Research point: 2 Master drawing artists / Excercise:Exploring coloured media

Another reason for being behind is that for some reason I find it hard to find what I am looking for. I have spent several days looking for “two artists who exemplify mastery of detailed drawing” but something always seems to lack.

Forexample for some reason I find it almost impossible to find a modern artist that has a body of work for me to study online.Though  I found plenty of old masters in drawing but ended up fishing for enough examples of their works to study from.

Since I cant continue to push this task further I have chosen to study Leonardo Da Vinci’s work which I have studied anyways, it was his works that triggered me to learn the silverpoint drawing methods and the origins of real red clay to begin with.

Leonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519)

He was a multitalented genius who pursued to conquer every field of knowledge. He was a visionary driven by endless curiosity of all things mankind.Among titles applied to him were engineer, architect, sculptor and painter. It was these other traits that benefitted from his drawing skills vice versa his drawings are of everything and anything and the deeper knowledge of the things he was drawing by how they operated and worked was what helped him convey his subjects more realistically. He went as far as to dissect animals and even humans to study their anatomies.

I first came accross the term silverpoint drawing upon looking into Leonardo Da Vinci’s drawings and I wanted to really find out how much does the use of media change the way one draws or visualises things. One thing that I learnt was that the marks done with silver point drawing method are very subtle and though in time they may tarnish much darker there maybe a need for additional media like charcoal or graphite pen or as in the drapery study in this St Anne Cartoon highlighting the whites and using toned paper. What it will be perfect for however is for the sfumato (fog) effect that Mona Lisa is famous for and also shows in the previous cartoon. The delicate  marks of silver point tool makes it possible to work very careful soft gradients and as non spontanious tool quite perfect for subtle skin tones and forexample drapery. The preparation of the paper and the laborous work of adding tone with subtle marks of silverpoint, which basically just is metal particles adhering on to the specifical ground on the paper gives engaging the artwork almost religious feel. There is a ritual to it and you start with silent respect for the carefully prepared blanc paper as well as to the subject itself, your working pace is slow, meticulous, careful and contemplative.

Having this knowledge about the nature of silverpoint drawing techniques one can inspect some of Leonardo Da Vinci’s work from this point of view. For instance a warrior drawing done after Verrochio’s statue of Bartolomeo Colleoni. Lines are sharp and sketchy, he has not aimed for photorealistic depiction neither for sfumato effect but has limited the use of lines to main discriptions of edges or suggestions of curvy hairs or patterns in the metal armoury with exception on the face which is where we see a lighter softer lines to descripe the form of the face. Even in its sketchy nature it is very carefully rendered and Im sensing the stillness and respect for the medium and preparatory grounding work that set the pace for this drawing.  In contrast there are  the fast paced  caricatures, as THE LIFE AND TIMES OF LEONARD book (page 22) tells me “Leonardo was accustomed to wander about with his pad and pencil in the most wretched quarters of the city in order to sketch portraits of qrotesque types”The image on the link appears to be a silverpoint drawing as well and I concluded this by the white marks, though not all the methods are layed out in the open, it looks like to me that the white marks have been achieved by scratching off layer which would suggest the presence of ground. There still seems to be a lot of things we dont know about the methods that Leonardo Da Vinci used in his drawings.

Leonardo Da Vinci studied animals of all kind, snakes, lizards, cats, lions, dogs, crabs, oxen, asses, falcons, eagles, ducks, wolfs, bats and lambs to name a few. He had a great admiration for horses which he thought to be supernatural creatures. He spent lot of time understanding their behaviours and whims drawing them in every concievable position. Horse sketches.

The endless curiosity of Leonardo Da Vinci led him to study everything and draw everything, he desgined entire cities, fully functional war machines, dissected animals and humans and made anatomical drawings that are still valid today, in his sketchbooks can be found drafts of geological formations, astronomical calculations and studies, hydraulics designs, machinery designs, botanical studies, optical studies (forexample machine to make concave mirrors) studies of physics, studies of mathematics. He was obsessed with building a machine that could fly and studied birds and has numerous designs which some of them were built and tested upon.

