Favorite Tool: Eraser

Pen and ink is a great medium. I love the precision of fine lines, of cross-hatching for shading. In a journal, pen and ink looks both artistic and scholarly. Pen and ink with watercolor pencil washes make me happy.

When I draw with pen and ink, I start with pencil.  Because I need to erase a lot.

My favorite eraser--clean, neat, won't shred your paper.

My favorite eraser–clean, neat, won’t shred your paper.

Most pen and ink classes I’ve taken talk about blending in your mistakes, or keeping the drawing “loose.” With a pencil, you can move from rough sketch to inking by using a pencil and eraser first, learning as you go along.  Try something, erase it, fix it, change it, re-do it. My must-have, go-to tool is an eraser.

When I teach, I see people frown and say, “I made a mistake,” which baffles me. Of course you make mistakes, you are experimenting,  trying ideas until you get to what you want. That’s not a mistake, it’s working toward an goal. It’s creation. And that works if you are writing, dancing, or singing. I might add that there is so far no eraser for dancing or singing.

Old school eraser looks like modern delete key. Same function.

Old school eraser looks like modern delete key. Same function.

An eraser is handy when drawing packages with twine, vines, or anything with perspectives or that overlaps. Erasers are a tool that help you get to the final image. Stop thinking in terms of “mistake.”  Erasers help us complete the work we start, to capture the image we want.

Knowing about erasers means choosing the one that works for your art.

I’m a fan of white plastic erasers that don’t chew up the page and erase cleanly.

I love kneaded erasers because they keep my hands busy and pick up large areas of graphite really well. I also hate them because you can’t put them near anything plastic, or the eraser will melt the plastic. No idea why.

I love electric erasers that work on detail and are charming for fast work in

A house brush helps clean up without smearing.

A house brush helps clean up without smearing.

reductive drawings.

Eraser get round and you need an edge? Slice the round part off with a craft knife and you have a new edge. They are inexpensive.

Tired of eraser dust? Buy a big paintbrush–housepainting size, and sweep the dust away. Don’t blow on your artwork, particularly not if you have been eating chocolate or drinking coffee. A stray spray of spit can mark the page.

Best of all, you can also carve up an eraser and make your own rubber stamps. So indulge in that extra eraser. You won’t regret it.

—Quinn McDonald loves erasers and the freedom of creative work they encourage.