Tag Archives: conte crayons

Balanced Rocks

17 Dec

stones 2

Exploring the local beaches around Albufeira last week, Husb and I found a cove full of balanced rock sculptures. It was a small sandy cove with a rock pavement jutting out from the base of the deeply fissured cliff and it was covered with little cairns. I drew this one with black, sanguine and white conté crayons into an A4 size brown paper sketchbook.

Wookey Hole

1 Feb


I was given a stack of vintage art papers by a kind benefactor a while back and I am gradually using them for drawing and printmaking. Today’s daily drawing was done on a beautiful piece of W.S.H. & Co British Handmade Paper, made at the Wookey Hole paper mill near Cheddar in Somerset in the West Country. Wookey Hole is probably more famous for its wonderful ancient caves, the legend of the Witch and its cave-aged Cheddar cheese, but in amongst all of this is a paper mill that has been operating over 400 years, since at least 1610. The paper is beautifully textured with deckle edges, a large watermark and a slightly bluish tint.

I had used this sheet of paper to do a bit of opportunistic marbling. A fellow artist had some left over black oil paint mixed with turps and chucked it into a bowl of water with washing up liquid and the surface went all marbly. So I grabbed a few sheets of paper and laid them on top and got some lovely marbled effects. I scribbled this while Husb was Skyping a relative this evening, using compressed charcoal and black and white conte crayons. It took about 10 minutes. It is fairly accurate but makes him look much older than he is.

I like to spend my time fondling beautiful papers and doing research and reading about them. I am such a geek 😀

Just a Quickie

21 Nov

Just a quickie, just got back from life drawing at Swansea Print Workshop and it’s late – and cold. I did some 5 minute poses, all on one sheet, in graphite and conte crayon.

21 alan aAnd I also did a one=hour pose onto a canvas sheet, gessoed in white and primed with rhodamine red litho/relief ink which I squeegeed on randomly. I drew in white and black conte crayon. Difficult pose, took an age.


21 alan b

Black To White

31 Jul

31 printman

Had a day at Swansea Print Workshop, working with a group of other artists during Open Access sessions. The organisation receives very little public funding and is mostly run by it’s member / volunteers, so I spent quite a bit of my time there today on the sort of admin tasks that are frustratingly uncreative, but need to be done. I managed to find about 20 minutes, though, to do a bit of sketching and did these couple of scribbles of one of my fellow artists as he was slaving over a hot lightbox.

I used a white conte crayon into a Daler Rowney spiral bound black sketchbook, size A4. I find it quite hard to work from black to white but I  like the result. The top one is the better likeness, they were both drawn from difficult angles, but it’s very good practice.

Recycled Head

29 May


I’ve been rummaging through the drawers in my studio and finding loads of prints, cyanotypes and drawings that didn’t make the grade, so I’m reusing them. It’s a pity to waste the paper because it’s good quality. This is a piece of Bockingford, around A3 size, with a cyanotype that didn’t work out. I did a quick scribble of Husb as he was working on his laptop, using black and white conte crayons and a carbon stick. I don’t like working on a pristine white surface, it’s too intimidating; working on top of old art is much easier.

Self Experiment

21 May

21 me

After the manic amount of work I did during my residency in Boise, Idaho earlier in the month, I’ve hit a bit of a slump, probably not helped by jetlag, so I gritted my teeth and sat in front of a mirror this afternoon and scribbled what I saw. I don’t usually do self-portraits but I wanted to experiment with some portrait drawings using black and white media – conte crayons, compressed charcoal, carbon, oil pastels. I also wanted to get away from the usual detailed, fine pen work I use for portraits and develop a much more scribbly style.

I’m very influenced by Kathe Kollwitz, a brilliant scribbler and printmaker, and she did lots of self-portraits. makes sense, I don’t have to pay myself. But it’s not a comfortable thing to do. I noticed every single wrinkle, every bit of flab, every blemish eeewwwwww. I haven’t got the likeness right yet, but I’ll keep practising. This is on a piece of A3 Bockingford, 250gsm, prepared with an ink wash and drawn in black and white conte crayon, carbon and white oil pastel.

Bones And Brown Paper

23 Apr


I like studying anatomy. I love the interface between art and science. Sometimes I get access to a skeleton and scribble happily for hours.


These drawings are on very large sheets of brown wrapping paper, using black, white and sanguine conte crayons. Working on this scale gave me the chance to focus on mark-making rather than doing a scientific illustration.

A Bit Different

7 Mar

07 alan

I tried something a bit different at life drawing tonight. I’d prepared some small scraps of card with white acrylic gesso and Indian ink before I went to Iceland a few months ago but I didn’t use them all. “Waste not, want not” as my Nana used to say. I started with black and white chinagraph pencils but the effect was too translucent so I switched to black and white conte crayons. Much better. Because they’re quite chunky, I had to ditch my usual fine-line style, but that’s OK, I like to get out of my comfort zone.

Cold Scribbling

19 Jan


Husb and I trekked up Constitution Hill a couple of hours ago so I could go and draw in the twilight in Rosehill Quarry. The Hill is extremely steep and cobbled, cycling races are held on it, and we had a good workout. The Quarry was still covered in snow. I find it useful to draw when it’s really cold because it forces me to be very quick and capture the essence, or an impression, of what’s there instead of labouring to do a topographical landscape drawing, which has always been my problem with trying out landscapes in the past.

I drew this into my 15cm square handmade Khadi paper sketchbook with compressed charcoal, conte crayon and white oil pastel over a grey ink wash. Now we’re off to a restaurant and a party. Still some life left in the old dogs yet 😀

Nostalgia Is The Thief Of Time!

5 Dec


Mixed media: work in progress.
Here’s a large piece I started some time ago – over a year. Sometimes you just get stuck on something and have to put it away for a while. Apparently Titian used to work up his underpaintings then turn them to a wall for 6 months before completing them [and there the comparison ends – I wish lol]. I knew what I wanted to do with this piece but I just couldn’t get it right so I’ve done a lot more analytical study of anatomy over the past year, working from my borrowed skeleton Felicity and various anatomy text books, Burne Hogarth, Sarah Simlett and Gray’s Anatomy. I’ve also been doing more practice with paints and oilbars so that I can complete the flesh accurately. I’m getting there.
I’m very fond of the European tradition of Vanitas, where the artist reminds the viewer of their own mortality. Maybe I’ve taken it to extremes in this piece by dismembering my poor model! I started by colouring a large piece of Somerset Velvet with acrylic paint and medium, using a squeegee and then overprinted in a very pale grey/green with a photographic screen print I made from drawings of vertebrae, so there’s a sort of faint spinal wallpaper going on in the background. The figure is worked up in conte crayons and oilbars with oil paint in the details. The concept was of a ghostly presence brooding on the past and reading letters [hand drawn and written] from her long-dead love, whose flayed portrait is hanging on the wall. I was having a lot of trouble coming to terms with nostalgia at the time – I find nostalgia quite unsettling and I don’t like slipping into it, hence the title of the piece.
I think I’m ready to have another crack at it – there’s not far to go.


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