By Matt Fussell
Conté is a traditional drawing medium much like charcoal, graphite, and pastel. Conté, although similar to pastel, differs in compositional make up. Conté is made with clay constituents, while pastels lack these clay components. But because of their mark making similarities, pastels, charcoal, and conté are sometimes used interchangeably.
Conté can be used on a variety of surfaces. It can even be used as an underdrawing for traditional paintings on canvas. Because of the nature of the way conté spreads on the surface some texture will be expected no matter what surface is chosen. Watercolor papers, rag papers, pastel and charcoal papers, newsprint and drawing paper are all suitable surfaces for conté drawings. If a variety of colors are to be used in a conté drawing, it is suggested to create the drawing on a toned surface. Starting with a mid tone as a base will lead to an improved range of value in the completed drawing.
Although conté is manufactured in an assortment of colors, some traditionalists recognize three colors as pure conté medium. These three colors include black, white, and sanguine (terra cotta). Colored varieties outside of this range are similar to hard pastels like NuPastels.
Conté is an appropriate medium for working the illusion of light on the drawing surface. The black and white can provide high contrast as well as gradations of grays essential for creating this illusion. Because conté is clean and easily portable, it makes a great medium for drawings on location. Not to mention, conté is inexpensive and one stick can last for quite a while.
In the landscape drawing demonstration, black and white conté is used on toned drawing paper. Simple shapes and lines are used to create the illusion of a wooded landscape with a path and a fence.