier and less dusty, and is also much less subject to mechanical blending. Oil pastels were originally made by first mixing pigments into a solution consisting of a slow drying oil, such as poppy oil, and mastic resin dissolved in turpentine. This mixture was then given body by the addition of wax so that it could be shaped into sticks. As the turpentine evaporated, the sticks hardened. This recipe produces a high-quality oil pastel with a limited shelf life. Today, virtually all oil pastels are primarily made with pigment dissolved into a fossil wax. Some brands have a small amount of a nondrying oil, such as mineral oil, to improve the shelf life. Consistency varies greatly among brands and you should experiment to find the brand that best suits you. Oil pastels can be blended easily with a brush soaked in turpentine or mineral. Several years ago, almost all the oil pastels on the American market were of poor quality and lightfastness, and were primarily designed for use by children. This was not because there were no professional artists' pastels manufactured, but because it was felt there was no market for them in this country. Today, several professional quality brands can be found. The Holbein Company offers two hundred and twenty five colors that are rated for lightfastness. They are less waxy and have a consis tency closer to a soft pastel than most other brands. The Sennelier Company makes seventy-two colors, twenty-four of which are iridescent. They are also introducing a jumbo version, approximately I¼ inches in diameter and 3½ inches long, in selected colors. These oil pastels contain a small amount of mineral oil, which increases shelf life and eases application; however, the drawing's surface does not harden for a long time and should not be painted over with oil paints or encaustic (wax) paint materials. Many manufacturers make both professional and nonprofes sional oil pastels. The labeling is often unclear as to which is which, so you should ask before you make a selection.
Currently there are two types of paint sticks availabl pigment in wax and pigment in acrylic lacquer. The first type is just a giant oil pastel called a paint stick. Paintstiks, made by Markall for the Shiva Company, is a widely available brand of paint stick. It comes in twenty-seven conventional colors, six fluores cent colors, which are not Hghtfast, white, black, gold, silver, and a colorless blender. There is a skin over the surface of the stick that has to be peeled away or dissolved with thinner before use. The skin will re-form when not in use. Paintstiks work equally well as encaustic paint or as oversized oil pastels. They dry to the touch in approximately twenty-four hours, but, like any encaEstic, they take several years to cure and harden fully. Paintstiks may be used in mixed media drawing; however, in mixed media painting they should be treated as an encaustic paint, and are best used over dry oil paint or under oil paint mixed with a wax medium.
There is currently only one brand of acrylic lacquer paint stick on the market. The Edding 650 Grafic Painter is available in eighteen colors, white, and black. The Sakura Company will soon be introducing a larger version. These paint sticks appear to have stronger colors, which is probably due to the absence of wax. Their consistency is that of lipstick. They may be blended mechanically while they are still wet, but cannot be blended with solvents wet or dry. Acrylic lacquer paint sticks dry in fifteen minutes after application. Although they cannot be blended into such other wet media as oil paint, they can safely be used under oil paint or over dry oil paint.
The difference between a crayon and an oil pastel is that the crayon is harder and often has a great deal more filler, which may be either wax or clay or both. Crayons are composed primarily of kaolin (white clay), wax or fatty acids, and dyes. School, or children's, crayons are not for professional use because they are not designed to meet the artist's need for lightfastness and permanence. One product, Caran D'Ache (forty colors), is popular among both children and pro fessionals, although several of the blues and violets did not pass our tests for lightfastness. Artists occasionally complain about many brands that claim light fastness yet seem to have a few colors that do not hold up well over time. Consequently, I recommend that when you buy a set of crayons, you do your own test. Simply take a piece of drawing paper, preferably bristol, and apply each color so that when the paper is cut in half each sample of color will also be cut in half. Place one half in direct sunlight for several weeks and store the other half in the dark. At the end of the test put each half together and compare them. This simple test will indicate the colors to avoid.
