Thursday, March 30, 2017

Playing with Conté Crayons

Today I thought I'd share with you a process I learned of how to use conté crayons when I was in college.  It is one of my favorite ways to use them for a drawing because sanguine is the dominate color which makes the drawing feel warm and inviting.

The materials that I used are shown in the above picture, except one, I forgot about using a blending stump for the drawing itself until I was ready to do so.  The list of the materials is as follows: blending stump, conté crayons (I have black, sanguine, and white), masking tape, paper towel, and Strathmore drawing paper (it's rated as medium or 80 lbs. and I a used 9"x12" pad).

Next up I used the masking tape to add a boarder around the piece of drawing paper.  To help make sure the tape isn't going to adhere to the paper to the point of ripping it when it's taken off, I suggest sticking the strip to your clothes a few times.  When I had it the desired stickiness,  I applied the tape to the paper.  You could also get drafting tape to use which can be bought from an art store or maybe even use painter's tape that can be acquired from a hardware store.

Once I had the tape applied to the paper how I wanted, I picked up my sanguine conté crayon and laid it on it's side before running it across the paper.  

As you can see in the above photo, I didn't go the same direction across the paper since part of the idea of this is to fill in the tooth of the surface.  The tape kept me from getting all the way to the edge but I wasn't concerned since I knew once I started smudging I could drag pigment to those blank spots.

Above you can see that I had used the paper towel to do some smudging and then added some more conté crayon to help darken the plane of paper more.  After I would add more sanguine I would always smudge more with the paper towel.  I did this until I was happy with how it looked.

After I was happy with how the drawing space looked (see above picture), I found an image that I wanted to work from.  In this case it was a picture I had taken of Cocoa grabbing some nibbles of grass in the round pen.  I printed it out fairly large using our laser printer and then got to work.

I won't explain how I drew Cocoa in detail since that's not the point of this post.  I do wish I would've had him a little lower in the composition but seeing as how I went into this with very little plan, I just went with it.

Next I started laying in the shading and highlights.  I used the black conté crayon for the shadows and the white conté crayon for the highlights.  I tried to keep the sanguine as the middle ground color as best as I could.

Here's a picture of the blending stump I used.  This was the point where I realized I needed something other than paper towel or my fingers to blend the pigments on the paper.  I suggest using something other than your finger because of the oils you can leave behind which can help ruin the drawing as it ages (at least that is what I was told).

Here is where I started the blending.  I worked on the cast shadow first since being left handed it's normally better working from right to left.  That is so I drag my hand through less of the image.

I continued on with using the blending stump to work the conté crayon further into the surface of the paper.

After I got everything blended I went back in with the white to help it stand out more. 

Once I was happy with how the white looked I blended it again.  I also added some white to the grass squiggles to help them pop more.

I continued adding more white or black here and there until I was happy enough with how the shadows and highlights played with each other.  I also used what the tip of the blending stump picking up to draw some more grass squiggles.

Since I was happy enough with how everything looked, I decided that the drawing was done.  That meant it was time to remove the masking tape which came off easily since I had made it less sticky.  Above you can see how smart it looks to have those clean, white boarders on your drawing.

Once I can get to the art store I plan on picking up some fixative to spray on the drawing so that I can keep it in the drawing pad and not have it smudge into oblivion.

I hope you enjoyed taking this little journey with me.  I truly had fun playing with an old favorite medium that I hadn't used in years.


  1. Don't have much time to comment now, but it's so cool to see how you work! The colours look so good with the horse theme, too. They're early and real.

    What is this fixate magic you speak of? I've been wondering for a while how to store my conte drawings. I keep my nice drawings stacked in a box, but the crayon would very everywhere. :/

    1. PS I'm jealous at your ability to draw horses. You really don't want to know what their heads look like when I give it a try.

    2. *earthly and real. Screw you, phone autocorrect.

    3. Auto correct is such a pain. ^^

      Here is a link to the kind of fixative I just bought.
      You can also get a workable kind but I have found the workable kind still lets stuff rub off. So now that I'm doing drawing again I am going to try the final fixative.

      I stunk at drawing horses many years ago. They are not an easy animal to draw. Took me a lot of practice. I thank you for the compliment!