Friday, April 20, 2007

Ingres' Drawing Materials

I found a great little article yesterday on Ingres' drawing materials. Apparently, he used really hard pencils and coated paper. (You can buy something called Ingres paper today.) This gave his drawings a special look - and as the above article states, therein may lie his magic.

For my readers who aren't artists, a quick word about hard and soft pencils. Basically, the lead in artists pencils is not all the same. Most US students are used to "number 2" pencils. That is in the middle of the spectrum. There are harder pencil leads, they have more of a silvery tone and can take alot of pressure and remain at a point. The softer leads are darker in tone (more towards black than silver) and "mush" under pressure. A line from a hard pencil will not smear easily, a similar line from a soft pencil will smear easily.

I have noticed in looking at Ingres' work that he made great dark lines, but they were still very fine. I have been drawing with softer pencils this month and the lines are not precise enough. I had used a hard pencil when I copied a few portraits last year, but they came out very light - as you can see here.

The copy of Ingres' portrait of Merry-Joseph Blondel above is done on coated paper. It is not the same as Ingres' paper, it is Bristol board coated lightly with white acrylic paint. Hopefully you can see the difference in that and the marks made on plain Bristol board in the second image. It is rather striking in real life. And as an ender, I loved the texture and feel of the pencil marking on the coated paper.


Katherine said...

I learned today at the Society of Botanical Artists exhibition a Fabriano paper used to be available which was coated with gelatine - which meant that the watercolour used to sit on top of the paper and didn't sink in/

I'm wondering whether Ingres maybe used a paper a bit like this.

Or maybe he's using something like silverpoint on a gesso surface?

Rose Welty said...

Ingres was definitely using graphite on Whatman's paper. It made his work look more like silverpoint, but it wasn't. I'd never heard of Whatman's paper before, but apparently it is used for watercolours and therefore has a texture to it. I don't know yet what he coated the paper with. It makes for some interesting experiments though!

And I do think that the goal was to prevent any "sinking in", making his work sharper. I coated my paper with acrylic paint just because I had it around and I thought it might be interesting.

I've prepped a few more sheets for experimentation, but must confess to laziness - I find the whole having to paint it and then wait annoying.

Then again, I liked the effect it had :-).

amir said...


does anyone know what eact colours were on Ingres' palette? I tend to think he was using a really limited palette - but what were his initial colours I would really like to know.