There are several crayons currently available that claim to meet minimum standards for professional use. Among these are Bero! Art Stix (sixty colors matching Prismacolor Pencils) and Derwent (seventy-two colors), which are sim ply blocks, or sticks, of the same material the manufacturer uses in making its pencils. These crayons are made for working in larger areas than are practical with pencils, yet they are much firmer than oil pastels and can be sharpened. Caran D'Ache offers water-soluble crayons as well as wax crayons.
Colored pencils were originally developed for the illustrator and graphic artist. The development of the New Realism art movement has given new respectability to the colored pencil as a material for fine artwork. Colored pencils have been used to create detailed drawings that in many ways resemble paintings in egg tempera.
Colored pencils are produced in the same way as crayons, and the same pre cautions regarding quality and lightfastness must be taken into account when selecting a brand. Prismacolor Pencils (sixty colors), Derwent No. 19 Artist Pen cils (seventy-two colors), and Caran D'Ache are popular pencils that are said to meet minimum standards for the artist's use. Caran D'Ache produces water-solu ble pencils as well as pencils that can be blended with an organic solvent. Pris macolor and No. 19 Artist Pencils blend only with organic solvents. The wax pencils may be used as a colored resist for the water-soluble pencils, so that when water is used for blending, the areas covered with wax pencil will remain undisturbed.
The principle of transferring a colored liquid to a drawing surface via a brush, pen, marker, or, in uninhibited moments, the fingers, is based on capillary attraction. Capillary attraction is the natural attraction of a liquid for a solid and its tendency to flow toward it. Gravity also plays an important role in keeping the flow in one general direction. Capillary attraction allows a liquid, such as an ink, to be held by a tube, a point with a split end, or a collection of filaments or hairs and then be transferred to a more absorbent surface such as paper. The pen was in use long before the first true brushes made with hair. Simple pens, made from hollow reeds, were already being used by the Egyptians in 4000 B.C. The Greeks were using them in 1296 B.C. Not long afterward, the Romans used simple pens for making drawings on papyrus. During the Renais sance, such pens were preferred for drawing rather than writing. The popularity of pens among such artists as Rembrandt, and later Van Gogh and even Expressionists like George Grosz, stems from the great expressiveness that can be transmitted to a drawing with the flexible pen tip. The tip of a reed pen widens greatly with the slightest pressure, transferring larger amounts of color to the working surface. The relaxation of pressure allows the line width to narrow. It is this characteristic that is the standard to which all modem pens are com pared and, in most cases, that they attempt to duplicate using a more durable tip. Reed pens are not durable and several are often needed to complete even a single drawing.
Reed pens are made by first removing the barbs from the shaft. The larger end is cut across the shaft. That end is then cut again, about ½ inch from the end, halfway through, curving toward the end. The cut is completed by continuing toward the end and cutting down the middle of the shaft. The same type of cut is made again along the remaining half of the shaft, starting about ¼ inch from the end. The resulting tapered point can then be further shaped o a point or left in a chisel. The edge of a chisel point is made sharper by cutting the tip to a 45-degree angle from the top of the point. The tapered point that is created is split in two. The hollow part of the reed, just behind the point, is filled with an absorbent material that acts as a reservoir for the liquid.
The Romans improved the durability of writing and drawing instruments by developing pen nibs (writing points) made of bronze. These early pen points closely resemble those used today. Yet metal nibs were not commonly available until the nineteenth century, when steel, a more durable metal, was developed, as was a machine-manufacturing process.
Quill pens made from the feathers of such large birds as geese, ravens, and swans were common during the sixth century B .C. Crow quills were used for fine line work and the name is still used today for its steel substitute. Turkey quills have now replaced most other feathers because of price and availability. Quill pens are made by first tempering the quill. This is done by gently heating the quill, without scorching it, to remove any oil and fatty acid. The tip of the quill is then cut similarly to that of a reed, but the taper is shorter and a piece of the quill is often used internally to create a reservoir. A quill pen is more durable than a reed pen and almost as responsive, but still not as durable as a metal nib. The need for a metal nib became clear when, by the early nineteenth century, European countries (especially England) began importing 30 million quills a year. The best quills came from Russia and Holland. Some early attempts at more durable nibs ranged from tortoise shell to gold with precious stones set in the tip.
