The American Artist: Drawing magazine’s summer issue is featuring my sanguine and charcoal drawings.  The former editor Steven Doherty interviewed me about my research of the materials used by the Italian masters from the 15th century onward.  The article will not be available online but the issue can be found at your local bookstore after august 15th or ordered online here.  Please pick up a copy and check it out.

Up until recently, artists prepared the majority of their materials.  Recipes and knowledge were passed on from Master to student within the workshop environment.  Techniques were often modified to adapt to the local resources available.  This would assure a certain quality and permanence to the work.  Faulty techniques and materials were eventually avoided thanks to the accumulated experience and knowledge of artist’s workshops.  Information was very often exchanged different artist communities.  (Artists, after all, love talking shop)

The term ‘Sanguine’ is derived from the latin for ‘blood’ (sanguis) and refers to drawings done with red chalk.  The mineral Hematite is what gives the chalk its red color.  In Italy it is naturally abundant.  The island of Elba once had a famous mine of sanguine that supplied Michelangelo.

The chalk must be prepared by grinding it into a powder and then reformed into sticks with the addition of water.  That way impurities can by removed and creates a more homogeneous drawing instrument.

Preparation of the sanguine

Completed stick

Here are a couple examples of my sanguine drawings:

Profile of Adiz, sanguine chalk on paper

The above is a portrait of a very interesting young man.  His name is Adiz and he is from Sarajevo. He is currently finishing his studies in Industrial design.  The drawing is life size.  The following is a figure study out of my imagination for sculpture that I would like to create.

Euripydes, sanguine chalk on paper

Below is a hand study for a painting of the Resurrected Christ.

Hand study for Il Risorto

Technique is bound to the materials that one uses. The feel and quality of the natural sanguine chalk is unparalleled for its consistency and subtlety.  The commercially produced sanguine is modified with waxes and binders to resist breaking and facilitate mass production.  Obviously the best materials are not a necessary prerequisite for creating a great drawing.  However, superior materials allow the artist to more freely express himself quickly and render the subtlety that his vision requires.

Christo Risorto

Figure study