Usually our first encounter with an eraser is when we use it to remove a mistake. Our sole aim with it is to obliterate the offending area so that we can get back to the business of progressing with our drawing. Because the eraser is associated with mistakes, a lot of negative feelings about it and its function are directed at it. The poor old eraser is seen as a necessary evil, and the more dilapidated it becomes with use the greater become our feelings of inadequacy. It really is time for a reassessment of the eraser and its role in our work. Used effectively it can be one of the most positive tools at our disposal. But first we need to remove the idea that mistakes are always bad. They are not, and can be used as a positive element in your work from which you can learn.
Many artists make decisions about where things go, or how things should look, in a piece of work. In the first instance these statements are usually wrong and have to be adjusted as the work develops. This has happened to us all - even great artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Rembrandt. Rethinking is very much a part of the creative process and is evidenced in many works, particularly in drawings where the artists are working out their initial ideas and intentions.
One of the major errors that beginners make is to erase mistakes as they arise and then start again. This puts them in a position of making more mistakes or repeating the same ones, thus creating a feeling of utter frustration and failure. When you make a correction, over-draw and don't rub out the original lines until you are happy with your re-drawing and unless you feel they don't add anything to your drawing. My personal advice would be to leave a ghost of the correction and not to erase it completely, as this shows the evidence of your thinking and your development.
Other positive ways of using the eraser are to bring back the areas of light in a tonal drawing which have been worked over with graphite, charcoal or ink. Erasers can also be used to make expressive statements and emphasize textural marks - powerful examples of this approach can be seen in the drawings of Frank Auerbach. The technique known as 'tonking', in which a cloth is used in a beating motion to knock back charcoal marks, is a superbly atmospheric form of eraser use.
There are many forms of eraser on the market which purport to remove all sorts of media from the surface being worked upon. Listed below are common types of eraser and some explanation of how they function.
Putty rubber. Usually used for charcoal and pastel, it is also suitable for other materials such as pencil. The chief advantage of a putty eraser is that it can be kneaded into any form to erase in a particular manner. This is very useful for a positive approach to drawing and seeing the eraser as a tool which brings something to a drawing rather than merely taking something away.
Plastic rubber. This type is designed particularly for erasing very dense graphic markings, and will also remove charcoal, pastel and pencil. It can be used to create
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