The development of modern steel manufacturing, during the early nineteenth century, led to practical metal replacements for the quill. In 1780, in England, Samuel Harrison made steel pens by hand. Such pens, which were small steel tubes cut into crow-quill-style points, were not marketed until 1803. In 1828, an Englishman, John Mitchell, developed the first practical machine-manufacturing process for the production of metal nibs.
The metal nib, which tended to be very stiff and not conducive to expressiveness, was modified in the 1830s by putting additional slits along the side of the nib as well as by cutting a hole in the top of the middle slit. The nature of steel, with its strength and resiliency, made it possible to make not only durable nibs, but also a wide variety of shapes and styles. Many styles of nibs evolved to accommodate the numerous writing and drawing styles. Some were designed to work with the then readily available varieties of machine-made paper; this paper made the artwork look stiffer and more mechanical.
Today, many types of metal are used to make pen points, including gold and platinum. Often the tip is coated with such specially developed alloys as iridium, ruthenium, and osmium because of their resistance to wear.
Although the principles applied in the production of the fountain pen were known since the mid-seventeenth century, a practical pen was not invented until 1884. L. E. Waterman, a New Yorker, is credited with this feat. Yet, if it were not for the development, during the nineteenth century, of synthetic ink dyes, which are fluid enough to make a fountain pen practical, Waterman's invention would have been worthless. The ball-point pen was patented in 1888, shortly after the fountain pen. But it was not until 1944, when World War II demanded an improved technology for the production of precision ball bearings, that Lazio Biro was able to produce the first practical ball-point pen and patent it. Improve ments made during the 1950s, involving methods of coating the ball with ink, as well as producing a micro-texture on the ball's surface, helped it surpass the fountain pen as the universal tool for writing, but not for drawing. With the exception of a few styles of fountain pen, most ball-point pens are unsatisfactory for sketching and drawing because they are designed more for durability than for expressiveness. The pen holder with nib, known as the dip pen, is still the most common pen for fine artwork and calligraphy.
The development by the Japanese of a precision nylon filament led to the introduction of the nylon artist's brush and the fiber-tipped pen. In 1964, Ameri cans switched by the tens of thousands to the fiber-tipped pen for drawing and writing. It was not until 1985 that sufficient technological progress was made to allow lightfast ink or pigments, necessary for fine artwork, to flow freely through a fiber tip.
Bamboo pens were first made by the ancient Egyptians and can be found in art supply stores today. They resemble reed pens, but are larger and much stiffer. Bamboo pens produce scratchy and somewhat crudely expressive lines.
A dip pen has two to three parts-the nib, the holder, and sometimes a reservoir. Most reservoirs are permanently attached either to the holder or to the nib. The Mitchell Pen Company, however, makes reservoirs for its nibs that are sold separately and are theoretically removable for cleaning. Once on the pen, and used, however, they are often difficult to remove.
The primary advantage of a dip pen is that waterproof inks can be used with out concern about clogging. Since the pen is loaded by dipping it into the ink, rather than through an internal reservoir such as that of a fountain pen, dried ink can easily be removed by cleaning or by redissolving in the same ink. Because of the need to dip constantly to reload the nib with ink and to blot and test before restarting, as well as the need to clean up after each use, most users have been induced to switch to non waterproof inks and fountain pens.
There are three basic categories of pen nibs-writing, drawing, and calligraphy. The three categories frequently overlap and at times certain groupings are based on traditional justifications that no longer apply. Drawing pen nibs are simple metal versions of traditional quill pens. They are capable of downward as well as side-to-side strokes. Because of the pointed tip, an upward stroke results in the pen point stabbing the surface. Most writing pen nibs have a semicircular shape at the tip, which has the appearance of a droplet of metal or looks as if the tip had been folded back and underneath. This allows for making the upward stroke without stabbing the surface. You might think this would also be ideal for drawing, and you would be right. With this nib, however, some control of preci sion will be sacrificed for freedom and speed.
