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Definition: drawing from Collins English Dictionary


1 a picture or plan made by means of lines on a surface, esp one made with a pencil or pen without the use of colour

2 a sketch, plan, or outline

3 the art of making drawings; draughtsmanship

Summary Article: drawing
From The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

The art of representation by use of lines or other marks. Traditional drawing media includes pencil, charcoal, pen and ink, chalk, and pastels, while more modern materials include coloured pencils, Conté crayons, wax crayons, and felt-tip pens, or markers. The representation can also be achieved by various means of graphic reproduction, line engraving, etching, wood engraving, and lithography. Painting is technically drawing, but with a brush. Drawing has been practised throughout art history and is an element in all pictorial art. A drawing may be a preliminary stage in the creation of a work of art, or a complete work of art in itself.

Traditional drawing, the representation of objects, is often said to be the central discipline in art, even if an artist does not ultimately use drawing in their preferred area of work. The reason given is that an artist's eyes need to be trained to observe detail in order to produce something that is honest or compelling for the viewer.

Drawing techniques include an awareness of the proportion of objects in relation to each other, and the shape of the ‘negative space’, the area between objects. Full use should be made of the area of paper being worked on. Liveliness, depth, and interest can be created with the use of a range of contour lines, both in width and density; different grades of pencil give a variety of line. Unless making a contour drawing, the use of shading techniques, such as hatching, will add form and texture. To give instant depth to the drawing, the darkest tones visible should be blocked in first. The tones should then be built up, and finally the extreme highlights added to bring the drawing to life.

The chosen medium will have a major impact on the finished drawing. Each medium lies on the surface of the paper in a different manner and has a distinctive quality. Artists often experiment with different media before deciding which is most suitable for the translation of a particular idea. The value scale obtainable from a drawing medium depends not only on its intrinsic qualities but also on the way that it is used.

The traditional importance of drawing as a preliminary activity is seen in the great wealth of European old-master drawings. The need for careful studies of composition, figures, drapery, and other details to be included in a finished work is obvious. Such guidance is particularly necessary in fresco, where the whole work had to be completely preconceived and where a number of pupils were employed who would follow the artist's graphic indications. Some artists produced finished drawings to show their patrons what the completed picture would be like, the portrait drawings of Hans Holbein being an example.

The nature of drawing makes it especially suitable for certain types of work that are an end in themselves; for example, topography and caricature. Apart from these functions, artists have always valued drawing as a personal exercise and intimate means of expression.

Early drawing media Drawing dates back to 12,000 BC, when charcoal (burned twigs and sticks) was used in prehistoric cave art. In about 2500 BC Egyptians began to use ink on papyrus. The forerunner of the pencil was silverpoint. Used mainly in Northern Europe, in the 15th and 16th centuries, the technique involved using a silver-tipped rod to draw on paper prepared with opaque white; the lines would oxidize to a brownish colour and could not be erased.

Pencil The use of pencil, a stick of graphite encased in wood or a holder, was developed in England in the 16th century. The term ‘lead’, commonly applied to the graphite in a pencil, dates back to the 16th century when graphite was mistaken for lead. Pencils are graded, on an H and B system, by the hardness and softness of the graphite rod. Hard pencils range from 9H (the hardest) to H, and soft pencils range from 8B (the softest) to B. HB pencils lie between the two ranges, and are the most commonly used. Each pencil type will carry with it its own unique characteristics. Types of pencil include mechanical pencils, which provide a permanently sharp point; carpenters pencils, with flat rectangular heads; and graphite sticks, used for making broad, dark, thick marks. Coloured pencils are a more modern invention, and contain a rod made of clay, pigment, and wax. A popular drawing medium, they are blendable, and have a wide range of uses.

Charcoal Charcoal is the oldest drawing medium. Modern charcoal is made from vine and willow twigs, and comes in three types: stick, compressed, and pencil form, and in various sizes. The twigs are heated in the absence of air, causing them to blacken. Stick charcoal is simply the charred twig, and is very fragile. Compressed charcoal is powdered charcoal, compressed and stuck together with a binding agent, so it does not break so easily. Charcoal pencils contain a rod of compressed charcoal. Charcoal smudges very easily, so finished work needs to be preserved with a fixative spray.

Pen and ink Drawing in pen and ink is an age-old technique. Black India ink is the traditional medium, but a huge range of coloured inks are now available. There are two types of ink: water-soluble and waterproof. Water-soluble inks can be blended and smudged, or diluted with water to form a wash; waterproof ink, once dry, cannot be changed with water. Ink can be applied with various types of pens, including those made from quills and reeds, dip pens, and fountain pens. Felt-tip pens, or markers, are modern forms of pen and ink. Felt-tips come in a wide variety of colours, thickness, and felt shape, and are used by both amateur and commercial artists.

Chalks and pastels Chalks were first used by prehistoric artists, who drew with clay sticks coloured with natural pigments. Modern coloured chalk is made from ground pigment, chalk, and a binding gum. Unlike many traditional drawing media, chalk comes in a variety of colours. Pastels, ground pigments combined with gum, come in both chalk and oil form. Chalk pastels may be hard or soft, depending on the proportion of pigment to gum; hard pastels contain a greater amount of binder, while soft pastels have more pigment. The two have very distinctive visual differences when applied to a ground, though both give a powdery surface that needs to be preserved with a fixative. The use of chalk pastels became an elaborate art form in the 18th century. Oil pastels have many of the qualities of oil paint, the pigment being bound together with oil instead of gum. Conté crayons are similar to natural chalks, and are more oily and slightly harder than traditional pastels. They were originally only available in a few pigments, but are now manufactured in a multitude of colours.


Developing a piece on a theme such as ‘contrasts’

Preparation for producing a drawing that shows form

Producing a drawing that shows form

Creating imaginative designs with realistic drawings

Good composition

Linear style

Importance of sketching

Drawing the human figure in different ways

Importance of observational drawing in developing work

© RM, 2018. All rights reserved.

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