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Drawing chalk is an art medium distinguished from chalkboard chalk. Chalkboard chalk is specially designed to be dustless, non-toxic, and used on smooth surfaces. It does not contain binding agents and is meant to be easily wiped away. Drawing chalk, on the other hand, contains an oil binder. Meant to adhere to paper and sidewalks, drawing chalk is not meant for chalkboards and may be difficult or impossible to completely erase. Pastel chalk is another name for pastel crayons and shouldn’t be confused with drawing chalk.
Round and square chalk crayons are both available in pastel and vibrant hues. They come as large as 4 inches × 1 inch (~102 mm × ~25 mm) for round crayons and 3 inches × 1 inch (~76 mm × ~25 mm) for square sticks. Drawing chalk can be blended by rubbing with the fingers.
Most papers called “drawing papers” are suitable for drawing chalk, as well as for charcoal, pastel, or pencil. “Sketchbooks” also tend to be suitable for multimedia. “Drawing pads,” on the other hand, are often not listed as an ideal surface for chalk. Most artist’s papers list the media that work best with them, so it’s a good idea to check.
Early chalk drawings date from Paleolithic times, and drawing chalk was a popular medium in the Renaissance and afterwards. There are famous chalk drawings by a number of notable artists: Albrecht Dürer’s Portrait of Erasmus and Michelangelo’s Deploration over the Dead Christ are drawn in black and red chalk respectively. In fact, Michelangelo tended to draw either with pen or with red or black drawing chalk.
The French terms aux deux crayons, aux trois crayons, and aux quatre crayons refer to specific tint combinations of drawing chalk that were popular in the 18th century. Deux reportedly refers to black and red drawing chalk; trois to black, red, and white drawing chalk; and quatre to black and white with two shades of red. Rembrandt, Rubens, Fragonard, Matisse, Picasso, and Degas also made chalk drawings.