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