PA Sean Coupe uses foraged sticks as a drawing tool

Over the last 18 month I have been experimenting with sticks and twigs as a drawing tool. It was a revelation to me, opening my eyes to a new approach to drawing, an approach which resulted in a much more organic feel to work than could not be achieved with any of the conventional tools.

Starting with a 4 foot bamboo cane and working at arm’s length onto paper placed on the floor, freed me up, allowing me to make big expressive gestures and fluid strokes with the wet medium.

The fluid marks combined with the inconsistency of the delivery of ink and the fragility of the stick produced an expressive and natural look. Results like this can be hard to achieve with a fixed width drawing pen and drawings can sometimes look quite mechanical.

Varied Medium
Although my medium of choice for this approach is Indian ink, any dry or wet medium can be used. Simply attach dry mediums such as pencil, charcoal, pastel with masking tape to your stick or for wet mediums such as inks and paints you can dip

When I am working with Indian ink I like to have a brush on a stick as well as my drawing stick, this is to add some tonal value to the drawing using dilute Indian Ink and staining the paper, although you can use any medium to add tone I like the interaction between wet stain (the tone) and drawn line.

I have used this technique for both life drawing and still life. I find the whole process one that was very liberating.

Try to work so that all the movement is coming from your shoulder or elbow and not from your wrist. Keep gravity on your side and work so that your paper is low down allowing you to keep the ink on the tip of your stick, as you gain confidence in the tools and materials you can explore more conventional positions to work in. Use a stick longer than 12 inches, any shorter and it becomes more like a brush or a pencil and your technique will develop working from the wrist instead of the should making your drawing tight and more controlled.

I urge everyone, If you have not tried it give it a go, it will build you confidence and lead you to be more adventurous in your approach to your art. I have used it at workshops as a warm-up and an icebreaker and those who have tried it found it thoroughly engaging and enjoyable.

Branching out
I have developed my technique and now use a 12 inch long twisted old stick found in the woods on a walk one day. Having got to grips with using Indian ink and watercolour wash I am now focusing on using the same tool to apply oil and acrylic paint.

Give it a go and don’t worry about the results, just enjoy the process, it takes practice but I am sure you will get the hang of it and be inspired to explore even more.

See for details about Sean’s experiments.

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