AN INTRODUCTION TO DRAWING
To artists, drawing often means preparatory work, a preliminary step within a wider process of creating a painting or print. As a result, drawing is associated with something ephemeral, delicate and intimate; the initial step within a wider artistic process, with its innate simplicity meaning that at times, its value can be overlooked.
The joys of traditional drawing techniques
But increasingly, drawings are being celebrated. Works such as Degas’ charcoal renderings of ballerinas, or Hockney’s tender and colourful portrayals of his family are now understood as integral parts of an artist’s development, and important works in their own right. The art world is paying attention, now more than ever, to the importance of drawings, as curators and museums put on more exhibitions which focus exclusively on the drawings of an artist, rather than larger, more famous works.
Part of the joy of drawings is undoubtedly the sense of immediacy and intimacy they create, not just with their subject, but between the artist and viewer. When looking at a drawing, with its straightforward techniques and materials of pen or pencil and paper, it’s easy to imagine the artist’s own relationship with the work.
Complex contemporary drawings
Drawings don’t just have to be poignant and intimate, artists and illustrators make bold, daring, multi-layered and complex work using traditional drawing techniques. Contemporary artists have long dedicated themselves to drawing — plenty of art colleges now offer technical and experimental drawing BAs or MAs.
Some of the most common drawing materials are:
PASTEL - Pastels are normally sold in three grades: soft, medium and hard. The soft is universally used, the other two mainly for special effects. The soft texture of pastels allows them to be easily manipulated. One of the charms of the finished drawing is its texture, as manipulations of the crayons produce a varied effect: thin or thick, smooth or rough, level or impasto.
PENCIL / CHARCOAL / CHALK - Ordinary lead pencils are made of graphite mixed with variable amounts of clay according to the degree of hardness required, with the softest varieties containing little or no clay. The paper texture must be coarse so that it ‘files’ down the pencil. Charcoal, due to its crumbly nature, can be used either for wispy strokes or shading, and is good for creating strong dark lines – the drawback with charcoal is that it smudges and tends to break easily. Chalk is usually used for shading.
INK - Ink has been used for many centuries in the Far East, and used to be sold in sticks that were rubbed with water in shallow mortars. Modern ink is sold in liquid form, either soluble or waterproof; the former is more suited to fine lines and delicate manipulations and effects, and coloured ink can be applied to wet paper to produce magnificent spreading effects.
Discover top drawings to buy online
Sometimes simple and stark, at other times brilliantly intricate, drawings can inspire wonder and calm in equal measures. With this in mind, we’ve compiled our top picks of Affordable Art Fair artists who create diverse and dynamic drawings over on our online shop, to show the breadth of this brilliant technique.
We’ve always loved the work of Greg Eason, showing with The Contemporary London. Exquisitely detailed, Eason was an Affordable Art Fair Recent Graduate in 2009, and has since shown his work worldwide. His small-scale drawings appear effortless, with his characters seeming to float on paper. A great example of the impactful simplicity that a drawing can embody, works such as these will no doubt add a touch of intrigue to any home.
Dave's drawings (see the main image) are brilliantly accurate representations of the iconic cityscape of New York. Bringing to life the wonderful smorgasbord of grit and creativity that makes up the urban landscape, while emphasising the geometric city lines to draw you in for a closer look.
Showing with Antlers Gallery, the brilliantly vivid drawings of Max Naylor explore the relationship between external and internal spaces. The marks he makes differ in levels of intensity, with some being more abstract and fluid — what he calls ‘expressive doodling’ — and others showing rich detail, which when combined, create a sense of mystery. His imagery flits between memory and imagination, with swirling skies and horizons, fertile greens and stunning sun sets. Max’s work is the perfect example of the wide range of techniques drawing allows artists to experiment with, all in one piece of artwork.
The work of S.Ravi Shankar creates complicated and complex worlds, using layered inks on paper. His gallery, The Noble Sage describes, the comedy of modern India as a subject that has always amused the artist, and these themes inform his work. His drawings waver between narratives of everyday life, such as a relaxed worker at a call centre, to more dreamlike narratives full of people, patterns, animals and motorbikes. The result are fascinating and intricate pieces, which need time to really examine.
Drawing, of course, can involve colours and more fluid materials like ink, such as those by Alvaro Petritoli which are described as the meeting points for ‘the pleasure of drawing, flashes of enlightenments and half-forgotten memories’. As well as layering coloured inks to create impressions, Petritoli also adds an extra level of experimentation to his forest works by combining tea, gelatin, salt, paper pulp and iron powder to the inks. This mixture of materials allow happy accidents and unexpected outcomes in his works, while adding an additional gritty quality to the drawings.
Intrigued by the variety of styles this medium has to offer?
Discover more of our hand-picked range of drawings on our online shop today »
Need to see a delectable drawing in the flesh before you decide?
Book tickets to a fair near you today »
Dave Earle, Manhattan Bridge, ink on paper, £750, Artdog London.
Artwork featured from top to bottom:
Greg Eason, Wood, graphite on paper, £950, The Contemporary London.
Max Naylor, Cave, ink on paper, £1,200, Antlers Gallery.
S. Ravi Shankar, Chatting from the Office Cabin, ink on paper, £1,800, The Noble Sage Art Collection.
Alvaro Petritoli, Indigo light, ink on paper, £1,950, The Art Movement.