Bargue Drawing Course and Charcoal Paper Review

Second round of Bargue drawings tonight. And I decided to do some paper testing because I was having trouble with the Arches watercolor paper.

As I was drawing the fourth eye of plate one of the Bargue drawing course, I noticed that any time I would erase a line on the Arches 90lb hot pressed water color paper the next line that I would put over that erased line would skip like crazy, it was terrible, like trying to draw with a pin out of ink, all I was doing was making a channel in the paper. So I decided that I was going to do this drawing on all the paper types that I had with me.

I would make a mark on the Arches paper, test and make sure it was correct and edit if necessary, then move to the next paper to make the same mark, test and correct. All the while I was analyzing how each paper behaved and what I liked or hated about each one, I will go through that below.

The Papers

Bargue Drawing Course: plate 1

 Arches 90lb Hot Press Watercolor Paper


  1. Not much tooth at all which gives the ability for great detail.
  2. Can take a beating,


  1. Erasing and redrawing on the same spot causes major charcoal skipping.
  2. Not much tooth at all so it doesn’t grab the charcoal well.

Ingres paper from Blick


  1. Lots of tooth, really picks up the charcoal easily.
  2. Erases easy, has the ability to get back to the original paper.
  3. Cheap


  1. Lots of tooth, minute detail is not possible.
  2. Very thin and can’t take a ton of erasing and working.

Rives BFK


  1. Medium tooth, really takes the charcoal well.


  1. Medium tooth, hard to get minute detail.
  2. Lines tend to become fuzzy due to hairy nature of the paper.
  3. Cante work it that much at all before it starts to fall apart.

Arches 90lb Hot Pressed Watercolor paper with a wash of grey


  1. Can make it any color.
  2. Increased tooth after wash, takes charcoal well.
  3. Uneven color creates an interest in the paper.


  1. Still has trouble with skipping after working and area.
  2. Paper curls after wash.
  3. You have to put a wash on it.

Strathmore 400 Steel Gray


  1. Tiny bit of tooth takes charcoal well.
  2. Small amount of tooth allows for good detail.
  3. Nice toned paper so white charcoal shows well.
  4. Durable, takes a lot of erasing.


  1. Too dark of a gray for Bargue drawing course

So my conclusion is that the strathmore paper is the best currently. I may want to try their 500 series charcoal paper soon. But In the future I know that this may change.

Bargue Drawing Setup

Bargue Drawing Course plate setup

Bargue Drawing Comparison

Bargue Drawing Course, comparison of drawing accuracy

So its obvious the further I get from the subject the worse the drawing is. Actually, I think the placement has a lot to do with it also. I didn’t have any reference for verticals or horizontals when working the eyes that were at an angle to the original.

I’m still having trouble really controlling line value variation. Most of all my lines are the same value, when like the Bargue drawing course they should be lighter or darker.

What I’m really happy about is that I was able to see just about all my mistakes after making a line without measuring or anything. That is a good sign because that is the purpose of all these drawings. I need to train my eye to see very small differences.

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