Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Book Review: Pencil Drawing by Ernest Watson
This post is a book review of Pencil Drawing by Ernest Watson. Above you see the book and my drawing of some apricots using the broadstroke technique (as it was not done on a smooth paper, it didn't really achieve the usual results, but it was a good taster.)
A couple of weeks ago I was keen to get information on using a graphite pencil in the "broadstroke" sense. I had found some lovely examples of this technique in a book called Outdoor Sketching by Ernest Watson.
This past weekend at our favorite haunt, Half-Price Books, I found a copy of Pencil Drawing by Ernest Watson. I was so excited (as I also found Kautzky's Ways with Watercolor and the previously mentioned Outdoor Sketching I think that someone's children deposited their library at the store). This is the new revised edition, from 1941.
Watson goes through 12 methods to achieve a "variety of technics."
He begins with a story about how a small pencil drawing "changed the course of my life, because it made me fall in love with pencils...I revisited that window time and again, for I was desperately in love with the drawing. And I had to do something about it. I decided to master the lead pencil. The words of an art teacher came to me at the time. He had once said, 'Master some one medium thoroughly. I don't say to confine yourself to a single medium; on the other hand, be accomplished in many directions. But learn to speak one language perfectly.' Very well, I had discovered my language."
He then shares his purpose: "And now in this little book I am telling you how I fell in love with the pencil and what it has meant to me, because I want you to know what satisfaction awaits you in the serious use of that commonest of all drawing tools. I hope to influence some of you to take up the study of this delightful language."
I was rather in love with the pencil before I read Watson's book, but I admit that I am all the more encouraged to devote more time to it!
The broadstroke technique, as used by Watson, was achieved with a pencil with a bevel point (essentially sharpened and then worn down without turning to create a bevel.) He did not like a chiseled point. The bevel point is useful in creating the "broadstroke" (thick line) and when turned on edge, creates a lovely tapered line. Once I started practicing that move, it brought to mind all of the subtle weighted lines I noticed in drawings of masters last year.
Another key component of Watson's technique was the use of "Cameo" paper. It was a clay-coated paper which allowed the pencil to be applied without grain. As well, with a razor blade highlights could also be cut in, erasers were not especially useful with the paper.
There is more information about a pencil palette, stumps, scumbling, wash, sidestroke, etc. None of these sections is extensive, but enough to give you a flavor. There are also a great number of plates showing different examples. In my mind, this is where the book really excels. You have enough information to start trying out an idea. Then you are likely to have questions, where you can then turn to his examples and study for more answers.
This book is no longer in print. Even a compendium of the older books I mention, The Art of Pencil Drawing is no longer in print. However, should you run across a copy, I would certainly recommend picking it up. This is art instruction of another age. Pencil drawing (or painting) is no longer done like this and it is a pity. Watson's text reads like you've come into his studio to learn and he is chatting while he works. It is not a step-by-step-achieve-this-result type of book. However, I think this sort of book is more helpful. Here are principles and guideposts...go find your own adventure.