Monday, September 6, 2010

The El Dorado Page

Many artists who got their start in the 1930s and ‘40s remember the chisel pencil technique of Ernest Watson.

Watson’s drawing methods were showcased not only in his instructional books, but also in a series of pencil ads in the art magazines called the “El Dorado Page.”

(Click to enlarge.) Watson used between four and eight different grades of El Dorado graphite pencils, which he held in his left hand. Each pencil was sharpened and then worn down to a flat tip.

He advocated using firm and definite strokes, always bearing down fairly hard. To get lighter tones you would still press hard, but use harder pencils. He was also conscious of leaving a few white spaces and crisp dark accents to add sparkle.

Here is a door done with four different types of rendering. His notes about the drawing are below.

The El Dorado pages showed various combinations of techniques, including smudging with a tortillon stump, a flat gray wash for shadows, and softer scumbled technique.

Watson worked on a surface called “cameo paper,” which is no longer available. Apparently it was clay-coated, for it was difficult to erase. Ed Ahlstrom, an art professor from Montgomery College told me that you can simulate cameo paper by spraying a thin coat of Krylon gesso on a smooth, stiff drawing paper.

Many pencil artists were influenced by Watson’s approach. Ted Kautzky, James Perry Wilson, and Arthur Guptill are just a few.

Thanks, Ed Ahstrom
Previously on GJ: Montgomery College
Amazon: The Art of Pencil Drawing by Ernest Watson

12 comments:

NetRaptor said...

That is amazing. At first glance I thought it was pen and ink techniques.

Charlene Fleming said...

I've never been sure of how to use pencils of varying hardness within a single piece. I do my traditional work in ink and/or gouache almost exclusively but lately I've been seeing a lot of inspirational pencil work and have been thinking of trying my hand at it again. This is a very timely post for me. Thanks so much!

António Araújo said...

Excellent post. I didn't know Watson(!) Thank you, Jim!

Michael Dooney said...

I've always loved his pencil drawings. Folks should hunt down his 'how to draw' books, there are bunch of them and they are full of great drawings.
His approach with bold strokes is very appealing, kind of like painting with a pencil, not scrubbing and blending everything as most pencil artist do.

Amber said...

I eat this kind of technique information right up!

Thank you for sharing, I have a new artist to add to the list of those I want to research!

Smurfswacker said...

Watson's work was indeed inspiring. I don't know his biography, but I suspect he came at drawing through architectural rendering. All of his and Guptill's books leaned strongly toward architectural practice. For that matter, so did the early issues of Pencil Points, the magazine that became American Artist.

I've read so much about Cameo paper. Too bad it's been discontinued. I understand you could do some erasing by careful scraping the surface with a knife. I've never seen anything drawn on the stuff.

António Araújo said...

Jim,
is that kind of paper anything like a piece of white scratchboard?

António Araújo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sara Light Waller said...

Well, clearly, I need to read this book. Thanks for posting! :-)

Richard said...

Watson's technique is amazing and charming. I have his 4 in 1 book course in pencil sketching . He is one of my favorites.

Les said...

One of my absolute favorite pencil illustrators was Paul Calle. His book, "The Pencil", has been a standard reference for me for years. Dynamic, strong strokes in a variety of drawing media.

Kathy Hodge said...

I recently "inherited" about 8 pads of Cameo Paper along with other art supplies from the 30's. It came in 24 sheets pads 14"x11" and is described as clay-coated. It was put out by the Morilla Paper Company and the prices written in pencil on the pads are 40 and 50 cents. I like working on it, it's very smooth and thin but grabs the pencil and gives good darks. Also takes a little watermedia without too much buckling. Unfortunately it's yellowed a bit, but is not brittle.
I blogged about my windfall of vintage art supplies here http://bit.ly/dTwgxT