Calligraphy pen nibs are generally one of two types-lettering or calligraphic. A lettering calligraphy nib has a tip that resembles a round plate. This will produce letters of a consistent line width throughout the stroke. A calligraphic calligraphy nib has a chisel edge so that the letters vary in thickness if the letter is drawn with the edge held at a consistent 45-degree angle. Calligraphy pens are available in sizes up to I½ inches. The Steel Brush, Automatic Lettering Pens, and Coit Lettering Pens are some of the larger styles. Scroll nibs, which have several points at the tip to draw multiple lines, are also available. A number of artists have created abstract watercolor paintings of interlocking grids of lines using various sizes of large calligraphy nibs.
Fountain Pens The available fountain pen styles are the same as dip pens, although the range is much smaller. Platignum and Osmiroid are the two most common brands of calligraphy fountain pens, although these manufacturers also produce lettering and sketch pens. A new arrival to the United States is the Rotring Artpen, which comes in a limited but finely made variety of calligraphy, lettering, and sketching fountain pens. Because the art of calligraphy is most often performed at a slow pace, expensive pens with improved flow characteristics and gold nibs, although desirable, are not necessary to produce excellent results. Writing and ketchi11g are performed at a much quicker pace, and flow characteristics, as well as the quality of the metal used in the nib, become more important factors when choosing a pen.
Waterman Pens, which are made in France, and Mont Blanc pens, made in Germany, are recognized as among the world's finest writing pens and are in high demand among sketch artists. One of the reasons for this is that both com panies use solid gold nibs. The characteristics of gold allow ink to flow along it with minimum resistance. Gold also has the right balance of softness and strength for ideal responsiveness, and a gold nib will do a great deal to improve a writing pen's performance. A sketching pen, however, requires more than just a gold nib. It requires a larger nib (although not necessarily a larger point) and quality design, such as the comb-like structure underneath the pen nib, which holds a quantity of ink ready without flooding the tip of the nib. The best writing pens usually make the best sketching pens. It is not difficult to justify a fine quality pen if drawing is your primary medium of expression. Just as a water colorist will have at least one brush of the finest quality, so will a sketch artist have at least one fine pen.
Even though technical pens were originally designed to meet the needs of the drafting industry, they have great appeal to the contemporary artist. The primary characteristics of technical pens are that they produce an unvarying, even line and that they use a waterproof ink. They differ from fountain pens in that they have a point that consists of a round hollow tube with a needle or pin that runs down the center, rather than a traditional pen point. This design allows the ink to leave the tip and deposit on the drawing surface in a consistent and precise width. For best results, the pen should be held perpendicularly to the drawing surface and drawn, slowly, across a smooth surface. Tilting the pen too much, drawing too quickly, or using a moderately textured surface will produce a broken line. Using soft or heavily textured paper can contribute to clogging of the ink flow, for fibers can collect in the tip and prevent flow. Most technical pens can be kept ready to use, loaded with ink, for several weeks if they are properly capped. Each manufacturer has developed a technical device within its pen caps to help keep the ink in the point from drying out. Koh-I-Noor Rapidograph makes humidifiers for its pens. Rotring Rapidograph has a new style of technical pen, which recently entered the American market. If you use its ink system with its cartridges, the pen is significantly less sensitive to clogging as the result of ink drying in the tip. Because technical pens use a water proof ink, filling, maintenance, and cleaning must be done according to the instructions provided by each manufacturer.
