Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Ditch Your Eraser

USk Chicago: Tuesday Tips & Tricks by Ted Gordon

What’s the fastest way to improve your drawing?
Ditch your eraser.

How can I get a decent image of my pencil sketch online?
While you are at it, ditch your pencil; draw in ink.

The more you do something, the better you get at it. When you are studying what something looks like and practicing rendering it, you are improving your drawing ability. When you are erasing those marks, you are practicing erasing, not drawing. Don’t worry about stray marks, just keep drawing.

Another way I like to put this:
Everyone has thousands of terrible drawings in them. The sooner you get them out, the better. Erasing will only slow you down.

Committing to eraser-free drawing is easier, if you draw with something difficult to erase.

A huge benefit of drawing in ink is that it photographs well! You don’t have to sharpen an ink drawing, adjust its contrast or do anything! If you do, it handles those adjustments much more simply and clearly than a graphite drawing.

Create cleaner drawings. Ink, compared to graphite, stays where it’s put and doesn't need fixative applied to make that happen. It’s less likely to smudge and, depending on which ink you use, can be more or less waterproof.

Draw with Confidence!
If you are nervous about abandoning your eraser, you may be surprised how drawing with ink can make your marks more bold - in more ways than one.
Using a pen encourages you to be more deliberate. That creates a cleaner, more elegant line, in my opinion.
Conversely, if that ‘tightens you up’, go nuts. Put all those lines down there. As long as you are looking and drawing, you are improving.

In conclusion, I highly recommend drawing without your eraser, if you haven’t. You’ll notice that many Urban Sketchers are drawing in ink already. My recommendation comes from the advice of greater artists that have preceded us as well as my own experience, seeing this improve my drawing and the drawings of my students.

You can see my Urban Sketches and Plein Air Paintings here: http://www.tedgordonart.com/ http://instagram.com/motionimpossible

What do you think? Have you experimented with leaving your eraser out of the picture? What other reasons do you like to draw without your eraser, or in ink?


  1. Thank you Ted. On the positive side of using a pencil, some of the coolest ink drawings I have seen are done by cartoonists and animators who will draw first in blue pencil, then ink over the pencil. But they never erase the blue pencil and the effect is super cool. The blue adds a dimension that straight line work does not.

    1. Excellent point about the blue pencil. An artist and naturalist named John Muir Laws recommends using a Prismacolor Col-Erase pencil in "Copy Not KP Blue" for drawing the outline of birds before using graphite or colored pencils. It barely shows and helps prevent alot of erasing. He has an excellent blog for sketching the natural world. I noticed that Nathan Fowkes who has a great blog called "Land Sketch" uses an orange colored pencil with ink washes for small landscape sketches and the effect is very interesting. And nothing beats a graphite pencil for quick landscape studies when you are hiking and don't want a ton of gear.

  2. It can be scary at first but worth the effort! When sketching an action scene I often leave my eraser out of the process. If I don't like a line or my subjects keep moving I just draw new lines. It adds to the action and energy.

  3. thanks for sharing..Amazing stuff continues the good work.
    SeaTac kid friendly hotel

  4. Great suggestion! I think it is so much more fun to sketch with ink and you don't have to worry about fixative as you do with graphite drawings. Brush pens do half the work for you because they make interesting lines all by themselves. I like the Pentel Pocket Brush pen which uses cartridges with waterproof black ink and I have a couple Kuretake brush pens with converters in them so I can use any ink I want. According to Brian at Goulet Pens (he has a bunch of extremely informative videos on their website) brush pens unlike fountain pens can take most inks without clogging up; their website is great for pen enthusiasts and has a wealth of information about writing and sketching with pens but beware - it can be hard to look at all those cool pens and not buy one and ink, etc. Recently Liz Steele has started a series of blog posts about sketching with pens that I would highly recommend. I enjoy sketching with Lamy Safari fountain pens; they are light weight and super comfortable for my old arthritic hands. I have several and use converters in them also so I can sketch with a variety of inks and different size nibs. so far I have mostly used Noodler's inks which have never clogged my pens and Lexington Grey is my very favorite sketching ink. It is so dark it is nearly black but just a bit more subtle and also waterproof so you can paint over it with watercolor. I have no connection with Goulet Pens but I have never found another company as helpful and generous with pen information as theirs. The people at Jet Pens have been great to deal with also and prices are similar and reasonable. I hope sometime to come down to Chicago and sketch with your group and enjoy your blog very much. Happy Holidays and Happy sketching.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.