One of the greatest draughtsmen over centuries, besides Leonardo and Michelangelo, would be Peter Paul Rubens. Born in Siegen, Westphalia, 28th of June 1577, he was a prolific seventeenth-century Flemish Baroque painter, and a proponent of an extravagant Baroque style that emphasized movement, color, and sensuality. He is well-known for his Counter-Reformation, alter-pieces, portraits, landscapes and history paintings of mythological and allegorical subjects. People are more familiar with his polished paintings, such as The Rape of the Daughters of Leucippus, Massacre of the Innocents, and The Four Philosophers, etc. Rubens' most highly finished drawings were his portraits, as of course these were meant for his sitters as finished works, often commissioned by the sitter or his or her family.
Relating to our Drawing class, it is interesting to note that great draughtsmen like Rubens also followed the same drawing process as what we are learning in class—sketch, study drawing, and then the finished piece. It is important to abide the order of the process, because a sketch is to remind the artist of an idea he/she had, or to suggest to him/her a way of composing the work that he/she suddenly thought of. With the initial idea jotted down on sketchbook, the artist could follow up with his/her work.
Rubens was master of the sketches he made to remind him of ideas of paintings. One of the sketches attracted me was the sketch of a couple that later Rubens painted a large composition "Le Jardin d'Amour" shortly before he died, in 1640. I was amazed by it; as not only did I simply find it beautiful, I found it impressive that he used the technique of sketching the work in relatively high detail but leave the face of the girl in profile as nothing but an outlined space. The perfect composition of negative and positive space was so innovative (at that time period) as well as pleasing.
As for his portraits, Rubens used a red chalk known as sanguine (from the French word for blood) and hi-lit his tinted papers with white chalk, sometimes even adding one or two touches of color with pigment; the same pigment he would use for painting but just treated in a different way. Sometimes, instead of the red chalk Rubens would use charcoal, so that the portrait would be drawn in black lines--still probably hi-lit with white chalk. The blend of gray and sanguine brought the portrait to live.
(Young Woman Looking Down, Study for the Head of Saint Apollonia)
(Battle of Anghiari, Rubens’ Copy of the Lost Leonardo Drawing)