Investigating drawing

Explore the different drawing materials

This set of images looks at different materials and techniques used in drawn portraits since the sixteenth century. There are also notes on drawing materials.

Drawing was the first method of communicating visual information; our ancestors in the caves of Lascaux and the desert rocks of Australia made their magical marks in celebration and documentation of their place in the physical world. It is still an important activity in our world, (despite the camera) - ask anyone to draw a map and they will do so, whilst affirming that 'they cannot draw'.

Because drawing materials are simple and easily accessible, spontaneously drawn portraits exist and have their own special allure. The vibrancy of a quick sketch possesses a linear energy and with highlights and shadows, can equal the dynamism of the painted portrait.

What gives these drawings an undisputed place in our collection is that they are the direct result of the action of the artist's hand immediately onto a flat support - often paper.

Charcoal (burnt willow stick) and paper (flat leaves as in the papyrus of the Egyptians or pressed organic pulp used by Renaissance artists) have long been the drawing materials of mankind. Different types of marks together with skilled hand-and-eye co-ordination, can create the illusion of recognisable people onto a flat surface: these are the more sophisticated 'maps' of the artist.

The following information about drawing materials and techniques can be referred to whilst viewing the drawings in order to stimulate a more informed response to the images.

Before starting to view the images, try and list as many different types of drawing material and surface (support) that you can think of, also the colour of the surface drawn on as this effects the final result of a work. Different media have different effects, but often artists use the same type of 'tricks' to enhance their work, for example dramatic blacks for the chiaroscuro effect.


Chalk Charcoal Pastel Pen and ink Pencil

Several techniques, related items and other materials

sketchbook sgraffito hatching pouncing chiaroscuro compositional grids Indian ink conté crayon sanguine sepia