Eraser Power!

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 squee.

My favorite eraser, available at most art supply stores.

I’ve worked with pen and ink, but not the way most people do. I draw in pencil first. Yep, I do. Because I need to erase a lot. Most pen and ink classes I’ve taken talk about using just the barest hints and suggestions of lines. In my way of thinking, if you are using just the necessary lines that create an image (and the human eye can recognize an image if only 30 percent of it is there) I’ll need a pencil, because I’m going to sketch in big outlines first, and that’s not always what stays when I ink over the pencil.

Pencils are wonderful because they erase. And I love erasers. I’m not a natural illustrator, so I have to try something, erase it, fix it, change it, re-do it. So my must-have, go-to tool is an eraser.

Eraser as pun. Image from stylehive.com Eraser from Tersumus, about $8.00

When I teach, I see people frown and say, “I made a mistake,” which baffles me. Of course you make mistakes, art is about trying things over and over until you get to what you want. That’s not a mistake, it’s working toward an goal. It’s creation. I could insert my rant about scrapbooking kits here, that never allow you to make mistakes, just assemble pages, but I won’t. Even though I want to. No, I am staying on topic: erasers.

When I draw vines that wrap around a pole, I need an eraser. I draw the pole first, the vine next and I need to erase the intersection where they cross. I need an eraser for packages with twine, boxes in general, anything with perspectives or that overlaps. Erasers are a tool that help you get to the final image. We are ingrained to think erasers fix the bad stuff we do. Pfui. Erasers help us complete the work we start, to capture the image we want.

Erasers: Pink pearl and beige Art Gum on top, gray kneaded eraser on bottom.

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 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 enough to have several and they offer what I most want, as a non-illustrator: Hope.

-Quinn McDonald is a writer and creativity coach. Her book Raw Art Journaling: Making Meaning, Making Art will be published by North Light Books in July of 2011.