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Drawing media Characteristics
All art materials have a common goal, that of making marks that represent an idea or an illusion of a reality either real or imagined. So why do we have different words for different materials and in this case different names for different classes of materials? Is there really that much that is different about drawing materials compared to painting media? And does it matter in the end?

Perhaps that last point is a matter for philosophers to worry about. It is plain however that communication soon becomes meaningless if words are simply interchanged at whim when there are real differences between objects. The difference in this case is not just that all painting media are liquids and that most drawing media are solids, it is the final usage that determines these fundamental characteristics. Drawings are  made with media that are fundamentally more direct and simple in both application and concept because drawings themselves are simpler and more direct than paintings. The drawing stems from the use of charcoal to outline an idea, paint is used for the full development of ideas in a durable form that includes the a fuller exposition of color, tone, texture and so on.

Of course drawing media can be used to imitate some of the qualities of paintings but they always retain a certain sketchy result compared to the real thing. Some liquid media especially inks are referred to as drawing media because they are intended to behave as liquid equivalents of charcoal, with use of a single color such as black or sepia considered normal and being available in a very small range of colors compared to paint. The fact that they lack the body of real paint always gives them a drawing like simplicity. This lack of a proper paint body also limits their use in most cases to paper or similar materials.

All solid drawing media are applied directly without a brush, and are deposited on the paper support as a powder which then requires the subsequent application of a liquid varnish or fixative (which is just a fast drying kind of varnish) in order to increase the durability of the artwork, otherwise simply brushing the work against any surface will result in the removal of the pigment particles. Thus it could be said that drawing materials require 2 binders, one to hold the solid material together before it is applied, and one to hold it together after it is applied.

Related Links:

Oils and Alkyds

Watercolors and Gouache

Acrylics and Tempera

Encaustic and Fresco


Pastels The simplest way to enjoy pigment beauty
Pastels are the drawing media of first choice for many artist's. They combine the paint like characteristics of color with the simplicity of application of a drawing material. When they originated in the 17th and 18th centuries they were intended as a cheap and easy way to imitate Oil Paint without the problem of the drying time of oils. As such they quickly earned a bad reputation as a paint substitute used by poor artist's which was unfortunate. This is why Pastel pictures were erroneously described by many as 'paintings', although the Pastel sticks themselves were never referred to as paint. This confusion persists even today, compounded by the desire of many to assume a supposed greater respectability for artwork that might be treated differently if people think it is a painting rather than a drawing. This will continue so long as there is a price differential between drawings and paintings.

It was Degas who gave the aura of  creative respectability to soft pastels by showing the possibilities inherent in using the sticks  in a more drawing like manner. Instead of trying to imitate paintings, degas applied the materials as lines and strokes of the sticks that blended color and tones in the eye rather than on the paper. Freed of the need to be something they were not, pastels have gained in popularity as a serious artist's medium.

Pastels should have just enough binder to enable easy handling, but soft enough to enable easy application of dense pigment color. Unlike paints in which the colors are physically mixed together, the pastels need to be made in as many tints as would be likely to be used in the picture. A small stick size about the length of a finger, but not so thick proves to be the most usable form for them to be in. Square or round is a personal preference, but square shapes are impractical to make in the studio easily.



Chalks The traditional Renaissance drawing material
Red chalk and a limited range of other colors, principally dark brown, white, ochre, and black are famously used by famous Renaissance masters. These chalks are a lot harder than pastels and could be sharpened with a knife to a point not dissimilar to a pencil and were used inserted in special holders that made their use virtually indistinguishable from using a pencil. The holders are still sold,  although their principal use is as a holder for short stubs of pencil and are regarded as pencil extenders. The best type to get are ones with little metal claws that grip the pencil and are then clamped by a sliding metal ring. These adapt better to the varying widths of chalk than some other designs. The characteristic of hardness is arrived at by using whiting instead of precipitated chalk, and by using a stronger gum solution for any given pigment. Otherwise these hard chalks are similar in character to the soft pastels.


References
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Eastlake, Sir C L,    Materials For A History Of Oil Painting,    1847 (Dover)
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Gottsegen, M D,    A Manual Of Painting Materials And Techniques,    1987 (Harper & Row)
Maire, F,    Colors: What They Are And What To Expect Of Them,    1910 (Drake)
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Merrifield, Mrs. M P,    Medieval And Renaissance Treatises On The Arts Of Painting    1849 (Dover)
Muther, R,    The History Of Painting From The Fourth Century To The Early Nineteenth Century,    1907 (Putnam)
Parkhurst, D B,    The Painter In Oil   1898 (Lothrop, Lee & Shepard)
Patton, T C,    Pigment Handbook,    1973 (Wiley)
Porter, N      Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary,      1913 (Merriam)
Pliny, The Elder (Gaius Plinius),    Natural History,    77 AD (Penguin Classics)
Roy, A      Artist's Pigments: A Handbook Of Their History And Characteristics,      1994 (Oxford University Press)
Taubs, F,    A Guide To Traditional And Modern Painting Methods,    1963 (Thames & Hudson)
Theophilus,   On Divers Arts,    1125 (Dover)
Various,    Encyclopedia Britannica,    fifteenth edition 1981  (Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc)
Various,    Paint And Painting,   1982,  (Winsor & Newton / The Tate Gallery)
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Vasari, G,   The Lives Of The Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors And Architects,    1568 (Penguin Classics)


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