During his lifetime his achievements were not getting enough merit due to his irregular non systematic study methods and lack of proper academic record keeping skills, it could be even that due to this shortcoming we havent tapped into his entire full genius and vast of ideas.

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)

Since I had trouble finding modern artist to exemplify mastery of detailed illustration I will choose the late American painter Norman Rockwell who is mostly celebrated for his all american feel good patriotic painting style. Not a bad person for aspiring oil painter to study either. It was his book NORMAN ROCKWELL A Celebration of 100 Years book by Tom Rockwell with meticulously rendered charcoal preliminary sketches that trickered me to barbeque my very own array of charcoals as previous post stated.

Charcoal study for painting going and coming

Charcoal study of two boys

Just Married

His charcoal “preliminaries” are often as detailed and finished to completion as the final oil paintings. Here is an excerpt of a website what he stated about charcoal preliminaries:

Before Rockwell began an oil on canvas painting, he carefully prepared a full-scale charcoal drawing. To Rockwell, the final drawing was the real foundation of a picture. All issues of composition, tone and detail were resolved at this stage, with revisions being made until the drawing expressed the story exactly as Rockwell intended.

“I take the making of the charcoal layouts very seriously,” Rockwell once said. “Too many novices, I believe, wait until they are on the canvas before trying to solve many of their problems. It is much better to wrestle with them ahead through studies.””


Excercise: Exploring coloured media

Which of the media you have experimented with did you find most expressive ? What were the pros and cons of each medium ? Which medium do you think lends itself to very detailed work ?

Soft pastel

IM very unfamiliar with this medium and I still feel quite uncomfortable with it. The pro of pastel is that its very quick and might be good at quickly giving colour to a large piece of image. The con is the powdery form and the bulky shape that limits its use. I can see myself using pastel exactly for these purposes, giving quick colours or make quick colour studies maybe turning the loosed powderness to become benefit as using for preliminary colour before using coloured pencils, this would only work for a spontanious type of work.

Coloured pencils

For very meticulous detailed works, you have full control of the medium but building up layers is time consuming and laborous.

Oil pastels

This is another media I have felt uncomfortable however I have continued to persist in learning how to master it hence its very close to oilpainting results. During last course I used a lot of heat to manipulate it, I scraped on top of paper placed another one top then iron on top and the colours blended nicely melted partially and left interesting thick uneven pattern on printed surface. On the forums I came accross another medium close to this called oilsticks which is even more closer to oilpainting results, hence I dont have the money to buy them and I found that regardless how many oilpastels I have I still never get the ride array of colours. So I decided to make my own oil pastels or stick or actually discs which can be seen in the previous post. These discs blend beautifully and look very much like oilpainting, they are also very soft and easily blendable and hence there are different level of opaque and transparency and hardness there is lot of possibilities for different effects. Also Im able to have endless amount of variety of colours and rather than blend two different colours I can apply clean colour blotches and even further imitate the oil paint effects. Im really excited about the oil discs I have “invented” there is another benefit to the shape of discs, I can cut it into two and have a very sharp edge to draw very thin lines yet also use the wider side to paint very wide areas.


I dont like markers because they are permanent but I do like felt tips, if you use certain kind of paper plus experiment with different sizing you can use water to blend the colours easily and since the colours are quite strong you dont need to use a lot of it, just along the outer lines where you spread it from towards the wide blanc areas. You can also do monotypes by drawing with felt tips then wetting the surface and pressing a piece of paper on top. Use of water extends the usability of felt tips to level of watercolour, but faster and easier, one could forinstance do quick colour sketches and washes in situ.

Coloured inks

Unfortunately these were not available for me right now.


So what the $£%& have I been doing then….


