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If you enjoy life drawing with charcoal but would prefer to use more color, then chalk is an excellent medium to try.
Is chalk pencil or Conté Crayon best?
I have experimented with chalk pencils and Conté Crayons and I love them both. But they are quite different from each other.
Below, I'll show you examples of my favorite life drawings that use different chalk mediums and drawing techniques so you can see which you prefer.
Hopefully, these will inspire you to try chalk for yourself.
Chalk Pencil Life Drawings
The following chalk life drawings were drawn on blue paper with red chalk, I love this combination — there's something about the light-blue and the earthy-red color that just works!
"Girls back in red" Chalk life drawing on blue paper
A reasonably quick drawing of a girl's back sitting on a chair.
"Man in red chalk" Life drawing on blue paper
Practicing my rendering technique with red and white chalk.
This model was really good. He was doing some very nice dynamic poses and his muscles were well defined which made for interesting drawing.
"Old man portrait" Red chalk portrait on blue paper
A portrait study trying out new mediums, red crayon on blue paper.
The next two life drawings combine more colors. The first uses red, orange, and white chalk on manila paper. The second uses red, black, and white chalk on blue paper. The extra colors give more depth and interest to these drawings.
"Sitting girl in red" Sitting pose in red chalk
I really like this drawing.
It was rendered with two different types of red chalk, one light orange and one a stronger, darker red. This has given some subtle changes to the red tones throughout the drawing.
I also used white chalk for the highlights. Perhaps if I had used a slightly darker piece of paper then the white highlights would have been a little stronger. I feel that they are a slightly lost.
"Girl with black hair" Red, black, & white chalk portrait on blue paper
This is my first attempt at drawing with red, black and white chalk on blue paper. I think it's going to take a bit of practice. I went a bit heavy on the black and it seems to have ruined the subtlety.
See more of my portraits.
I like choosing colors that also have different tones — it allows you to change colors as you build up the tonal layers. For example:
- Orange for lighter tones and red for darker tones
- Red for lighter tones and black for darker tones
Chalk pencil pros
Here are some of the reasons why I like chalk in pencil format:
Clean to use: You're not directly holding the chalk medium so your fingers and hands stay clean.
Fine control: They're easy to use for fine detail work and/or smaller drawings.
Sharpen to any point: Like normal pencils, you can sharpen them to any style point. (See my article: The Art of Sharpening Pencils for examples of points to try.)
Conté Crayon Life Drawings
Conté Crayons are small chalk sticks that you hold in your hand. You can draw with them on their point or side to make vastly different marks.
Here are some examples using brown Conté Crayon on manila paper:
"Girl holding pole" Conté crayon life drawng
I drew the outlines a bit too dark on this drawing, apart from that I really like it.
"Man seated on block" Brown Conté Crayon life drawng
This pose was difficult to render because the light coming straight towards me and his whole boby was in shadow. I feel like the most interesting poses have the light coming at about 45 degrees from one side.
And this is a one-minute drawing:
"Seated man with pole" Brown Conté Crayon
Just a quick 1 minute sketch that I liked. Sometimes the short ones can capture something that the long drawings cannot.
Here are a few more of my life drawings that use red Conté Crayon:
"Seated girl" Red Conté Crayon life drawing
This was a longer life drawing. It's hard to get detail with crayon so I drew this on A1-sized paper.
"Man's chest" Red Conté Crayon gesture life drawing
I love the texture you can achieve with crayons by using a combination of strokes on the point and side of the crayon.
"Girl turning" Red Conté Crayon figure drawing
A quick sketch with red crayon on colored paper.
"Crouching girl" Red Conté Crayon gesture drawing
I think Conté crayon is a beautiful medium for short 1 minute poses because the lines and shading you can achieve quickly are so expressive.
Conté Crayon pros
Here are the reasons why I love Conté Crayons:
Expressive marks: You can make a wider range of marks than a pencil, this gives a very gestural quality to your drawing.
Build up tones quickly: By using the side of the chalk sticks you can cover large areas of tone quickly.
Perfect for large works: Because you can cover large areas quickly this medium is perfect for larger works, A3+ in size.
I'm not a big fan of getting my hands dirty when I draw, but I'm willing to ignore that with Conté Crayons because of the amazing gestural quality that they produce.
Best Chalk And Crayon Sets For Life Drawing
Want to get started with chalk or Conté Crayons? I use and recommend the following:
Want to buy any of my life drawings? They're available on OpenSea as NFTs