Since the line width produced by a technical pen remains the same, several pens of different point sizes are often used to give a more expressive look to the artwork. There are several high-quality brands of technical pens on the market. Koh-I-Noor Rapidograph is the most recognized brand name and this is the pen that all others use for comparison; therefore, we will use Koh-1-Noor's scale for describing the various sizes of pen points. There are thirteen points ranging in size from 0.13mm to 2mm in width. A number is assigned to each width: 6X0 = 0.13mm, 4X0 = 0.18mm, 30 = 0.25mm, 00 = 0.3mm, 0 = 0.35mm, 1 = 0.5mm, 2 = 0.6mm, 2.5 = 0.7mm, 3 = 0.8mm, 3.5 = 1.0mm, 4 = 1.2mm, 6 = 1.4mm, 7 = 2.0mm. Most technical pen points are made from stainless steel, but some are made with a harder tungsten carbide tip or a sapphire for use on polyester drafting film. (Drafting film and tracing papers have very abrasive surfaces that can wear down steel tips quickly.) Refograph, made by the Alvin Company, and Unitech, made by the Charvoz Company, have a slightly polished edge to .their points, which serves two basic purposes. First, it allows for adequate ink flow even if the pen is held at the same angle that a fountain pen would be held, and second, it allows the pen to be drawn across the surface at a slightly faster pace. However, the polished edge can result in lines with slight inconsistencies in width. This might be considered a drawback by a draftsman, but is usually insignificant to the sketch artist.
To prevent damage to a technical pen, use only those inks made specifically for technical pens. If your pens are not to be used for several weeks, clean them out.
A fiber tip is a collection of thin synthetic fibers that are roughly parallel to one another. The ink flows along the fibers with the help of capillary attraction and gravity. Fiber-tipped pens, or markers, were originally developed for graphic art use where permanence is second to convenience. Most artists' pigments, because they are composed of solid particles, cannot be made to flow through a fiber tip whereas most dyes are pure liquid and can. Dyes, therefore, are the colorant of choice. Since few dyes are as lightfast as the most fugitive of artists' pigments, fiber-tipped pens, with rare exception, are not safe to use for fine artwork where permanence is the first consideration.
Many fine artists do not realize that there is a difference between materials made for graphic art use and those produced for fine art, and they often incorrectly assume that all artists' materials found in art stores are made with utmost permanence in mind. Fiber-tipped pens are the best example of this confusion. When most fine artists see the label "permanent" attributed to markers, they do not realize that it only means that the colorant is waterproof, not lightfast. In graphic art materials in general, and fiber-tipped pens in particular, if it does not say lightfast on the label, it should be assumed it is not. And when it does say lightfast, it should still be used with some caution in fine artwork, because the lightfastness of these products often meets only the minimum standards that would be applied to artist-grade materials.
Graphic artwork is stored with a cover, and most writing is not done with display in mind but rather in books, or notebooks, which are left closed until used or read. Under these conditions, most graphic art materials and fiber-tipped pens would be considered durable. However, if exposed to direct sunlight or intense fluorescent light for even several hours, many of these materials will undergo visible changes.
Recent advances in the technology of dye making and fiber tips have allowed the manufacture of some lightfast markers. There are two types of such markers that have recently been made available-paint markers in 1983 and a limited selection of fine-point markers for writing in 1985. Paint markers have a fluid consistency of a thin paint, which will adhere permanently to almost any sur face. They greatly resemble a lacquer paint. These pens, however, are not practical for ordinary writing. The nibs are often too large and the flow characteristics are not consistent. They are best for labeling, making signs, deco rating T-shirts, and for artwork where precision is not crucial.
The Sakura Company has recently introduced a waterproof and lightfast (it claims lightfastness equivalent to one hundred years of tropical sun) marking pen called Pigma Micron. It comes in ten colors and black, and in three point sizes-0.0lmm, 0.03mm, and 0.05mm. This pen is a revolutionary development. I have tested several prototypes over the years with poor results and this pen is the first successful version. It is only a matter of time before all marking pens use this technology. Until that time you should use extreme caution in selecting any marker for fine artwork.
