Conte Crayon Drawings
History, Types, Effects, Use of Crayons For Sketching.

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For an guide to the aesthetic and
classification issues concerning
fine/applied arts, see:
Art Definition, Meaning.

Conte Crayon Drawings

Invented by the Frenchman Nicolas-Jacques Conte, the same man who invented the modern lead pencil in the 18th century, conte crayons - a popular medium for sketching and more formal drawing - are made from pigment and graphite held together with a gum binder and grease. Resembling pastels in appearance and consistency, they are slightly harder and more oily. Conte crayon comes in square sticks and pencils.

Colour Palette

Conte crayons produce a similar effect to charcoal, except that - being harder - they can create finer lines as well as shading and broad tonal areas. They come in a wide variety of colours and shades, although many conte artists still prefer to stick to the traditional palette, combining black,white and grey with the earthy pigments - sepia, sanguine red and brown. (White crayons are often used to create highlights.) These colours are ideal for nude drawings and portraits, giving them an aged appearance resembling works by Leonardo, Michelangelo or Rubens.

Woman at Her Toilette (1889)
Conte Crayon Drawing by Degas.

For definitions, meanings and
explanations of different arts,
see Types of Art.

Lady Clown (1899), Conte Crayon
Drawing by Toulouse Lautrec.

Other Graphic Art Forms
For other forms of disegno
see these resources:
- Chalks
- Pen and Ink drawings
- Pencil drawings

Drawing Techniques

Although conte crayons are primarily employed for drawing which requires precise lines, square sticks of crayon can also be used like oil pastels to create blocks of tonal colour. Colours can be blended by rubbing them with a paper stump or simply with a finger, and because they are not powdery like charcoal or chalks - being more similar to oil pastels - layers of colour can be laid on top of each other to give a scumbling-style effect.


Most draughtsmen who employ conte crayons in their fine art drawings, use tinted paper with a rough textured surface. This facilitates blending and layering, and emphasises the unique markings made by the crayon.

Famous Conte Crayon Artists

This medium is often used in combination with other media like soft and oil pastels. Jean-Francois Millet (1814-75), the French Realist painter was one artist who used the medium in his artworks. Other practitioners include: the French Impressionist Henri Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), whose works include Lady Clown (1899) executed in black conte crayon with colour; Georges Seurat, the French post-Impressionist and inventor of Pontillism, whose works include 'Au Concert Europeen' (1887); as well as Gustav Klimt, Pablo Picasso, Willem de Kooning and Henry Moore. Another modern example of the use of crayon, can be seen in the National Self-Portrait Collection of Ireland at the University of Limerick. See for example the crayon and watercolour portrait by the Irish artist Louis le Brocquy.

• For facts about painting movements, styles and Old Masters, see: History of Art.
• For details of drawing/sketching, see: Homepage.

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