The glories of an electric rubber

Thank you Heidi for introducing me to the electric eraser.  It sounds like such an absurd invention.  People have fallen about laughing when I have told them of this marvelous development in mark making,  “I think someone’s been watching too much shopping TV” but as soon as Heidi showed me, I knew this was the answer to the riddle of detailed highlights in drawings.

So lets start at the beginning of the crayon drawing story, it was way back in drawing classes in Barcelona, with professor Javier, something something.  He was probably one of my all time favourite teachers so bendy and floppy, a bit camp but full of enthusiasm.  He held up objects and said their name, amongst these introductions were “Conte Crayon” and “Sponge” my two new friends.  Fast forward a few years, and I managed to learn how to use these things.  Living in Krakow, Jorek, the local nut job of Kazimierz invited me back to see his paintings in his flat in Nowa Huta, where he lived with the ghost of his grandfather (that sometimes came to Kazimierz in Jorek’s body).  His paintings were of girls that he had seen in the bars, he had then gone home and imagined them naked, and painted by the exposed light bulbs with his master, Francis Bacon, sat on his shoulder whispering things to him.  His paintings took off from Bacon’s version of Innocent X.  The vertical lines like the streaks of a movie projector.  So what started with Velazquez, then Bacon, then an obscure nutter in Nowa Huta to another obscure nutter in Coniston.  I took this vertical streak and used it in the drawings with conte crayon, I wish I knew where this drawing was, but it was a guy who had passed out drunk sat at the bar, I drew his hand and head, then smudged everything with downward strokes, and redrew, rubbed out, smudged downward, redrew and the dark murky depth started coming through.  So this is how to draw with conte crayon (conte is a brand name, really its a black pastel, but a little harder than normal, still made from lamp black and gum tragacanth).  BUT, you can only get so far, because you can’t do dots with a rubber, only lines, and not easy to do thin lines either, -the riddle of diddles in doodles.

Then last spring in Paris with the Princess 010 we met an artist, damn I can’t remember her name, she gave me a very putty rubber, which was new to me because I’m not used to them being as malleable as blue tac, I thought aha, this should be good for those difficult details, and it was.  When we got back to Manchester I started drawing rhodendrons and magnolia, then incorporating them with pen and ink drawings of other flowers and plants, which are all now gone onto live on people’s walls.  The putty rubber did help, because it doesn’t flake away into a mess of rubber on the page, but for the same reason it’s problematic because it doesn’t shift that much carbon from the page: it takes a little then turns into a smudge.  Sometimes it is ok to use a white crayon over the top, but if there is black underneath you end up with a dirty crayon and instead of white you have grey.  The other problem with using white crayon is that it has a slightly different colour to that of the paper.  So even if you do use white crayon for highlights, you still have to rub out the space where you are going to use it.

So bring on the electric rubber.  It’s like drawing with a white pen.  The improvement’s that I would like to make if I had the chance, would be first to make it solar powered or such like, because pound shop batteries are rubbish (though for the rubber being £2.50 you can’t expect much more)  the other improvement would for it to be two directional, though that isn’t so important.

Back to these drawings I’ve been doing today.  After I did the rhodedendrons it occured to me, though I really liked them, depth and mystery etc, they weren’t the most cheerful pictures, and I always seem to do flowers in black and white, I don’t know why.  So I was thinking that this spring I would take the same approach but with glazes, beginning with the drawings (which is why I forked out for an electric rubber).  I came back to Coniston eager to get going, but there aren’t many flowers at the moment, I’ve not been down to the lake yet though, but instead of flowers I’ve been looking at the floor, and little plants poking out through stone walls.  Now I’m thinking about colour and this glazing issue.  My plan was to start the painting with tempera or emulsion, do the drawing then return to the painting with coloured glazes, though by this time the plant would have died, or the floor changed.  It would make more sense to take a photograph and copy from it later.  I was thinking about this, but drawing the ground is a really difficult task, it all looks the same but is all different.  It’s much easier to draw it from a photograph, but what would that acheive?  I feel different after drawing the ground from life, it seems that there is more to draw the smaller things get.  It takes a long time, and I keep losing the thing I was drawing, the first time I had to stop because I was getting fidgety, the second time because it was getting dark.  Tomorrow I’ll do one for a lot longer.  Looking at the photographs of the drawing, I can see they are different than if I had copied from a photograph, so I am glad I did them from life, but I still wonder about doing the colour.

I’ve messed about a bit with photoshop, they need very little colour, maybe I’ll mess about with paint tomorrow.


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