The black inks used in many ball-point pens (as opposed to the so-called rolling ball-tipped pens) are paste inks of carbon and would be considered safe for fine artwork. Few manufacturers, however, identify the nature of their ball-point inks. The ones that do are calling theirs "India Ink" ball-point pens. Roller-ball pens use a liquid ink and write more like a marker, but are more durable because of the metal, or ceramic, ball tip. There are two brands, both introduced
in 1985, which claim to be lightfast and waterproof. The Pigma Ball, made by Sakura Company, is offered in three colors and black. Roll Pen, manufactured by the Tombo Company, is available in black and blue. Both companies use the latest technology to produce these pens so that they are lightfast and become waterproof when dry. All other ball, or rolling-ball, pens should not be considered safe for fine artwork unless lightfastness is specified.
The ball-point pen is recommended to the artist who likes the appearance of sketches with consistent line, as well as being able to sketch quickly. A further note is that ball-point pens often do not start immediately when first used or when left standing for long periods. This is a sign of quality workmanship. Pens that start too easily often leave undesirable ink deposits that can later smudge.
Most DRAWING ACCESSORIES do at least one of three things. They blend, erase, or protect all or part of a drawing. The first drawing accessory was a finger. The finger, however, is only good for smudging and rubbing out areas of moderate size. The earliest replacements were small bits of rolled leather, later followed by rolled paper, called a tortillon. Over the centuries many tools have devel oped, from duck wings to vinyl erasers.
At one time pencil extenders were considered frivolous, somewhat like cigarette holders. When artists' pencils passed the fifty cent mark, racing toward a dollar. however, many artists reconsidered. And it is not unusual for people who use colored pencils to have between a hundred and a hundred and fifty assorted pencils. If you use colored pencils frequently and find yourself throwing away one-third to one-half of your investment just because you can't get a grip on it, you could save a great deal with the aid of a pencil extender. Pencil extenders, which attach in much the same way as a cigarette holder does to a cigarette, also provide better balance and alleviate hand fatigue.
Before the modem eraser, people used fresh bread. The inside of a slice of bread was simply rolled up into a usable shape. In the mid-eighteenth century, natural rubber began to replace bread. Today, virtually all erasers are made from plastic. An ideal eraser is one that removes the graphite, charcoal, and other drawing media without smudging or disrupting the surface of the ground. Although there is no ideal all-purpose eraser, there are several kinds of erasers that are ideal in particular situations.
Gum Erasers, which are made from a rubberlike compound and a dry cleaner, are one such example. This type of eraser is excellent for general clean-up of pencil drawings. I have found that some testing must be done when this eraser is to be used with colored papers and colored boards because, in rare instances, the surface color is affected by the soap present in the eraser and a bleached or discolored area may result with its use. Soft Vinyl Plastic Erasers are excellent for graphite pencil and all drawing papers. Their nonsmudging and nonabrasive qualities, combined with an ability to lift the graphite off the working surface, have made this eraser especially popular.
Pink Rubber Erasers are classic and the most common erasers used today. This eraser is not as effective with graphite as a vinyl eraser. Pink erasers are much better for colored pencils. They are slightly more abrasive and must be used with some caution on nondurable working surfaces.
Kneaded Erasers are most effective with charcoal and soft pastels. As charcoal or pastel dust build up on the eraser's surface, it can be kneaded to produce a fresh working surface. This type of eraser can also be plied into various shapes and used as a drawing tool to make highlights on charcoal, pastel, and pencil drawings.
Ink Erasers are available in two types-those that are abrasive and the kind that are chemically imbued and nonabrasive. Most of us are familiar with the old fashioned abrasive ink eraser that removes ink by, more often than not
, sanding it away along with the surface. Unless the surface is extremely durable, the results are often less than desirable. A recent improvement on the ink eraser is the chemically imbibed eraser, a conventional vinyl eraser combined with a chemical that reacts with ink to remove it from the working surface. The major improvement is the nonabrasiveness of such erasers
Dry Cleaning Powders and Pads
Dry Cleaning Powders and Pads consist of crumpled vinyl eraser that is sprinkled over the surface and rubbed or rolled around over it before beginning the drawing. This cleans the surface of skin oils, which may have collected during handling, as well as dirt and smudges. Having a clean surface is par ticularly important when working with wet media, which can bead up on a dirty, nonabsorbent surface.
