Five Figural Studies (Charcoal and Chalk on Paper) - Documentation

Entrant: Sayyida Laila al-Sanna' al-Andalusiyya

St. Eligius Arts & Sciences; Paper & Ink; Experienced Competitor; 10 November, 2018

Bhakail Arts & Sciences Baronial Championship; Bhakail Yule; 8 December 2018 

Gulf Wars A&S Champions Battle; East Kingdom Representative; 14 March 2019

 **NOTE: I used footnotes in the original documentation, but due to the limitations of the blog format, they have been replaced here with in-text citations. There are other changes to the layout, especially in terms of the appendix. If you want a pdf copy of the original documentation, please send me an email at 


Five Figural Studies, by Laila al-Sanna' al-Andalusiyya (mka Krishna Alexandra) 



These five nude charcoal and pastel drawings were drawn from life, on paper, using charcoal, and red and white chalk. The style of drawing is consistent with Renaissance practice. Although the paper, charcoal, and chalk were commercially produced, and possibly of a more consistent quality than would have been available in period, my methods did not significantly diverge from those used by Italian and Dutch Renaissance artists.


Historical Context

The earliest extant figural studies from life models date to the fifteenth century, and were used to work through ideas in preparation for paintings (Carmen Bambach. "Renaissance Drawings: Material and Function." By the sixteenth century, artists like Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci were producing large quantities of extraordinary drawings. Some of these would eventually make their way onto a painted canvas, but others were simply exercises for the artists (Thomas Buser. "Fifteenth Century," "Sixteenth Century I," and "Sixteenth Century II." In period, drawings were not viewed as completed art. Their purpose was preparatory and investigatory (Bambach. "Renaissance Drawings"). Today, these same drawings are highly prized and command extraordinary prices, but in period, they were rarely sold ( "Drawings of the Renaissance."


5 "Drawing Materials and Media."  Victoria and Albert Museum (London).  6  "Charcoal Drawings."  7 "Drawn to Excellence: Renaissance to Romantic Drawings from a Private Collection."  Smith College Museum of Art.  8 et. al. 9 "Charcoal Drawings."    

5 "Drawing Materials and Media." Victoria and Albert Museum (London). 6  "Charcoal Drawings." 7 "Drawn to Excellence: Renaissance to Romantic Drawings from a Private Collection." Smith College Museum of Art. 8 et. al. 9 "Charcoal Drawings." 

Deviation from Period Materials

The drawing materials I used were extremely similar to period materials. Because they were manufactured in an industrial world, they are probably more consistent in quality and texture than those available in period.

The paper I used was single-sheet hot-pressed tinted watercolor paper, which is probably similar to the laid paper in wide use in the 15th and 16th centuries. The website of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London describes laid paper, which was in regular use throughout 15th century Europe:

"Laid paper is traditionally made from linen or cotton rag, soaked and beaten until reduced to a pulp. The fibrous pulp is spread on a wire grid, consisting of rows of thin wires lying close together crossed at intervals by thicker wires. This enables the liquid in the pulp to drain away. The thin wires, and the chain of wire used to hold them together, impart a distinctive lined effect in the fabric of the paper." (

In order to prevent my drawings from rubbing out, I applied a modern spray fixative, which would certainly not have been available in period ("Charcoal Drawings." I felt that it was worth the compromise in period practice, since without fixative, my drawings would almost certainly have smudged before getting to the event.



  1. I set up an easel and arranged my materials.
  2. I waited for the model to disrobe and pose.
  3. I began my drawings with gestural motions to identify the flow and position of the body.
  4. I framed in the basic skeletal structure.
  5. On the longer poses, I sometimes fleshed out bone and muscle, especially in dynamic or foreshortened areas in the drawing.
  6. I developed the study using the chiaroscuro technique, applying charcoal to the areas of deepest shadow and working out towards the highlights ( "Chiaroscuro."
  7. I applied highlights using white chalk.
  8. I applied fixative to prevent smudging.


Deviation from Period Methods

The basic method of producing figural studies has not changed considerably in 600 years. These types of drawing were in common practice by the Renaissance masters, such as da Vinci, Michelangelo, Titian, Raphael, and Correggio (Bambach. "Renaissance Drawings"). As previously mentioned, my use of fixative is post-period, but it does not substantively affect the appearance of the final product. It merely protects the work from the ravages of time and transport. I am sure the Renaissance masters would have applied fixative, had it been available to them.


The methods and materials of drawing have changed little since the artistic revolution which occurred during the Renaissance. In fact, the largest change in the past 600 years is in public appreciation of drawings and "process work." The Renaissance masters uncovered the secrets of illusionistic art, and they have not yet been surpassed. Artists today have as much to gain from repetitive figural studies and preparatory drawings as did artists in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.



Bambach, Carmen. "Renaissance Drawings: Material and Function." Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2002. Accessed 1 November 2018.

Buser, Thomas. "Fifteenth Century," "Sixteenth Century I," and "Sixteenth Century II." History of Drawing. Accessed 2 November 2018.

Dethloff, Diana, ed. Drawing: Masters and Methods, Raphael to Redon. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1992.

De Tolnay, Charles. History and Technique of Old Master Drawings. New York: H. Bittner and Company, 1943.

"Drawing Materials & Media." Victoria and Albert Museum. London. Accessed 2 November 2018.

"Drawing Techniques by Old Masters and Contemporary Artists." Emily Carr University of Art and Design. Vancouver, British Columbia, 2018. Accessed 2 November 2018.

"Drawings of the Renaissance." Visual Arts Cork. Cork. Accessed 2 November 2018.

"Charcoal." Accessed 1 November 2018.

"Charcoal Drawings." Visual Arts Cork. Accessed 2 November 2018.

"Drawn to Excellence: Renaissance to Romantic Drawings from a Private Collection." Smith College Museum of Art. Massachusettes, 2012. Pamphlet.

Hale, Robert Beverly. Drawing Lessons from the Great Masters. New York: Watson-Guptill, 1989.

Holcomb, Melanie. Pen and Parchment: Drawing in the Middle Ages. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art; New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2009.

Monnier, Geneviève, History of an Art: Drawing. New York: Rizzoli, 1979.

Rosenberg, Pierre. Great Draughtsmen from Pisanello to Picasso. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1959.

Watrous, James. The Craft of Old-Master Drawings. Madison: Univ of Wisconsin Press, 1967.



Extant Period Examples Demonstrating Style & Materials



Workshop of Benozzo Gozzoli, Nude man, ca. 1460. Metalpoint with white heightening on purple-pink paper, 22.6 x 15 cm. British Museum, London. 


Michelangelo, A Male Nude, ca. 1504. Black chalk with slight touches of white heightening, 40.4 x 22.4 cm. Tylers Museum, Haarlem. 


Michelangelo, Studies for the Libyan Sibyl. 1511-1512. Red chalk, 28.9 x 21.4 cm. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. 


Pontormo, The Three Graces, ca. 1535-1536. Red chalk, outlines incised for transfer, 29.5 x 21.2 cm. Uffizi, Florence. 


Raphael, The Three Graces, 1518-1519. Red chalk over stylus underdrawing, 20.3 x 26 cm. Royal Library, Windsor. 


Titian, Embracing Couple, 1560s. Charcoal and black chalk heightened with white on faded  blue paper, 25.2 x 26 cm. Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. 


Federico Barocci, Study for the Virgin Standing Beneath the Cross, ca. 1566. Black and white chalks on blue-green paper, 40.0 x 27.4 cm. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

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