When the drawing for your painting is completed, when you are certain everything is just as you want it, stop. Allow yourself a breathing space of a day or two before you look at the drawing again. When you are ready,
turn the work upside down, or hold it in front of a mirror. Any errors will now jump out at you. No less a master than Leonardo Da Vinci worked this method out, 500 years ago.
Drawing onto canvas is best done with a stick of vine charcoal. Because they are made by skilled charcoal burners, from actual pieces of wood, they come in 'wonky' shapes. They can be bought in bundles of different sizes and degrees of softness. Once you gain confidence in handling them, no other drawing medium will give you the same thrill as making a mark onto that empty white canvas.
Compressed charcoal is made into pencils by use of binders. They are convenient but greasy and hard to erase when you want to make changes. And you will want to make changes. That is part of the creative process.
- Among its other advantages, vine charcoal will rub off with the flick of a rag.
TIP: Ban your cat/ dog/ children from the studio if you like to prop your unfinished canvases against the wall. Better still, slide them ( the canvases - not the pets or the kids ) into the racks that you, or an obliging Significant Other, have built to house them.
Graphite pencil is not good for drawing straight onto the canvas. With time, oil paints will lift away from the pencil lines. This problem can be overcome by painting over each line of the drawing with a thin mix of vegetable turps and pigment, leaving it to dry thoroughly before continuing the work.
- Here is a much faster and easier way:
Any final adjustments made, you are ready to 'fix' the drawing. Whether you make loose or finely detailed drawings, this is a vital step. I recommend you choose a workable fixative in an aerosol spray. Open all windows and doors in the studio, or take the canvas outside if there is no wind.
- Health-conscious painters don a paper facemask such as house painters use, because some ingredients of these sprays are toxic.
With the canvas upright, cover the entire surface with a light and even spray. Don't overdo this, as a heavy concentration of spray will wet the charcoal and cause your lines to blur or even dribble. Wait about five minutes, then do a second sweep with the spray can. When finished, up-end the can and spray to clear the nozzle. Wipe any drips and replace the lid before stowing the can in your supplies cupboard.
No, you are not ready to start painting, sorry! The careful artist will wait some hours to be sure the surface is totally dry before laying colours. I know, believe me, the temptation to get started. Please cultivate the habit of patience. You may resent having to 'waste' a day waiting but...
- If you take the trouble to craft your paintings with care, they will last 500 years or more. Do you think that kind of 'immortality' is worth the waiting? The Old Masters clearly thought so.©Dorothy Gauvin