CASS Art: The White Chalk Technique

CASS Art run cheap and inspiring workshops – I went along to Maria Mari Murga’s session on Chalk Drawing in the Manner of the Masters. Maria studied at the Charles H. Cecil Studios in Florence, which teaches a tradional style of closely considered naturalistic, sight size drawing and painting. Maria now teaches at the London Artelier of Representational Art and also mentors artists on a one to one basis.

We worked from Maria’s drawing of a female nude, beginning by tracing the figure with charcoal – tracing it turns out is not ‘cheating’, the masters used to call it ‘cartoon’ drawing for their frescos, a way of transferring early sketches to a final piece.  We worked on canson paper which is grey and commonly used for pastels, it has a smooth and a rough side.

The next step was to fill in the shadows with 2B pencil sharpened to a long point, to give more precise lines. Flow of light is brighter at the top of the figure and darker as you descend. The ‘bedbug line’ is where the shadow meets a lighter area, it gets darker, like bedbugs in the studio scampering into the shadows when the light is turned on. Shape a putty rubber into a brush or stump for more precise rubbing out. Use a stump to blend to an even tone.

Finally we added the lights with white chalk and white pastel. Be careful to clean areas with a putty rubber before adding white as white and graphite mix to a bluish tone; similarly keep one end of your stump for blending lights and the other for darks.

I have done so many lightning quick figure sketches in life workshops, (poses of five minutes or sometimes as little as one minute), it felt like a real luxury to spend a considered amount of time on one drawing. Although ultimately it was merely a copy of Maria’s drawing, I feel it taught me a valuable new technique which I can absorb into my own drawing style.