Cleaning pads consist of crumpled vinyl eraser that is sprinkled over the surface and rubbed or rolled around over it before beginning the drawing. This cleans the surface of skin oils, which may have collected during handling, as well as dirt and smudges. Having a clean surface is par ticularly important when working with wet media, which can bead up on a dirty, nonabsorbent surface.
TOOLS FOR BLENDING
Stomps, tortillons, chamois, and duck wings are tools often used for blending dry drawing materials. The names "stomp" and "stump" are used interchange ably. Some manufacturers attempt to use both names to distinguish different styles of cigar-shaped, compressed paper cylinders; however, there is no gener ally accepted distinction between these terms. The name "stump" is older than stomp, yet the name "stomp" refers specifically to cigar-shaped compressed paper cylinders, while stump has more than twenty other meanings. Stomps have a diameter ranging from 1/s to ½ inch, are approximately 5 inches long, and are pointed at one or both ends. A tortillon is made of rolled paper and has only one point, which is usually smaller and more tapered than that of a stomp. Both stomps and tortillons are used for delicate blending in areas where a finger is too large.
Duck-wing Blenders and Chamois
Duck-wing blenders and chamois (rectangular suede or leather) pieces are used for removing charcoal from a surface or for blending larger areas than fingers can accomplish.
FIXATIVES AND FINAL PROTECTIVE SPRAYS
Fixatives are "workable," which means they only gently fix the drawing material to the surface so the drawing can be reworked or added to. This feature is particularly good when working with dry drawing materials. Not only is a fix ative helpful in keeping the dusty quality at a minimum, but, without its assis tance, it is difficult to apply subsequent layers of material and not disturb layers underneath. The major drawback of fixatives is that they darken the appearance of pastel drawings. This can be minimized by using a fixative more frequently and more lightly, rather than less frequently and more heavily.
The mouth atomizer, an ancient tool for spraying liquids by mouth, has been replaced by commercial spray cans and airbrushes. An airbrush is used to apply homemade fixatives, for which many older, excellent formulas can be found. It is the commercial spray fixatives in a can, however, that are used by most artists because of their convenience and effectiveness. Most of these fixatives are made from an acrylic resin dissolved in an organic solvent, such as lacquer thinner. There are two types of spray fixatives-regular, which is scented, and odorless. The odorless is newer to the marketplace, and I feel it is not an improvement. The purpose of the annoying scent is to warn you that there is something in the air that is not good to breathe. The odorless fixative tends to give a false sense of security. Proper ventilation, and in some cases personal protection, should be used with all such sprays.
When applying fixative, the paper should be placed flat on a table and sprayed lightly, holding the can about 12 inches from the surface. If it is held too close, the spray will pool and the results will appear blotchy; if the can is held too far away the spray will tend to dry in route and will not be as effective and will result in a chalky appearance. It is best to apply two to three very light coats rather than one heavy coat. The spray should begin off the edge of the paper and end off the edge of the paper in a consistent parallel motion from one edge to the other. Creativity at this point is not appropriate.
A final protective spray is basically a heavier version of a fixative. It is designed to fix the drawing material permanently to itself and to the drawing surface. It is impossible to store or to handle unprotected soft pastel and charcoal drawings without disturbing, if not permanently damaging, them. Even protecting them through framing is best accomplished after a protective spray has been used.
A protective spray is most effective when used in combination with a fixative.
Frequent, light applications of a fixative will mean less protective spray is needed in the end. This will also result in less darkening of the drawing. Protective sprays are not 100 percent effective in totally fixing dry drawing materials. In fact, to do so would severely affect the appearance of the artwork. Consequently, some care still has to be exercised in handling, presentation, an storage of such artwork. (For more information about framing and storage).