This is the time I’m suppose to send in my assignment, however haven’t even logged in excercises and projects, though have been doing them. What is my reason ? Im too busy all the time AND I get distrubted by something ALL THE TIME. And then there is the confusion in my mind as well that makes things slowlier as I spend half of the day looking absent minded staring into some distance. (@-@)

Have I got offtracked on my course ? No I dont think so. I have being doing things that I was not asked to, but I felt like they were relevant to these studies anyways. That is making my own media, which is what I have been doing recently. Before prepairing my own drawing materials I was investigating finding or making my own red clay used by Leonardo Da Vinci and techniques for doing silverpoint drawings, these took really long time but I feel now contented having satisfied my curiosity and knowing how they are done and able to do them myself.

Going back in time in reverse, yesterday, upon browsing my Norman Rockwell book and seeing his preliminary drawings done with charcoal I returned to ponder something that had wondered before, how to acquire the type of charcoal that would leave more smoother translucent and beautiful mark than the ones I had bought from shop. I googled “how to make your own charcoal” and it was surprisingly easy to make and this is what I did:

Make your own charcoals

1. I piled up variety of sticks around my yeard and tightly shoved them into a calvanised metal bucket (I removed the handle)

2. I emptied my calvanised metal trash bin, layered it with charcoal and newspaper then placed the bucket with sticks upside down on top of the charcoals and lit it up

3. I let everything cool down before I gathered my own made arrays of charcoal sticks

How successful was this ? Very ! I like these way much more than the ones I have bought from shot, they are not as brittle, I get VARIETY of marks as I used variety of wood sticks, some are soft some are smooth some grainy some brownish some black etc and it does not give the black off so readily as the shops own which means that will last longer. This was well spent time yesterday !




Next thing I needed then was putty rubber, here is what I did:


How to make your own putty rubber ?


1. You need a food processor with ordinary scalper

2. You need any white bread, toast bread could be good so you can tear of cut off the crust. Depending how much you want to do I filled the entire space with bread as it reduces in size once you have grounded it.

3. You need pva clue, you will add this while you are grinding the bread, it will form to a dough eventually, however I didnt add as much clue, I stopped when it was still grainy and formed dough in my hands.




Moving more back in time. I didnt have money to buy oilsticks so decided to make my own. Or rather lets call them oil discs. Here approximate method, not everyone is the same as I experimented while doing, some are translucent, some are opaque, some are grainy hard soft and so worth.


Make your own oil discs


1. You need 2 x heat diffuser.

2. Oven proof flat  glass plate where you mix the colours, empty clean metal can where you melt the wax, oven gloves, spatula,molds and vaseline.

3. Wax any kind, (experiment to suit your needs), old crayons, oil colours, earth pigments, titanium oxide/zinc dioxide.

4. melt your choice of wax in can on top of heat diffuser meanwhile put the glass dish on low heat on top of other heat diffuser – the heat will keep wax melted while you mix in other ingredients.

5. Pour some melted wax onto heated glass plate add oil paint and other ingredients as you wish, the crayons are great way to “finetune” colours by melting it directly on the hot plate.

6. Mix with spatula thoroughly

7. Prepair the molds with vaseline as release agent.

8. Gather the wax from plate with spatula to the molds and leave to cool down.




Before any of these I made my own watercolours from earth pigments.


Make your own watercolours


1. You need empty glass jar with lid,cheese clothe,cockle shells, glycerine,ox gall, arabic gum, distilled water,honey OR  sugarine, spatula, glass plate and glass mull.

2. Measure 1 part arabic gum to 7 parts distilled water into jar, put lid on leave over night.

3. Strain arabic gum solution through cheese clothe to another jar. add 2 parts honey or sugarine, few drops ox gall and few drops glycerine.

4. Pour one spoon of pigment onto glass plate, make a dent in the center pour the arabic gum solution and began grinding with glass mill until smooth.

5. Gather paste with your spatula into the cockshell.

6. Repeat with each colour.

7. Leave to dry overnight.