''Right now, a moment of time is fleeing by. Capture its reality!"
drawing by student jim hohorst
Conté crayon is a clay-based medium similar to pastel, but thinner and harder than traditional pastels. A popular, long-established brand, Conté feels like a more durable, denser charcoal. You rub the side of the square stick on paper to obtain values, and use the point or long edge to draw contour lines. Conté yields a gauzy mark, with a darker range than charcoal. It's also more permanent and less easily erased. Rely on your experience with charcoal technique to derive the most from this product.
Conté strokes are comparable to continuous subtle scrubbing movements, applied while traveling across the page.
When my students learned that I was writing this book, they lobbied for me to include Conté instruction in it. In the classroom, after some groans that greet the introduction of any new materials, beginners have found Conté very expressive and more accessible than they thought it would be.
Conté subject matter in class is drapery, a choice that is also met with a chorus of groans: "Cloth has wrinkles, and it's going to be so hard to draw!" But beginners soon find that drapery quickly disappears as the subject and shapes come to the forefront. Not every crinlde and wrinkle has to be depicted by any means, and fabric is so variable, that missing a few shapes here and there isn't noticeable.
As for the kind of fabric, choose only a solid-colored cloth, preferably in a medium value; avoid dark colors. In terms of size, use a piece of cloth that can be easily managed when you drape it; instructions for draping follow a little later.
But before you try your hand at drapery, start with a Conté sampler on newsprint to get a feel for this new medium.
SUPPLIES FOR THIS CHAPTER
Conté crayons, 1 black,
1 white newsprint pad 14"-x-1 7" drawing pad scrap paper gray pastel paper drawing board Pink Pearl eraser clip-on light
"Once I got going, I liked Conte a bit more than charcoal because it didn 't go away on you. It didn't smudge and smear."
-student ann porfilio
CONTE SAMPLER. The Conté applications shown here are described in the accompanying exercises. Refer to these examples as you build your own sampler.
EXERCISE: CONTE SAMPLER Hold Conté much as you do charcoal. Your thumb is on one side of the square stick, middle finger on the other side, index finger on the top edge, slightly to the right for righties, the reverse for lefties. Your index finger will exert downward pressure, thumb and middle finger, side-to-side movements. Adjust your grip if you feel uncomfortable. The black stick will yield intense darks, but to get them, you have to push. 1 Start by snapping off about a third of the 2-V2" stick. Then rub one side of the small piece on paper to soften it a bit. Working on newsprint, make a variety of value marks by rubbing with the side of this smaller piece, changing the pressure as you work. Use this smaller piece for all the steps that follow.
2 Remember the ribbon-candy exercise in the charcoal sampler (page 92)? Try that here.
3 Make a value scale. Start by rubbing to make a very black square, then gradually release pressure as you move gradually away from the square. Do three more of these: one with up-and-down movement; one with side-to-side application; one with a diagonal slant.
4 Draw with the tip to produce very delicate lines.
5 Use one of the lengthwise edges of the stick to draw some lines. Pull it toward you or push it away, and see the line change from thick to thin.
6 For a soft, expressive line, try this "Special Grip": Move your index finger to the center front edge of your stick; tilt it up a bit and draw with the front end only.
7 Smudge some marks (not as easily done as with charcoal). Try erasing with Pink Pearl; bear down hard and wiggle, rather than wipe at the surface layer. Conté will erase, but may leave a slightly greasy-looking edge.
8 Lean on one side of the stick to make crisp edges, then use the middle of the stick, or lessen pressure, to make a soft edge.
9 Make a rectangular shape of soft gray with the stick's flat side. Deepen the values next to one side, rubbing in a crisply defined edge. Soften the other side of the rectangle with small, diagonal movements.
10 Draw two parallel lines a few inches apart and about 4" long. Leave some paper untouched inside this column shape. Stroke in values on the inside of each line. Deepen values right next to the lines. Soften inside edges of both value applications. This exercise creates the kind of spatial change that is the basis for dimension in folds.
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