Final protective sprays are available in gloss or matte finish. Since soft pastels and charcoal produce a matte appearance, it would seem that the choice of spray should be matte. This is not the case. Soft pastel and charcoal are very absorbent, and a gloss spray, when used lightly, will appear matte over these materials. The purpose of using a gloss spray whenever possible is that it dries with a clear film, while a matte spray dulls the appearance of the drawing as well as producing a matte look. This would not be the case, however, with oil pastels, paint sticks, and heavily applied graphite. A gloss spray will leave a shine on these materials. A matte spray will not leave a shine, yet some caution must still be used because the spray will tend to dull the appearance. Whatever the choice, drawing materials with a high wax content, such as oil pastels and colored pen cils, should be sprayed with at least a workable fixative to prevent the wax from developing a chalky surface appearance over time.
Always test a spray before using it on your original or final work.
Of the many types of tapes, four are the most relevant to the production of artwork. For the sake of discussion, and because two of the four tapes are pro duced only by 3M, products made by 3M are used as examples.
Masking Tape is primarily an industrial tape that is easily adapted for the art ist's use. Masking tape is produced in several weights and tack (stickiness). The lighter the weight, the more easily the tape will tear during application and removal. Lightweight tapes can tear too easily and make removal a laborious process. Because the heavier weights cost significantly more money and several rolls are often needed, most retail stores are cost conscious and carry only the lighter weights. Technical information about these tapes is rarely available; there fore, it is best to make your own crude test of the tape. A tape of adequate weight should peel off the roll without tearing, and when applied to a glass surface it should also release without tearing.
Masking tape, in general, is considered a high-tack, or very sticky, tape and cannot be used on paper or board without damaging the surface during removal. It is best used on a hard, durable surface. When using masking tape to mask off an area that is to be painted, a crisply painted edge can be obtained by burnish ing down the edge of the tape before painting. When masking for acrylic paints, it is helpful to apply a thin coat of polymer medium along the burnished edge of the tape. This will provide extra protection from paint creeping under the edge during painting.
Masking tape ages poorly and is not meant to be a permanent part of the artwork. After several years the adhesive weakens, crystallizes, stains, and releases from the working surface. In fact, virtually all pressure-sensitive tapes are unsafe to be used as part of permanent artwork.
Drafting Tape (No. 230 by 3M) greatly resembles masking tape in appearance. The primary difference is that it has a lower tack, which is designed not to disturb the surfaces of most papers when it is removed. Yet it is strong enough to hold the paper in place. The harder the surface of the paper, the better this tape will perform.
Artists' White Tape (No. 285 by 3M), is a low-tack, flat, white tape designed as a paper tape, primarily manufactured for the graphic arts industry. The top surface is designed to accept writing. When this tape is applied to a paper sur face, it exhibits a lower tack than drafting tape. On a slick, nonporous surface, however, it exhibits a higher tack than drafting tape. The major flaw with this product is that if it is applied to a nonporous, glasslike surface and left for several days, removal often results in some of the adhesive separating from the tape and remaining attached to the surface.
In recent conversations with 3M it was explained that further development of the tape would be too costly and that they plan to discontinue this product. Instead, 3M will develop for this market a less costly and less versatile tape called Post-it Cover-up Tape #651.
Removable Transparent Tape (No. 811, formally 281 by 3M) is a new tape, which in appearance resembles Magic Tape by 3M. It is primarily designed for the graphic arts. Dry transfer lettering, for example, can be applied to the top surface of the tape; then whole words, sentences, or designs can be easily be lifted and transferred to another position. The advantage of being able to see through the tape is that it allows exact positioning. Since widths up to 3 inches are available, this tape can be ideal as an airbrush frisket (a low-tack transparent film that is used for airbrush masking). A new "improved" version released in 1985 is not as good quality as the prototype No. 281. I have had some com plaints about it not performing as well as a frisket since some paint tends to creep under the edge of the tape. For the fine artist, this tape is excellent for assisting in producing working models or mock-ups, or for use in temporary labeling of delicate working surfaces.