Observations: Parameters of Technique

Pierre-Paul Prud'hon detail --Academie de femme debout Charcoal, heightened with white chalk on blue paper

Pierre-Paul Prud'hon
detail --Academie de femme debout
Charcoal, heightened with white chalk on blue paper


Here, I list a set of observations that begin to define Prud'hon's control over his tonal language. Exceptions occur, but there is a pattern which is identifiable.

The Marks

On balance, white is used for the lit side, black for the shade;
and the blue paper, or blends of black and white, for halftones and low light.

Smudged tones (mixtures of black and white) are seen in all areas of form, including halftones and low light.

Sparsely used fine white marks can be found in shade and the same can be found in the lit side with black.

Final black outline is used in varying widths, or not used at all (see below).

Stumping is extensively used.


Run parallel to each other and mostly run with the length or edge of the main form; but sometimes run obliquely to the main form, especially in shade.

Are equally spaced

Are both straight and short in length

Are applied in row series across total form, but are ...

... organized separately over smaller anatomical form changes.

Only slightly interlock -- cross hatching rare in final stage

Underlying ghost hatches vary in direction from final top hatches

By direction, hatches show mirror symmetry in conformity with anatomical symmetry (see below)

Are commonly diagonal in background (see below)

Many areas of drawings are coarsely rendered, and these are often stumped

Torso is often most highly rendered


list continues with next picture...

Whites sometimes packed, saturated hatches found in large highlights

Blacks sometimes solidly blended, and obscure signs of hatching



Single, artificial point light source was aimed at the model, clarifying volumes and simplifying transitions between light and shade.

Artist must have worked in darkened room. White chalk sparkles even in dim light; by contrast, the paper and blacks absorb dim light. Dramatic volumes can be perceived with delicate additions of white in dimly lit rooms. But in strong light, this effect is degraded. If you draw in a strongly lit room, you will not perceive impressive variations from the sparkling whites, and your drawing will probably come out crude -- possibly making the flesh look oily from heavy highlights.


Poses are harmoniously arranged in stepped elevations, or suggestive of motion.

Faces are made unselfconscious.


That's enough to get us started...


Next Page: Theory: Best Guess at Prud'hon's Step by Step Approach

Updates | Discovering Prud'hon: Introduction to a Lesson on Technique | Why Is His Drawing Unique & Obscure? | Observations: Prud'hon's Materials | Discussion: Modern Materials | How to Make Your Own Better Black Chalks | Supply List: Black and White Chalk on Blue Paper | Observations: Parameters of Technique | Theory: Best Guess at Prud'hon's Step by Step Approach | Demonstration: Step 1 -- Outline | Demonstration: Step 2 -- Bold Hatching | Demonstration: Step 3 -- Stump Out Hatches | Demonstration: Step 4 -- Hatch White | Demonstration: Step 5 -- Hatch Black | Demonstration: Step 6 -- Lightly Stump | Demonstration: Step 7 -- Apply White Again | Demonstration: Step 8 -- Add Black Again | Demonstration: Step 9 -- Hatch, Tortillon, and Hatch Again | Demonstration: Step 10 -- Finishing Refinements | Demonstration: Steps 1 through 10 -- Visual Summary


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Rebecca Alzofon can be e-mailed at rebecca@art.net
This page updated July 16, 2003
1999 by Rebecca Alzofon. All rights reserved.