As a student of classical art techniques and a professional Portrait artist, I was intrigued after seeing a number of incredibly sensitive yet powerful drawing by the 19th Century Russian artist, Ivan Kramskoy. These breathtaking drawings were created using a Russian medium I had never heard of before, something called "sauce" (saw-oose).
Kramskoi Shishkin Sauce
Although Kramskoy's finished sauce drawings were extraordinary examples of the quality of work which could be produced with sauce, I had no idea what sauce was.
Sauce has never been available in the United States, and hadn't been used in Russia to the fine quality of Kramskoy's work for the past 100 years. Recently I have been delighted to find that sauce is being imported from Russia and is available in the United States as "Yarka Sauce", distributed by Jack Richesen Co.
What is Sauce?
Sauce is a a pastel-like crayon made of Pigment, Chasov Yar Clay, and Carbon. It is nontoxic and has high light fastness. Tonally superior to charcoal, Sauce has a smooth, velvety appearance possessing incredible depth, solidity and subtlety, and dissolves completely in water to become a dense ink. Sauce comes in a compressed stick, but is not readily usable in this form. However, when the sauce sticks are crushed using a pestle and mortar, the resulting powder can be used in drawing and is extremely potent when mixed with water.
How to use sauce
Applying the sauce stain
Apply the powered sauce to a heavy weight printmaking paper by brushing the paper with the sauce pounce pad to create a sauce "stain". In charcoal, using a delicate touch, draw a simple silhouette, shadow mass, and simple placement of features.
(You can make a pounce pad by crushing the black sauce stick into a powder using a pestle and mortar, filling the foot end of a densely woven pair of tights with the powered sauce, and securing the end of the sock with a rubber band.)
Use a #4 bristle brush or the pounce pad to apply dry powdered sauce, controlling the value range by applying greater concentrations of the powered sauce. For the skin areas in the light, push the sauce into the paper with a tortillion. The harder you push, the darker the sauce becomes. It is easy to control the very subtle value range in this way.
An example of the Sauce Technique
When a true value and accurate drawing is achieved, dip a watercolor brush into clear water and brush over the sauce. The sauce immediately dissolves into the water increasing in value by one to two steps. You can also use the sauce like an ink wash. Mix the powered sauce with water to create a very dense inky black liquid. The value of the wash can be controlled by the amount of water to sauce mix.
If the dry sauce is either brushed on or applied with a stump, it is easily removed with a kneaded eraser. It is harder to fine tune the drawing in areas where water was added to the sauce. You can remove the sauce/water sealed areas to a limited degree with an ink eraser. To a certain extent in the dark areas, it is also possible to lift the sauce wash by saturating the area with clear water and blotting with tissue.
As a final touch, a small amount of Instant White, a water based opaque paint, can be used to indicate the catch light in the eyes and on the nose.
Sauce is a very intriguing material and has the potential of incredible depth, solidity, and subtlety. I was impressed with its ease in application, expediency, tonal range, and final product. With its history and the magnificent results that can be achieved, it is an extremely valuable addition to the other archival drawing material.