This article on the BBC website, by Chris Stokel-Walker, grabbed my attention. Guy Claxton, a visiting professor at Kings College London, commented that erasers are “an instrument of the devil”, because they allow us to pretend that we got everything right the first time.
Of course Mr Claxton was not talking about artists when he made this comment. But I like to relate everything to art, so here are my comments on devilish use of the eraser!
When I’m field sketching I normally don’t use an eraser at all. During my 6-week visit to Painted Dog Conservation in Zimbabwe, back in 2007, I lost my eraser in the 1st week, barely missed it, and found it again just before I left, hidden amongst the various equipment in the Landrover. For me, field sketches are meant to be exactly that – sketches – completed quickly, in the field. If they turn out right the first-time, that’s great. If not, I have more pencil lines visible. And that’s great too.
In my studio work, pencil is just an outline I use as a guide, and I don’t want it visible at the end of my painting process. So in my studio work I really do want it to look like I got it right first-time, even if I didn’t!
And that is just my method of working. Every artist has their own method and their own aims. So really, the eraser is just another tool. Whether you use it, or don’t use it, is up to you. At the end of the day, no matter how much you erase and rework, great art will stand out.
I’d better go, I hear an eraser muttering satanic curses in my studio!
Until next time…