Chalk Drawings

History of Chalk Drawings

People have created chalk drawings since the Paleolithic era, as evidenced by the chalk and natural pigment drawings of animals found in caves like Lascaux. As the medium developed, artists primarily used chalk to make quick sketches or add background shading to larger works. Early Renaissance artists used black and white varieties to experiment with chiaroscuro and to achieve a more realistic rendering of the human face. During the 16th and 17th centuries, artists often combined two or three colors (black, white, and red) with other mediums like graphite to produce more expressive portraits and sketches. Toward the end of the 19th century, many British artists made large-scale street art chalk drawings, often accompanied by political or proverbial text and highly realistic three-dimensional subjects. Over time, chalk has developed into an artistic medium in its own right.  

Chalk Drawings Techniques

Chalk was originally used to create preliminary sketches or add coloring to larger background areas in a work. Chalk is also often used to complement other drawing mediums like graphite and pastel and are often used to accentuate certain features in a composition. Artists who sketch with chalk on its own play with different color pairings. Black and white chalk drawings are done in the au deux crayons style, while the aux trois crayons style combines black, white, and red chalks for fuller compositions. Many street artists use chalk to create three-dimensional scenes that play on perspective and angle to immerse the viewer. These large scale works existed since the 16th century but really took off in the late 1800s, when artists drew scenes to accompany text proclaiming moral lessons and political messages.

Artists Known For Chalk Drawings

Old masters of the Renaissance are known for using chalk to sketch the human form. Michelangelo Buonarroti’s sketches for “The Creation of Adam” (1511-1512) were drawn from live models using red chalk. Northern Renaissance artists like Rembrandt and Albrecht Durer also used chalk to create realistic portraits. Peter Paul Rubens used the aux deux crayons method to sketch landscape scenes, and Rococo artists often combined the medium with colored washes for an ethereal effect. Edgar Degas created chalk and pastel drawings of ballerinas and bathers in works like “Dancer Adjusting Her Slipper” (1873) in his signature Impressionist style. Contemporary artist Kurt Wenner is famed for his outdoor 3d chalk drawings, in which he plays with perspective to create encompassing scenes. Other artists associated with chalk drawing include Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci, Jean Clouet, Antoine Watteau, Francois Boucher, Jean-Honore Fragonard, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and Willem de Kooning.