Drawing using only an eraser

Art student Jacob Whitacker creates an image of the Joker with an eraser and a layer of charcoal. Shown is the beginning stage.

In this week’s blog, I took on the challenge of drawing with an eraser. I will be creating, yet again, another portrait drawing, except this time I will be filling the page with charcoal – and using an eraser to carve out the face rather than drawing it traditionally with a pencil.

I did my usual thing and resorted to Pinterest to find a reference photo to work with. I found a picture of The Joker I liked and decided to use that. Before I started, I added a black and white filter to the photo to make my life a little easier. 

To start, I took a stick of charcoal and an old skateboard deck and used the grip tape to rub the stick of charcoal on, to create a pile of charcoal dust. Once I had a substantial amount, I dumped it on my paper and used an old paintbrush I had laying around to blend it onto the page and cover it with charcoal. 

Once my page was covered in charcoal and I had my reference, I jumped right in and started with the erasing. I used a kneaded eraser for the entirety of the piece, mainly because of how easy it is to manipulate and erase small areas, as well as its ability to easily erase different shades and values. 

I started with the left side edge of the face to get the basic shape down, then started working my way inward carving out the brightest parts of the skin. The Joker’s bright white face paint made it very apparent which parts should be erased the most, which I think made it a bit easier as well. 

Throughout the drawing, I found myself picking up the paintbrush and dipping it back into the charcoal powder to brush back on top of my erased sections to develop different shades. I was constantly rotating back and forth from erasing, to brushing more charcoal on, to erasing again. This gave me the ability to create layers within my shading, and helped me in distinguishing detailed features of the face, like the shadow underneath the nose, the different shades between the top and bottom lips, lines and wrinkles in the face, etc.

The reference photo

This piece kind of reminded me of a piece I did in an earlier blog entry, where I did the negative drawing of the flower, shading it in reverse then inverting the colors afterwards. It felt similar in the sense of doing things in reverse. Rather than creating shadows by adding more darkness, I was creating them by carving out the lighter sections in between the shadows of the reference. 

Overall, I enjoyed this process. It was a bit messy, and I had a bit of cleanup to do afterwards, with charcoal dust covering my desk. But the process itself was a lot of fun and challenged my brain a bit in having to approach things in reverse. 

The final product

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