Thursday Art group
- Session 2


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Charcoal Drawing

In this session we started to explore the use of charcoal and chalk. Some people also used chalk pastels and charcoal pencils.

"I have made personal comments for some of the works shown, based on my impressions as both teacher and impartial observer." - Richard Gentle



Class were asked to bring an object (ideally with some mass) as their focal point for a drawing, although the emphasis was placed on experimentation, rather than the precise rendering of an object.

After a short demonstration of marking with charcoal, class were asked to try out some of the methods shown and also to discover others.

Charcoal by nature can be quite a messy medium and there is a tendency to work somewhat preciously - not wanting to press too hard, dirty the hands, or cause a mess around the work area! In a more ideal setting, we might have started with large sheets of paper attached to boards on easels, where we could stand and draw with larger and more expressive strokes - something charcoal is particularly suited to. The tendency when working in a seated position, with limited room, is to tighten control over the medium and be less free in our expression.

During the first half of the session, most people used their charcoal fairly gently, with only a couple taking the plunge and working more firmly. This approach quickly expressed itself as a number of quite weak drawings with many attempting to emulate the objects in front of them at the expense of experimenting with the range of effects possible.
Vee - Charcoal experiments

Vee produced several pieces of work, from experiments to object drawings - each time marking with greater confidence. (Click image to enlarge).

Kathy - charcoal log

Kathy's first drawing was very much a replication of the object through the medium, whereas her second drawing started off with much more boldness and less concern about the immediate detail. (Click image to enlarge).

Nicola - Charcoal heart

Nicola's earlier drawings worked quite well with the pattern detail of her stone, but after suggesting she half-close her eyes to concentrate more on the light and dark mass of the object, she really began to get the feel of the three-dimensional qualities of her object. The middle drawing of the three hearts is really beginning to find its form and weight. (Click image to enlarge).
Lorraine - Charcoal tomato

Lorraine's first attempts with her charcoal produced rather flat features, lacking contour or real form, but once she attacked the paper with more gusto, these amazing drawings appeared. (Click image to enlarge). Notice how Lorraine has started to capture the light on the curvature of her tomato by working back into and over her base drawing.



(Click on separate drawings to enlarge in a new window)




Stan began working on his branch (above) with a confident hand
and soon had a good outline and strong shading, which continued
to improve as the drawing progressed. Stan produced two drawings
of which [I think] this is the second - both confidently executed.
Working on the shadow proved to be a main challenge and sharpening
the line quality of the branch started to lift it off the page, allowing the
light through from below. I particularly like the light on some of the top
surfaces and this is starting to give three-dimensional shape and contour.

Nan - Charcoal case

Nan began with drawing a sculptural branch with round leaves, mounted on a rectangular base. After realising its complexity, we discussed concentrating on something with a simpler shape and a bit more mass, such as the base. However, Nan found this case which afforded better shape and size - more suited to first charcoal experiments. This class hasn't worked with perspective drawing yet and because the intention was to get a feel for charcoal as a medium, dimensional accuracy was not required.

Tracy - Charcoal branch

Tracy gave her attention to quite a smooth, horn-shaped, branch. One challenge was the texture of the paper and the line edge required to convey the smoothness of the object. The fine detail in the branch's line work quite accurately reflects its surface texture. The mass of the object on the other hand has been taken into the shadow areas which are rather heavy. I believe that with a bit more time, Tracy would have been able to take some of the weight out of the shadow, particularly as it moves to the foreground. (Mouse-over the image to see Tracy's up-dated drawing and then click image to enlarge).



Techniques demonstrated

Different ways of holding and using charcoal.
Managing dark and light areas.
Using smudging, sponging and brushing.
Avoiding unintentional smudging.
Using contour strokes to follow forms.
Applying different pressure to charcoal marks.
Hatching and cross-hatching to create smooth blocks of shading
.
Building up and cutting back - layers.
Preservation of white areas and/or using white chalk, to create highlights.


Suggestions from observations

Drawing with confidence.
Not worrying about getting things right first time, or spoiling bits that appear to have already worked well.
Exploring the medium above creating the perfect picture.
Consideration for the type of paper used and its surface texture.
Realise that you can turn your paper - sometimes it is easier to rotate to the area you wish to work on, even if it's upside-down.
Tap or blow dust off the picture if you do not want to smudge it as part of the drawing.

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