Happy the Pencil Sharpener, color chalk drawing

Color Chalk Drawing

Happy the Pencil Sharpener, a color chalk drawing on tan toned paper. Loose and free, with suggestions of the world around, but the focus of this drawing is the form and substance of a pencil sharpener that lives permanently bolted to the rail around my front porch. And yes, I do use it there! I’ll admit that with the purchase of several excellent but much smaller and very portable sharpeners, my usage of this one has dropped off a bit. I do enjoy seeing it there every day.

I will also admit something else: drawing with color chalk, otherwise known as dry pastels, puts particulates of chalk into my face and I will cough pretty soon after beginning. Especially with my favorite ones, the soft ones, and this set is the classic Rembrandt brand soft pastels which I have been drawing down to nubs over the years. Fast, gestural marks, where I am capturing the spirit of the thing rather than the details, are my friend here.


I like starting my color chalk drawing on toned paper. It requires that I work with a changed and often deepened version of the color of the pastels in hand. If I want brightness, I achieve that through contrast, but there is also a luminous quality that a mid-tone paper will give to the brighter colors in the box. I find that a color environment and feeling of place can be more quickly reached, when the paper itself contributes to the mood.

As is also common when I paint, I will find a color whose effect I quite like, and then it will be incredibly tempting to put this color everywhere. I admire my own restraint in my portrait of the pencil sharpener here, I am proud of myself for stopping at just enough. This is the big challenge for any drawing or painting of course! When do you stop, when do you push it further. Most artists I have spoken to, and including myself, have a hard time seeing when their composition has “just enough” and is “finished”.


I can write a longer treatise on this concept, to be sure. Even in my own framed work, or maybe especially in my own framed work, I continue to develop it further in my mind, every time I look at it. But this fast loose drawing of a happy-seeming pencil sharpener sitting on a fence in front of the magnolia tree, this one came into its own quickly and I saw that it had. Right on time.

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