Monday, October 29, 2012

The Conte and the Caveman

Err... not him @ subject of portrait. He's a very fine gentleman from Chennai, India. I was referring to the artist. But read on please...

Approx. A4 in size, conte.

 After I had posted this drawing on an art forum, a member asked me how I could get those very thin lines with conte. He was actually referring to the 'conte sticks' (pic below) - those short, square cross-section sticks that Conte makes. I wrote back that I didn't, since I was (also) using conte pencils (pierre noire). However, even the humble conte stick is capable of doing wonderous things, including making those very fine lines! Having said that, I waxed eloquent on the following, which I'm (largely) copy-pasting below...

By the way, the ref image is by Muralidharan Alagar, modeled by his friend Sumit, taken on the occasion of an art camp at the Cholamandal Artists' Village, Chennai.

It was mid- to late-afternoon. I had just finished the portrait above, which was then posted online, immediately following which the query was made. I wanted to demonstrate the versatility of the 'used' conte stick and took its picture. Then I proceeded to draw the ear sketch (posted further below). When used with a soft enough hand, and after you have got it shaped in that way (following a period of use), the stick is wonderfully versatile in producing a wide variety of marks - both in line depth and line thickness/width. I'll elaborate further..

Look at the many micro facets on its surface, the very sharp and pointy tip, and the knife-like edge that's extending down from it. Remember paleolithic tools used by cavemen? Those sharp-tipped, multi-faceted stones they used as arrows and knives? Well, this conte has become like a softer version of those (with me being the caveman in my studio-cave :D).

 Now look at this little sketch (top half of an A4 page clipped to a board) which I made just after taking the pic above, entirely with that very conte - so as to demonstrate its wonderful versatility. These are a couple of ears, drawn side by side (from same ref actually, although shapes have differed). The one on the left shows just the outline, while the other one has tone, mostly achieved with hatching (I have used a moistened brush to even out the tones later on, but that's irrelevant to our discussion). Can you see the very fine hatching lines (which the arrows are pointng at) drawn with the sharp tip?

Thanks so much for viewing/reading.


  1. The drawing is fabulous ...and the artist who shared , creatated and has such a lovely wonderful careing nature ....

    I don't care if I never become a some one ! , but I do know I could never be without seeing such wonderful art from you !!!!!

    Ps love that ear ...conte is becoming a fav of mine ...thankyou for the inspiration !

    1. Sandra, what can I say... you leave me humbled and grateful AND inspired. Thank you.

      I'm glad you're exploring conte, you have such spontaneity in your strokes (brush or otherwise), the creamy nature of the conte will surely yield excellence in your hand. It tends to work better, in my opinion, on smoother paper.

  2. Well that makes two of us then !!! To all the above !


Thank you for your thoughtful opinion :)