Drawing with Kneaded Erasers

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These are not just little tips and techniques, but a full course of learning how to see, think, and draw like an artist.

Kneaded erasers are an essential tool to drawing.  Thing is, when you are just starting out learning how to draw, you can't easily figure out what to do with these strange objects.  This video will help you know.

It's useful to know that there are two ways to build up a drawing on a piece of paper.  One is called additive drawing technique - you literally add marks to the paper.  The other is called subtractive drawing technique - you take marks away.

In reality much of the time you will use a combination of both when you put together a drawing, but it's worth noting here that kneaded erasers are especially valuable in subtractive drawing.

For example, in this video I talk about a portrait I did of a young man called Rob.  I began by preparing a graphite ground - rubbing graphite all over the paper and then blurring it with tissue paper to make a smooth gray all over - and then used the kneaded eraser to lift it off in certain places to mark light (subtractive drawing) and used pencil to put in dark (additive drawing).


Today, we're going to talk about the wonder of kneaded erasers.

Have a cutter handy.  That's because these erasers are strange, sticky objects.  So you may have an easier time of it if you just get a little aggressive and use a cutter.

Have a special box for your kneaded eraser. That's because if you try putting it in your pencil box, for example, you'll quickly discover what a mess these things can make.

Love it anyway, because this brand-new, squashy eraser will take out unwanted graphite and charcoal just like this old one I've had for some years has done for me faithfully.

Let me show you.

First I draw a rounded box. By flattening the eraser and then pressing it on the dark part of my drawing, I can lift off graphite and actually make that part of the drawing look lighter.  I can also tidy my drawing, like this. Old-fashioned erasers have pumice stone in them, to literally break paper fibers to get graphite particles out.  Kneaded erasers have no pumice, so they don't damage your paper.

Understand that these erasers are not made for doing anything with deep, dark graphite lines.  They work with light pencil.  Same thing with deep, dark charcoal lines.  All you're going to do is make a big mess with them.  And you won't be able to get rid of your lines, no matter what you do.  Magic with light charcoal, though.

Ready for some more magic?  They can get pretty dirty, right?  All you have to do is squash them up like a crazy person and they come out soft and clean, just like new.

I can shape the eraser like a knife to cut a fine line of light across the shadow.  Or I can shape it into a point, and by gradually pecking at a dark gray in my drawing I can gradually turn it into...a light gray. 

I used just this technique in this drawing.  The line of Rob's hair was too dark against the background.  So by pecking with my eraser, I was able to soften the contrast.  I was able to grade the grays where the light hits his cheekbone; control the light hitting his nose.

I admit it.  I cleaned up my thumbprints, too.

By the way, don't listen to advice you may hear about being able to clean these erasers by squashing them round and soaking them in a mixture of dishwashing liquid and water.  In reality, these erasers are made of a combination of carbonated rubber and vegetable oil.  So, the soap goes immediately to work breaking down the vegetable oil and...your eraser.

But not to worry.  These erasers last for years, and they're really, really cheap.  So all you have to do when they get too dirty is just throw them out in the garbage and go shopping to buy another one.

And last, since people have asked me this curious question, if you happen to leave your eraser in the refrigerator, yup, it will survive.

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