The perfect tool for figure studies…

Composed of iron oxide and natural pigments, sanguine is normally found in a square or cylindrical stick form or sometimes as a pencil.

For the sanguine pencil, the lead is made of clay, binding agents and wood. The cooking will determine the hardness of the lead, a light cooking will give the sanguine stick enough hardness to prevent it from breaking too easily when you apply it. The colour of the sanguine also varies from red ochre to deep red according to the amount of earth, iron oxide and chalk it contains, but also according to the cooking.

Sanguine was first used to prepare frescos, using it to draw directly onto the wall’s surface, but it became a drawing technique in its own right by the end of the 14th century. The brightness of the sanguine and its realism for the representations of the human body were favoured by artists such as Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci. Watteau combined it in the 18th century with charcoal and white chalk to draw portraits or figures. The outlines are typically drawn with the charcoal, but the colours, the shapes, the movements and the textures are the result of a mix of the 3 mediums. The white chalk highlights on sanguine drawings emphasize the shadows and offer great volume effects.


When practicing life drawing, you do not have to linger on the body’s details; instead you should see spots of light and simple shapes. Sometimes an observation with the eyes half-closed allows you to distinguish the strong lines and to have a better perception of the highlights. The vision of the model can be reduced to two areas: a light area and a shadow area.

To produce a good nude drawing, it is essential to have a good understanding of the body structure and to respect the proportions. The positions of the pelvis and the shoulders are important markers, and a standing model is easier to draw than a sitting or lying model because it is not necessary to use your perception to translate the relative scale of the body parts.

Sometimes artists use white classic erasers or kneadable erasers to draw nudes on a sanguine background. For this technique you must avoid erasing large parts of the drawing so that you will not lose details and contrasts. The edge of a classic eraser allows for more precise work, but it has to be perfectly white to erase the colour cleanly and make the white of the paper stand out. The kneadable eraser can be shaped into a point to draw fine lines and details. Using the eraser on the sanguine in particular spots will suggest shapes and lights.


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