Normally when we draw we’re doing what’s called Additive Drawing; it’s adding charcoal, graphite, color pencils, or pen to a blank piece of paper. We draw, using an eraser as only an afterthought to remove mistakes or messiness. What if you turn that process on its head? Using your eraser as your main art tool, and using your pencils/charcoal to “clean up”. Sounds kind of backward, right? It’s called Subtractive Drawing, also known as reductive drawing or negative drawing. Recently I captured my process and wanted to show you.
Begin, be bold and venture to be wise. – Horace
When I paint a live model in oil, one of my favorite ways of beginning is by doing what’s called a “wipe-out”. A wipe-out is where you cover your canvas in paint diluted by turpentine/mineral spirits and while it’s still wet you use a paper towel to wipe the surface, bringing out the lightness of the form. We can relatively do the same process with Subtractive Drawing.
Your eraser should be quite dirty like you can see mine was! Switch to a clean bit of eraser to help further lighten the lightest plane of your subject. Next up- using my favorite eraser pen: the Tombow Mono Zero. Use this or another hard white eraser to “draw” in the highlights.
Now all that’s left is to tap off any loose medium and show your friends! Consider using a fixative spray to help protect your drawing from smudging & dust.
Have you tried Subtractive Drawing? Which do you like better: Subtractive or Additive Drawing? Would love to hear your thoughts! Please leave a comment below. And as always- Happy drawing!
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” – Leonardo da Vinci
Throwing in details at the beginning can trick the eye into thinking you’re capturing your subject, but you do so at the expense of overall accuracy.
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