For anyone who’s ever attended a life drawing class, red earth chalk (also called Sanguine) will be familiar. This drawing medium is synonymous with figure studies made by the Renaissance Masters. I can think of many fine works by Leonardo and Michelangelo that were executed in red chalk.
As an art student 20+ years ago, I used earth toned chalks almost daily, but have only recently begun to use them for nature studies. My renewed interest is due to this unique red chalk pencil made by Koh-i-noor, a company whose lineup of art products is not well represented in Canada.
Drawing with this pencil is feels distinct from other brands of Sanguine pencils. I suspect this is due to oil being used as the pigment's binding agent. Oil free pencils are dry and powdery, while these lean more towards the feel of a China Marker (although much firmer in consistency).
What this means in real life are a couple of things. First, the tip wears down quickly, so keep a sharp knife handy. And secondly, blending with a paper stump or tissue isn’t as effective as oil free sanguine pencils, nor do the lines erase easily.
If you can accept these short comings, this pencil lends itself to creating finely rendered drawings. Had this Koh-i-noor been available when I was a student, it probably would have found its way into my pencil box.
I suggest pairing this pencil with a quality cotton paper. This skull was drawn on Stonehenge Warm White cotton paper which has a fairly smooth surface. Hot pressed watercolour papers such as Arches and Fabriano Artistico would work nicely too.
Genuine earth pigments used by the Masters have lasted hundreds of years, so hopefully the same holds true for these modern equivalents. Koh-i-noor claims to use the highest quality raw materials and that the pigments in their sanquine pencils will resist fading over time.
Unrelated, but still interesting (if you like obscure facts), is this piece of history on the Koh-i-noor website explaining their role in how pencil grading came about:
“World standard of marking gradations with the help of numbers and letters HB or F originated at KOH-I-NOOR HARDTMUTH company at „eské Budjovice. For the first time this marking appeared on pencils with designation 1500. “H” stands for Hardtmuth, “B” – for Budjovice and the special medium gradation “F” stands for Franz Hardtmuth who invented modern technology, which permits to produce graphite pencils in gradation.”
If you’re living in Toronto, I bought the Koh-i-noor Red Chalk pencil from an independent art shop called ARTiculations. Give it a try!