Drawing with Charcoal

Posted by on June 29, 2014 in Blog, Materials and Techniques | 0 comments

Drawing with Charcoal

As far as traditional art materials are concerned, charcoal must be one of the oldest. Easily made from willow or vine stems, it makes a hugely expressive (if messy!) drawing medium.






Making charcoal

Here are some vine stems, wrapped tightly in aluminium foil, being cooked (with a bit of yellow ochre pigment in the foreground)…


Making vine charcoal

…and here’s the result – charcoal ready to use. The black powder on the right is bone black, made from – you’ve guessed it – bone (chicken, in this case), on its way to being made into oil paint.


I have recently enrolled on an e-course – my first experience of this type of online learning – run by the hugely talented Gillian Lee Smith. As I make a living producing pretty precise work, trying to loosen up and make expressive marks is somewhere between liberating and terrifying!

I suspect, as the weeks go on, this discomfort will reap rewards – even at this early stage I have several ideas for future projects. Gillian is sharing such a wealth of content that it’s difficult to see how anybody on this course could fail to be inspired.

Here’s my second portrait in charcoal, shared not because of its anatomical accuracy, but because I actually managed to leave some bits relatively unfinished – a pretty radical departure for me.


charoal drawing


I think it does us all good to be challenged on our artistic journey. It’s easy to carry on doing what we know we can do, but sometimes it’s good to be kicked out of our comfort zone. In the nicest possible way, Gillian is giving me a kick, and making me look at the world in a different way.

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