ERASING with BLU-TACK - part 1
Erasing is an art in itself and successful erasing is never easy. Just for the moment leave aside your hard rubbers, soft art erasers and kneadable putty rubbers while I introduce you to my favourite ERASER.....
Erasing with Putty?This is not a putty rubber as you know it... Be prepared to have your technical illusions shattered - my preferred eraser (almost my only eraser) is not an eraser at all... but it is a tool of unsurpassed excellence! We know it here in the UK as "Blu-Tack" - the original non-sticky putty that is used for fixing posters to walls. Yes, that's right, this stuff is God's own gift to graphite artists - and probably works as well with charcoal and pastel. Years ago I bought a batch of putty rubbers (kneadable erasers) that broke up in use and, in desperation, I grabbed a piece of Blu-Tack — I've used virtually nothing else since. This "eraser" is so versatile that I still haven't exhausted its range of uses! But beware - there are imitation products, generically known as "Wall Putty", but only Blu-Tack fully possesses the qualities we need.
The Eraser in use:Blu-Tack possesses two qualities not found in Kneadable Erasers - an enhanced ability to be readily formed into any shape and an all-important inherent tackiness. I keep one ball in my hand while I work. That keeps it warm and increases its stickiness, so it picks up even more graphite with the lightest of touches. And I have another ball by my drawing board that is cool and maintains a pinched edge or rolled point for a longer time.
An Eraser is not a Rubber:Hard rubbers rub; they do little more than force graphite deep into the paper. "Art erasers" and kneadable eraser remove graphite more softly but, as they still require a dragging or tapping movement to achieve results, a degree of graphite "staining" usually results. But Blu-Tack, as a result of its sticky nature, removes every grain of graphite without any detrimental movement. It's a graphite magnet! A quick downward touch embeds the grains for immediate and clean lifting and leaves the tooth of the paper unharmed. And Blu-Tack never redeposits the graphite it has lifted; it seems to absorb it into itself.
Cleaning the Eraser:In time, as the Blu-Tack eraser takes in more and more graphite, it will cease to be as efficient. However most of the graphite is merely embedded in its surface and just requires dilution by distributing it throughout the eraser. Taking the ball of putty in one hand, simply pull off small pieces or stretch it out into a long length - now roll the whole thing up again and knead it back into a ball. This eraser is a miser's dream... it will last for months!
Lightening tone:Never again will you feel afraid of over-darkening an area of your drawing. The day has arrived when you can load an area with as much graphite as you want because you now, if you need to, have the means to remove it. The following technique can be applied to any area of tone that you require to be a little (or a lot) lighter.
This is where plastic art erasers are useless and kneadable erasers will let you down - neither can remove half a layer of graphite without disturbing the remainder beneath. This Eraser can! Roll the Blu-Tack into a cylinder with as smooth a face as possible (try rolling it on your drawing board). Now gently roll the cylinder over the area to be lightened and repeat as required. With a little practice and perseverance you will soon become proficient and will be able to lower a complete area from in-your-face to ghostly!... and without affecting the detail!
For small areas, pull out a finger from the ball of Blu-Tack and rock its end on your drawing board to form a curved flat face. Then very lightly stroke that face over an area of your drawing. This technique allows total control over the subtlety of, for example, a misty scene - draw it with ease using a greater strength and a wider range of contrasts than is required then use your Blu-Tack to progressively fade it as little or as much as you require.
Complete Erasure:Try this out for yourself and follow the steps I took below:
- Take a piece of your usual drawing paper (I prefer Mellotex card) and generously apply a saturated coating of 6B or similar to a small area. A harder grade will do but it has to be one that you know a regular eraser will smear and not remove.
- Roll a cylinder of your Blu-Tack eraser over the area. This will remove all the surface graphite.
- Continue rolling until the eraser (which you might need to clean at some stage)...
- has removed as much graphite as it possibly can. The graphite is removed in ever decreasing amounts so persevere. Don't worry that the coated eraser may deposit graphite back onto your paper - it just doesn't happen!
- Remember when I said Blu-Tack "removes every grain of graphite...and embeds the grains for immediate and clean lifting"? Well, that's in an ideal world — the very act of drawing will have pushed some graphite a little too far into the paper for the Blu-Tack to reach it, so now (and only now) reach for your soft art eraser and rub out the final remnants. But be aware that any art eraser will damage the tooth to some extent. Blu-Tack won't.
Continue to Part 2
"The Blu-Tack is better than I even thought it would be...I'm still amazed at how that light touch will pick up the graphite. It's great!!!!"
Toby Levin, USA
TOP TIPDon't blend graphite with your fingers - don't touch the paper surface at all! Natural grease from your skin will indelibly alter any touched area and affect the way that graphite adheres to it. This is particularly noticeable (and distracting) if the area is within an expanse of flat or graduated tone - more graphite will adhere to the greasy area and always appear darker.
All text content and images copyright © M J Sibley Dip.A.D.