‘Life is the Art of Drawing without an Eraser’ I am sure you have heard this one before. But the truth is most of us cannot draw that well. We all make mistakes at some point in time. Nobody is born knowing it all. What we do after that .. how we correct it .. what we learn from it .. is important. Think! What is it that we could do differently so that the mistake is not repeated? We learn by asking questions and making mistakes. We grow as we learn. It is a part of the process.
People can be a bit too hard on themselves. They discard things with the slightest flaw or even a single mistake. In Art, we can either incorporate the mistake into the design or erase it. Then it is about how big or small the mistake is. My Art teacher always said, “It is ok to make a mistake. What you should also know is how to correct it. You cannot keep throwing away everything or stop painting altogether because of them.”
Reflecting, I realised I had made mistakes on my art journey as well. Sharing them with you could help you avoid them, rectify them or at least feel that you are not the only one. Here’s a list of the ones I could recollect.
- If one uses a very sharp pencil or a hard graphite pencil on paper, it creates a dent. The pencil graphite can be erased but the dent or mark will stay.
- Excessive erasing can peel off the paper. Hence it is important to select a good eraser as per our use.
- Erasing when the paper is slightly wet will erode the paper. Literally!! There will be a hole. This happens if we use pencils along with watercolours. It is best not to draw with a pencil before using watercolours. If at all we do use them, make sure it is very light and will get covered in paint. We won’t have a problem if we use gouache colours because they are thick and opaque.
- Drawing with a pencil on a canvas and erasing it is a big no-no. The graphite will mix with the paint and the colour will change to dull and dark. It is a good idea to draw with a paintbrush on a canvas. We can use a very light shade (almost white but visible to the naked eye) for drawing or making the markings. This will get covered up when we paint on it thereafter.
- We do get ink erasers. Pencil erasers can be used for colour pencils too. I tried erasing a little pencil mark when the paper was almost dry but not completely dry and the paper peeled. This was because of the moisture in the marker. The idea is that once we paint or colour on the paper, the pencil mark goes under it. Hence it cannot be erased even after drying. Whether we use pencils, markers or paints it is best to erase all the extra markings before painting. We can always keep the outlines that will get covered with thicker outlines or enhanced after painting.
- This is one of my favourites – Give a light wash in the background and then detail and then more detail. Same way in pencil shading. Do the light tone, then darker and then darker as and where necessary. Work on the whole piece simultaneously, so that the colours of the artwork mix and match well. Also, there is a complete flow in the picture. By any chance, if we make any mistake or want to make changes after doing the other portion we will be able to correct it. Once the dark or final touch is done, it becomes a lot more difficult to correct it. That is why it is always better to work in layers.
- Spilled a colour and ruined the spot? Lighten the colour by removing the pigment by lightly dabbing on that portion. Let it dry completely and then paint over it. That is what I meant by it can be easily corrected in the beginning. That is why nobody paints one part of the art to the finish while the other part doesn’t even have a base wash. That’s 99% a digital edit.
- Want to remove dried paint? Acetone works well to remove Acrylic paint on surfaces like glass or plastic. I have used it on canvas too. The cotton in the canvas will have to be treated with gesso once again before painting.
- The paint water glass tipped and dripped water onto the paper. This happens a lot when we work in small spaces or a hurry. Especially during art exams. For many of us, it can even be a horrifying experience. Don’t worry this can also be corrected. Take a dry cloth and lightly dab on the paper to soak up the excess water. Some paint will come onto this cloth. It will be back to the light wash stage. Let it dry and repaint only that portion.
- Last and very important – In the process of correcting the mistake, don’t try too hard. Sometimes people focus so much on the mistake that it ends up becoming the highlight instead of blending or fading away in the picture.
One thing I clearly understood is most of the times we are the only ones to know what the mistake is and where. The onlooker doesn’t know it unless we specifically point it out or highlight it or in any way make it very obvious. If we manage to blend it and make it flow along with the rest of the painting it can add to the beauty. Yes! Some mistakes can be beautiful. A little here or there adds to the beauty of handmade. It makes it different and unique. It makes it special.
What if none of these methods works and we have to do a re-do? Then think of what Thomas Edison said ‘I haven’t failed, I just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.’ We are all human. To err is human. I like to wear my bruises as my badges of honour. So if at all we make a mistake, there is nothing to worry about. It is ok to make mistakes.
Fortunately, we have erasers for art. And there are different types of erasers too. Hehe.. Yes! There are different types of erasers. And no please don’t call it rubber. It is called an eraser. We all have this one vinyl eraser or a regular soft eraser (with a brush to clean the dust) for regular use. This can be used for Art as well. A pencil eraser for erasing precise lines (this is an eraser pencil, see the picture) and a kneaded eraser (magic eraser as I call it) that absorbs graphite and charcoal is something every artist should include in their toolbox.
Having a good eraser and more so the right ones can be very helpful in drawing and painting. I don’t use erasers that are hard on the surface such as the sand eraser and the pink eraser. An eraser mounted on the pencil is a big no for me. It is not for drawing or sketching. One can use it for regular writing work. We also get changeable erasers and electric erasers in the market. These erasers are more pricey and better suited for specialists or professionals.
Do you also have eraser stories? Feel free to share them. We could all learn from them. Have an Arty Weekend!