Reflection: Using Charcoal

Main findings:

  • good for large surfaces; not so good for fine details / small-scale work.
  • useful for depicting contrasts in tone, especially portraits.
  • less useful for landscapes?  Since noting this in my learning log, I have seen “Weg in hügeliger Landschaft” (Path in hilly landscape) by Wilhelm Leibl c. 1895 which is currently in an exhibition in the von der Heydt Museum in Wuppertal.  This is an interesting textural study of landscape using charcoal, in which rough grasses, a sandy path and trees appear as distinct textures in Leibl’s drawing.  I have been unable to track down an image to link here, perhaps because the drawing is in a private collection. 

Conclusion: charcoal is useful for denoting textures and tonal contrasts on a large-scale.  Its use on a small scale would require a great deal of skill if detail were required due to its smudging and erasing easily.

Sketch book pages are shown below left.

Below are two charcoal drawings done at a recent “Intuitiv Zeichnen” (translates as Draw intuitively) workshop.  Both drawings were done on A3 paper with the left and right hands simultaneously and with eyes closed.   Workshop participants were given the themes “tree” and “water” for these drawings.  The image on the right has been cropped to take the desk on which it was photographed out of the frame.



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