An artist can use many different tools to produce designs, depending on their purpose. How many of the tools described below have you used? Do you have a favourite tool?
Make sure you understand these words before you read the text. Use the dictionary in the link collection to look up new words:
- greeting card
- remains (noun)
The artist relies on the pencil as a basic drawing tool, and a pencil was probably the first drawing tool you used as a child. Some pencils produce pale grey lines and are so hard they can easily tear flimsy paper. Softer, darker pencils can cause a mess which leaves black graphite smeared on your hands and all over the paper. Artists' pencils are graded in degrees of hardness, using a system of letters. The softest pencils receive a "B" grading, while the medium grade of hardness is designated "HB", and the hardest pencils are graded "H". Detailed work requires a pencil which is hard and sharpened to a fine point. Pencils for broader work may be softer and sharpened by a blade to a chisel form.
Ink, Pens and Brushes
Ink pens and brushes have been used since ancient Egyptian times to draw symbols and letters. In the Middle Ages highly gifted monks used pens and ink to create a form of beautiful writing called "calligraphy". Today, calligraphy artists use broad-nib pens where decorative effect is important, e.g. for book covers, invitations and greeting cards.
For thousands of years, humans have reached into the remains of fires, retrieved lumps of charcoal and used these to draw pictures. Charcoal is ideal to use when drawing on a large scale because it is soft and gives a smooth, velvety line which is easy to correct.
Chalks and Crayons
Chalks and crayons are similar to charcoal but they are much harder and therefore enable the artist to produce finer lines and greater detail. Crayons contain wax, and have the advantage of being water resistant.
Soft pastels are pigments bound with gum or resin. The degree of hardness varies with the amount of binder and chalk contained in the product. Pastels are sold in stick form, and are usually round. They produce a wonderful intensity of colour, but they often need to be finished with a spray fixative because they are so soft and crumbly.
Fibre-tipped pens originated as tools of graphic designers. They are available in many colours, and in either water-soluble or spirit-based form. Today they are primarily used for writing or marking, but some artists sketch with fibre-tipped pens. However, fibre-tipped pens tend to fade if they are exposed to light.
CAD (Computer Aided Design)
Digital drawing tools are special computer programmes for drawing and structural design. Computer artists use CAD software to design anything from spoons to sports cars. Feed the correct measurements into the computer, and it will produce a 3-D (three-dimensional) image of the object on the screen. The software allows the draughtsman to move the image around, view it from any angle, and make as many different versions as desired. CAD is used in many areas including automotive, shipbuilding, and aerospace industries, industrial and architectural design, and prosthetics (the design of artificial limbs).
Tasks and Activities
Write down which of these adjectives you think describe the CAD design picture?
cold, warm, elegant, ugly, beautiful, attractive, colourful, feminine, stiff, static, graceful, action-filled, eye-catching, decorative, repulsive.
Compare with a partner and explain why. Can you think of any other suitable adjectives?
Write down three things you like about each of the two pictures. Compare with a partner.
Find out more about the Lindisfarne Gospels or the Book of Kells - where they come from, when were they produced and by whom, and where you will find them today.