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The Story of Painting

Drawing through time

The generation that's grown up in the digital age won't understand this, but it used to be that if you wanted to be an artist, drawing was considered a basic skill that one had to master before they moved on to painting or sculpture. 

It makes sense that people began to draw long before they could write. Drawing has been a form of creative expression that has few limitations. Palaeolithic drawings were scratched into rock or made with charcoal left over from fires and with flakes of naturally occurring chalk. 

In ancient Egypt, the tools used for drawing included reed pens and papyrus. 

In Europe, monks decorated illuminated manuscripts of religious texts during the middle ages.

Throughout the Renaissance era, people drew to study nature and human anatomy. It was only later from the 1800s onward that drawings became more refined and began to be seen as a work of art. New materials and modified techniques evolved, and drawing became much more about expression and exploration as observation. 

Exploration of style*

Developed in medieval Italy and perfect for clearly delineating features, silverpoint involves drawing a fin metal stylus, usually made of silver, across vellum or paper that has been prepared with gesso or paint. The silver stylus leaves metal traces that darken with time. 

Brush and heightening
Early Renaissance artist often made a preliminary drawing in charcoal or chalk on midtoned paper and used white paint for the lightest area. In Leonardo da Vinci's Drapery Study for Seated Figure, he used washes of gray tempera (paint) with highlights to convey the flowing folds of the fabric. 

Pen and ink
Over time, pens have been made from cut reeds and goose and turkey feathers (quills), as well as from metal. 

Red chalk

This medium brought drawing closer to painting during the Renaissance Artists such as Raphael's The Three Graces created preparatory studies (cartoons) in red chalk. These preliminary drawings are now regarded as masterpieces in their own right.

With an ability to convey three-dimensional form, as well as line, chalk is a versatile material that has been used since the ancient times. 

Conté crayon 
Named after the 18th-century French inventor, Conté crayons are a mixture of clay, graphite, wax, and pigment, and come in several grades of hardness. The artist can vary the pressure to alter the tone, which makes them perfect for shadowy scenes like Georges Seurat's Embroidery: the Artist's Mother

Painting is a process. Understanding the story of the beginning of art gives us insight into the skill of the craftsmanship and the trade secrets that artists used to create their most celebrated works.

The Story of Painting by DK Books gives you a deeper perspective into the era and the evolution of art. The next time you visit the museum or art gallery, you'll have a better understanding and enjoyment of the artist's work. 

Take a sneak peak into the book and purchase here

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