Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Give Me Erasers or Give Me Death

Eraser or no eraser? That is the question.

You can’t ignore this issue when discussing the art pencil (see my blog entry about pencils!). Many people are really bothered by the fact that there is often NOT an eraser at the end of most art pencils. But there is a good reason why: FREEDOM!

Don’t you want the right to choose your eraser? It should be in the Constitution!

Erasers are left off of many art pencils since often artists like to choose a specific eraser depending on the type of art work being made or just for personal eraser preferences.

But artists didn’t always have erasing choices! The first rubber eraser dates back to about 1770. Before that, artists used rough pumice-types stones (ouch) or small pieces of bread. No wonder artists were “starving”!! The bread actually does work but make sure it doesn’t have chocolate chips or kalamata olives in it (delicious, but bad for art work).

Now let’s look at some types of erasers you can buy and try:

• Classic “Pink” Rubber Eraser:
This is what you’ll find on many basic #2 pencils. Rubber erasers can work just fine, but sometimes leave a pink smear. They are also very abrasive on fine paper and can create a lot of dust. The good thing: sometimes you need some seriously harsh erasing, especially if the pencil is pressed really hard into the paper.  The best thing: they are probably the least expensive. So if this does the trick, go for it.

• Plastic (Vinyl) Erasers:
A vinyl eraser in a pencil-like plastic holder
These are fantastic because they are usually white so you won’t have a problem with color smears on paper (though you can get them in funky colors if you wish). They are soft enough to be gentle on paper, abrasive enough to thoroughly clean. They do leave some dust behind. I like the ones that come in a holder that looks like a pencil since it makes it easy to erase small areas. These are often the kind used on mechanical pencils, too. I have actually been able to remove pen/marker smudges with this type of eraser which has saved many an art work around my classroom.

• Gum Erasers:
These are crumbly and are fairly soft compared with pink and plastic. They leave a lot of crumbly pieces behind, but are good at getting into crevices in rougher papers (like watercolor stock) without destroying the texture of the paper. They can be used to safely erase on the most delicate papers, too. I also find that these work well to erase chalks and pastels and they can remove some types of dried glue.

• Kneaded (or clay) Erasers:

These are like Silly Putty. You can form them into different sizes and shapes. They can lift off a small amount of pencil as well as completely clean. This is a great eraser when used to “draw” light areas within pencil shading and works particularly well with charcoal drawing. There is NO dust at all from this kind. You can clean a kneaded eraser by... guess what?... Kneading it. Surprise. Warning to teachers: From experience (ahem), middle school kids love to rip pieces off and chuck them at each other. It’s also not too nice to have these stuck in the soles of your shoes. So I save these for the pros.

Plastic, gum and kneaded erasers are more expensive than rubber erasers, and pricing depends on the brand (my favorite is Staedtler but there are many good ones out there). So, try them all-- I have all the types in my studio since you never know what you might need on your next project.

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