Monday, 6 April 2015

Red Chalk Drawing: Comparing Modern Alternatives with the Real Thing.

Michael Whynot. Red chalk.

Michael Whynot. Red chalk.

I am a big admirer of red chalk drawings from the renaissance. So much so, that it is my preferred drawing medium. But it's not as simple as that. The drawings made during the renaissance were actual red chalk, while what we usually draw with today are modern equivalents.

And they are not all created equal. There are red chalk-like alternatives made by Conte, Faber-Castell, and Prismacolor Verithins to name just three of the brands that I have tried personally. And they all have their faults and advantages.

Conte is very soft and makes achieving dark values easy. But I find that the binder used to bind the pigment is too oily and getting fine detail is difficult in smaller drawings.

The Prismacolor and Faber-Castell brands use a waxy binder that makes it easier to get fine details but hard to get a dark value.

I have started using natural sanguine recently, which is an actual red chalk that comes in chunks which need to be cut or sanded into a convenient shape for drawing.

The first drawing above was made with a Faber-Castell pencil and the bottom was made with real red chalk. The red chalk is much drier than any of the man-made pencils, but not as easy to work with. It tends to be inconsistent from one piece to another. Some can be very crumbly while others are too hard. But I like the feel of it, when you get a good chunk; it has a nice pull against the paper. And gaining a dark value is easy. Fine detail, though, is also difficult to achieve with smaller drawings.

It will take some getting used to, but the real red chalk gives a glowing aspect to a drawing that seems to be missing from the man-made alternative. I like its rich, vibrant warmth.