Learn to Draw > Charcoal and pen hand positions
The question of strong pressure does not arise when using the brush. Only hair brushes are used for drawing, and they are so soft that it is almost impossible to tell with the eyes shut when the point touches the paper. The smallest touch with a filled brush makes a dot or a thin stroke. Greater pressure will give broader lines or areas. The finest and most regular stroke comes from a brush held perpendicular to the paper. The hand needs support for fine brush strokes, using either the edge of the hand or the outstretched point of the little finger.
There is another grip which produces strokes of great individuality: the thumb points straight down the pencil or brush, while the fingers curl above it almost into the fist. This grip requires the use of a flat brush, and here we pass over the borderline from drawing into painting. Also, an almost upright surface is essential for this grip, whether using pencil or brush. With the other grips the slope of the surface was immaterial, except for the Chinese brush grip, which must have a horizontal surface.
The fist grip of pencil or brush, which, of course, is held loosely and not like a
murderer clutching his dagger, is surest for horizontal and vertical lines. It leads directly to "building," that is, to a Cubist interpretation, however insistent curves and slopes may be. Extensive use of the fist grip is
liable to become an affectation, but at least it forces the student to draw with broad, bold strokes. It should be practiced with discretion. A hand position is as indicative of character as is handwriting, and any affectation is betrayed in the finished work.
Without a traditional technique for holding the instruments and forming strokes, such as the Chinese learn, the Western student has to set about finding and developing his own personal technique as early as possible. It would be wrong to search out something quite new for the sake of originality alone, but it may be valuable to study the drawings of famous masters for an appropriate style of expression. Much of the individuality of a work depends on
the way the strokes are made. It is instructive to try to imitate the kinds of strokes in a chosen model. By this is not meant a true copy of a particular drawing, but a use of the other's manner in one's own drawing. An analysis of something perfect of its kind is a rapid means to self-discovery.
This, however, is not enough: the same motif should be drawn in different techniques. Especially valuable are those which the student does not like. His prejudice often turns out to have been misplaced, and he finds increased expression by mastering a new method. If not, he is reassured that he is already working along the right lines.
The mode of vision determines to some extent the way the strokes are made. Until now we have spoken of only two ways of seeing: an impressionistic and a constructive, or structural, mode. There are others, which differ according to individual temperament. One artist may concentrate immediately on some detail, then add a second, then others, and carefully draw in the final lines, quite unconcerned about the "correctness" of the whole: She will see more cosmic significance in a grain of seed than in a tree or a whole forest.
To work from the small form to the large one certainly requires a touch and vision different from the reverse process. These suggestions are to indicate that the most suitable approach for a drawing is not consciously determined, but something which grows out of the artist's nature.
The development of technique is naturally closely concerned with a personal preference for certain drawing materials. This is a matter of individual sensuousness, which develops quite unconsciously.
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