Lead Pencil

This well-known medium is one of the most beautiful for pure line work, and its use is an excellent training to the eye and hand in precision of observation. Perhaps this is why it has not been so popular in our art schools lately, when the charms of severe discipline are not so much in favour as they should be. It is the first medium we are given to draw with, and as the handiest and most convenient is unrivalled for sketch-book use.

It is made in a large variety of degrees, from the hardest and greyest to the softest and blackest, and is too well known to need much description. It does not need fixing.

For pure line drawing nothing equals it, except silver point, and great draughtsmen, like Ingres, have always loved it. It does not lend itself so readily to any form of mass drawing. Although it is sometimes used for this purpose, the offensive shine that occurs if dark masses are introduced is against its use in any but very lightly shaded work.


Plate LV.


275Its charm is the extreme delicacy of its grey-black lines.

Silver and Gold Point.

Similar to lead pencil, and of even greater delicacy, is silver-point drawing. A more ancient method, it consists in drawing with a silver point on paper the surface of which has been treated with a faint wash of Chinese white. Without this wash the point will not make a mark.

For extreme delicacy and purity of line no medium can surpass this method. And for the expression of a beautiful line, such as a profile, nothing could be more suitable than a silver point. As a training to the eye and hand also, it is of great value, as no rubbing out of any sort is possible, and eye and hand must work together with great exactness. The discipline of silver-point drawing is to be recommended as a corrective to the picturesque vagaries of charcoal work.

A gold point, giving a warmer line, can also be used in the same way as a silver point, the paper first having been treated with Chinese white.


Two extreme points of view from which the rendering of form can be approached have been explained, and it has been suggested that students should study them both separately in the first instance, as they each have different things to teach. Of the mediums that are best suited to a drawing combining both points of view, the first and most popular is charcoal.

Charcoal is made in many different degrees of hardness and softness, the harder varieties being capable of quite a fine point. A chisel-shaped point is the most convenient, as it does not wear away so quickly. And if the broad side of the chisel point is used when a dark mass is wanted, the edge can constantly be kept sharp. With this edge a very fine line can be drawn.

Charcoal works with great freedom, and answers readily when forceful expression is wanted. It is much more like painting than any other form of drawing, a wide piece of charcoal making a wide mark similar to a brush. The delicacy and lightness with which it has to be handled is also much more like the handling of a brush than any other point drawing. When rubbed with the finger, it sheds a soft grey tone over the whole work. With a piece of bread pressed by thumb and finger into a pellet, high lights can be taken out with the precision of white chalk; or rubber can be used. Bread is, perhaps, the best, as it does not smudge the charcoal but lifts it readily off. When rubbed with the finger, the darks, of course, are lightened in tone. It is therefore useful to draw in the general proportions roughly and rub down in this way. You then have a middle tone over the work, with the rough drawing showing through. Now proceed carefully to draw your lights with bread or rubber, and your shadows with charcoal, in much the same manner as you did in the monochrome exercises already described.

All preliminary setting out of your work on canvas is usually done with charcoal, which must of course be fixed with a spray diffuser. For large work, such as a full-length portrait, sticks of charcoal nearly an inch in diameter are made, and a long swinging line can be done without their breaking.

For drawings that are intended as things of beauty in themselves, and are not merely done as a preparatory study for a painting, charcoal is perhaps not so refined a medium as a great many others. It is too much like painting to have the particular beauties of a drawing, and too much like drawing to have the qualities of a painting. However, some beautiful things have been done with it.

It is useful in doing studies where much finish is desired, to fix the work slightly when drawn in and carried some way on. You can work over this again without continually rubbing out with your hand what you have already drawn. If necessary you can rub out with a hard piece of rubber any parts that have already been fixed, or even scrape with a pen-knife. But this is not advisable for anything but an academic study, or working drawings, as it spoils the beauty and freshness of charcoal work. Studies done in this medium can also be finished with Conté chalk.

There is also an artificial charcoal put up in sticks, that is very good for refined work. It has some advantages over natural charcoal, in that there are no knots and it works much more evenly. The best natural charcoal I have used is the French make known as "Fusain Rouget." It is made in three degrees, No. 3 being the softest, and, of course, the blackest. But some of the ordinary Venetian and vine charcoals sold are good. But don't get the cheaper varieties: a bad piece of charcoal is worse than useless.