Wednesday, 28 October 2020

Art Ideas - Charcoal

Charcoal. It's been around for a while. A quick Google search says 28,000 years. Think cave drawings. I really enjoyed looking at these images here - 

Why not give it a try? It's great for quick mark-making, great for speedy sketches outdoors, great for drawing people and animals, great for creating bold light-dark contrasting images but also great for creating softly changing tones.


Some tips:

- do a whole quick drawing in sharp outline, then smudge bits.

- cover your whole paper with rubbed-in charcoal then draw light lines into it using a rubber or a 'putty rubber'.

- putty rubbers are a soft squishable squidgeable rubbers used often with chalks and charcoals.

- keep your rubber working by rubbing it on a clean sheet of paper to remove build-ups of charcoal.

- keep your putty rubber clean by pulling it apart over and over between your fingers. You'll see the charcoal on it gradually disappears.

- smudge using fingers, palm, bunched hand. A rag, a tissue. A paintbrush? A sponge?

- to darken your smudges: rub/smudge charcoal into the paper, draw more charcoal on top, rub that in, draw more on top, rub that in... 

- combine charcoal with chalks and 'conte crayons'.

- try adding water! Use a brush to add water, see what happens, can be a really useful technique.

- try combining with oil pastel.

- try combining with paint.


To reduce smudging:

- Practice lifting your hand and arm off the paper as you draw to reduce the smudging. This feels pretty tricky to start with.

- If hand-lift is too tricky, place paper on top of the part of drawing you aren't currently working on to protect it from smudging.

- Work from left to right if you're right handed. Right to left if you're left handed.



- Once drawing is complete you can 'fix' it with a bought art fixative spray. Spray in a ventilated area. Hairspray can be used but be prepared for it to alter and darken your paper. 

- Some fixatives are marked as 'workable' which means you can fix a certain stage of a drawing then continue to draw more on top of that. 

- Consider an environmentally-safe fixative such as (contains milk so not vegan).


Here are some drawings made using:
- charcoal (a very soft medium)
- chalk (a harder medium - darker tones are possible)
- and conte (the hardest of the three and the best for adding finer details)

The first three drawings aren't by me.

Art in Healthcare Collection, Marjorie I Campbell, Child On A Stool, 66x56cm

A lovely drawing.
- Sharp lines creating the outlines - charcoal held like pencil.
- Charcoal held on its side to create wide areas of tone.
- Little or no intentional smudging.
- Lots of smudging here to create all the soft tonal areas. Probably smudged by hand. 
- Dark detail lines then drawn or re-drawn on top of the 'smudges'. 
- The central face in particular shows lots of earlier drawing lines which have been smudged or rubbed away and add to the overall interest and three-dimensional-ness of the portrait.

Using charcoal, smudging with fingers or hand

Unicorn 'drawn' by boldly shading the shadow behind it rather than by working on the unicorn itself.

Black chalk. No smudging. A teensy touch of red chalk for the fiery head of the coot chick.

And a bit of blue chalk for background to coot portrait. See how different a coot looks when on blue background compared to on white background.

Mixed with white chalk. Drawn on brown paper. Imagine the same drawing on white paper or on blue.

Coloured chalks with charcoal or black chalk for the detail. Drawn on brown paper.

Working from a photo of stone and old bleaching wood. Trying to create lots of different textures:
- pressing hard, pressing a little
- rubbing a lot, rubbing a little
- crisp lines, crisp lines then blurred with fingers
- chalk/charcoal held on side and scuffed gently across paper (the texture at top right)
- rubber used to clean smudges off the paper where I wanted the brightest highlights.

Much as above.

Quite a lot of effort put into creating different types of marks and textures. Trying to give impression of looking across a wide stretch of lawn.

Lots of very obvious smudging, rubbing out and adding dark crisp marks back on top.

A very large charcoal and chalk drawing. 4ft high? Charcoals and chalks work so well on this scale. Lightest lines (including in the centre circle) created by rubbing back to the unmarked paper.

 Another big one. Creating depth by a background largely smudged and light, a foreground largely detailed and dark.

And a third large one. Charcoal, black chalk, black conte, white chalk. See below for zoomed-in trees at top.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this. By coincidence I was using charcoal last night. Compressed charcoal is probably my favourite medium just now.