Learn to Draw > Colored paper

Tinted paper, black chalk, strokes opaque white inserted with a brush A drawing loses its freshness if it is fixed each time after work on it in order to avoid smudging. A drawing should never be fixed until it is finished.

Eraser and bread crumb should be left well alone, particularly when using chalks. With charcoal some final erasing and touching up can be done. Because it is so soft, charcoal has a very loose contact with the paper anyway, and it produces rather imprecise lines, which match the uncertain traces of the eraser.

A line and wash drawing on white paper is built up in the same way as a watercolor: working from light to dark. Starting with the wash and flnishing with the accent strokes is more in keeping with an impressionistic vision.

If the constructive approach is preferred, the reverse order is appropriate. It is possible, of course, to do both simultaneously, just as both modes of vision can be used together.

Black or white chalk drawing on colored paper is comparable to opaque color or oil painting. The artist works from the background color into the darks and puts in the lights at the end. This way of drawing is best done with lines alone; washing or stumping does not give good results. White strokes are best done with white pastel, not white pencil, which is too transparent on most papers. The greatest precision is obtained with a flne brush line of opaque white.

Above: RQugh white drawing paper, black chalk. A broad first application of Conte crayon is rubbed over flat; then more detail is inserted, and finally high lights are picked out with a soft rubber eraser. Below: White French Ingrea paper, red crayon. The original line drawing is tinted in places by moving the pencil point lightly over the paper
We have already shown why readymade, bright colored paper is unsuitable for any drawing other than an explanatory sketch or a poster. It has more important artistic arguments against it, for the exact tone of color used is exceedingly important to the whole effect.

Color laid on by hand can produce an exact tone and besides has an attractive surface quality. The background color has to combine well with the material used for the drawing, either by affinity or contrast. Some "black" inks have a brown tinge when diluted, others are colder, bluish or violet.

It is rare to find a black that dilutes to a neutral gray, and when it does it is affected by the color of the paper and gives all kinds of nuances from the effects of color relationship. Even when undiluted, pure black inks do the same. This must be kept in mind to avoid unexpected results. The Chinese, who are the greatest authorities on ink, used its hidden color qualities deliberately. More will be said on color relationships in the section on Color. Without a close study, it is impossible to control effects with colored paper.

Despite the numerous varieties of colored paper produced since their manufacture began, the best artists have always tinted their papers themselves, aiming at an optical, colored gray by the exploitation of color relationships. Durer laid a mat green over red ochre to make a sensitive brown or greenish gray. Sometimes he made a tone verging on violet and blue grays. But gray was always aimed at, not strong colors which are too noticeable, distracting from the drawing and the theme. Those who incline too much to strong colors should remember this.

Tinting of paper is best done with transparent watercolor. Opaque colors, besides looking dead, often make the ink stroke run because of their opacity, although they are tolerable for pencil or chalk. Even then the "heightening," as white shading for high lights is called, is unattractive on them. It is thus advisable to keep to a thin glaze of watercolor; the whiteness of the paper behind it imparts a brilliance even to dark tints.

Corrections cannot be made on ink drawings on colored paper without spoiling the tint. Opaque white, too, cannot
Above: White French Ingres paper, red crayon. A soft drawing achieved by rubbing over the entire surface several times with a wad of cloth and finishing off with shadows added with a blunt crayon. Below: Light gray Ingres paper. 1 mm. Rex nib used the wrong way round. A preliminary study for a portrait (no preliminary drawing). In one hour six sketches were done in this way be corrected or washed off without smudging the ground. If pencil is used, then only opaque white can be used for heightening because white chalk does not combine satisfactorily except with black chalk or charcoal.

A drawing heightened with white pencil or opaque white cannot, thus, be attempted without some experience and competence. There is an easier technique on colored or gray tinted paper. It is, in the author's opinion, much safer, as it rests on uniformity of material. An eraser is all that is necessary; the rubbed out ground gives the high lights, as follows: The light paper is colored all over with ground chalk, but not fixed. The drawing is then done in black or red chalk as required, as though onto white paper. A soft, pointed eraser is then used to take out all the high lights from the ground. It is possible then, if necessary, to deepen the darks with the chalk, or put in more detail.

Reverse techniques

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