How to draw with a pencil. You have finally decided to try the ancient sanguine technique, used in the past by many masters of the Fine Arts, but you don’t know where to start? Then you come to just the right place. What if I told you that a few tools are enough to get started and, as you already know if you paint, a lot of practice and passion? Now I’ll explain better! Its name refers to blood, but luckily it has nothing to do with it. The sanguine pencil owes its name to the typical red color, a little dull but at the same time very dense, which leaves on the sheet.
The sanguine pencil has established itself in the art world since the Renaissance by the significant impact that this peculiar cool drawings tool can give to portraits or landscapes. Just think of that very famous little self-portrait of Leonardo da Vinci – executed precisely with sanguine – and how that work was able to change the very meaning of that artistic genre forever. As Leonardo himself wrote in the ‘Treatise on Painting,’ “you will make the figures in this act, which is sufficient to demonstrate what the figure has in the soul; otherwise, your art will not be praiseworthy.
Therefore, painting without showing the subject’s soul is practically useless, and the cheerful allows us to reach that goal. To know this, it is to see at that self-portrait of the now elderly Leonardo: he shows us a white-haired, partially bald man with long hair that is one with the flowing beard. His gaze is frowning, serious, a little sulky, and there are the signs of aging around him: wrinkles surround and besiege the eyes, pensive. The chiaroscuro, the gaze fixed to the right, the position of the lips, the expression all tell us about the artist’s soul. If the world of art were made up of rankings, that self-portrait of Leonardo would undoubtedly be the record, the importance to which all artists who choose the sanguine pencil should look.
Let’s find how to use the pencil
The sanguine is made up of hematite, which is a ferrous mineral (a variety of iron oxide) which since ancient times has been reduced to small pieces, or rather, to sticks, to draw. To understand how widespread its use was in past centuries, think of the fact that in the Renaissance, this drawing instrument was referred to simply with the name ‘pencil,’ a term that derives precisely from ‘hematite.’ Its use was gradually reduced by the introduction of graphite, and therefore of standard drawing pencils.
Today hematite is used above all to build real sanguine pencils or wooden casings which, instead of the graphite lead, contain this iron mineral, enriched with binder and, sometimes, with a minimum amount of other. Indeed, its use is no longer as widespread as in the Renaissance era, but its charm remains intact.
Types of blood pencil
It is possible to use the optimistic in different ‘formats’: in general, you can identify the squares or the pencils in sanguine on the market. The former is used as the other clays and as the charcoal spindles, while the latter, made up of a practical wooden cylinder, is located halfway between the clays and the ordinary graphite pencils. Moreover, not all sanguine pencils are the same: the dry sanguine pencil, more challenging to manage for the inexperienced artist, is made of pressed pigment powder; the left mark is intense and perfect for creating shadows and shades. On the other hand, the greasy blood pencil requires the addition of an additional ‘fat’ binder, which tends to bring this instrument closer to waxes. Therefore, a pencil allows you to draw more apparent marks and holds the tip better. On the other hand, however, the coarse sanguine pencil is more challenging to blend.
Therefore, we can say that those looking for a very workable pigment will have to opt for the dry model, while those looking for something less complex can select the fat model. It should also be emphasized that, where the dry sanguine pencil necessarily requires the fixative at the end of the work, the fat variant is already quite resistant in itself. Well, now that we have seen what types of sanguine exist, we can find out how to use this fascinating drawing tool.
Everything you need for drawing
To perform a complete work with a sanguine pencil, it will be necessary to have one or two sanguine pencils – one dry and one greasy, to which, if necessary, sepia pencils, clays, or charcoals can add. Not everyone is here: to always have the perfect trip, and it will be necessary to keep a small knife and a block of sandpaper at hand, tools that will often use given the rapid wear of these peculiar pencils. Other necessary accessories are then the rubber bread and the streak.
As for the support, when we talk about sanguine pencils, we inevitably think of drawing paper, but it must say that even the canvas cartons are used with satisfaction. The paper chosen must preferably be rough to enhance the positive characteristics to the maximum, but not too much. There is also the possibility of using colored papers as support, based on the background you want to give to your drawing.
How do you draw with sanguine?
The mark left by the sanguine varies according to the pressure exerted on the sheet and according to the inclination with which the pencil is held. Therefore, it is possible to obtain solid and thin reddish lines like light glazes of different shades with the same instrument. Thanks to this incredible versatility, it is possible to obtain highly complex works while using only one tool from start to finish, and therefore only one color.
To blend the sanguine pencil, you can use your fingers, the streak, or pieces of cotton: many designers, for example, blend the sanguine with cotton pads for removing make-up, obtaining rather original effects. More: to get softer tones, you can use a wet brush. However, before carrying out this operation, it is essential to do tests separately to understand how much water to use. An excessively wet brush could irreparably ruin a sanguine drawing.
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