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.

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.

Reductive Drawing

There is a type of drawing called “reductive.” You start out by covering the entire sheet with charcoal, then use different erasers to take out what doesn’t belong. It creates a different style of picture that’s very effective.

Drawing with an eraser isn’t easy, buy you get used to taking out what you don’t need. You can always put back more charcoal. The important elements are controlling the eraser’s edge to get the right lines. There are some interesting applications to real life. We usually create a lot of background in our life. How wonderful it would be to use an eraser to take out those parts that didn’t work, are too dark, smear our lives. And leave the best image we can create.

Flight (c) Quinn McDonald

–Image: “Flight” by Quinn McDonald

–(c) 2008 All rights reserved. Quinn McDonald.