|Untitled (#April 08) by Hilary Brace, charcoal on polyester film, 6 x 11.625.
past, I have had a love-hate thing going with charcoal. Basically, I love it
and it hates me. Seriously! I love what charcoal can do. The fact that you can
use a stick of charcoal to create so many different kinds of marks—you can get
an almost wash-like effect with one swipe, or turn it on its edge and use it
like a traditional pencil. You can make strong, stark lines or work with it so
it seems like there are no lines at all, just pure shadow. I'm amazed by the
subtle variations of gradation that charcoal can create, and I love the fact
that charcoal drawing is all about big gestures and shapes and not the fussy
|Speak Easy by Timothy Jahn, charcoal drawing, 5 x 7.
But for all the things I love about it, I've never been sure how to harness its
potential. I mean, charcoal can definitely be a challenge to control. You have
to get into a good rhythm, working with a certain amount of pressure and a
certain amount of natural fluidity. It's not easy, and it is hard to go back,
which usually means I freeze up like a deer in headlights. I tend to tense up
and overthink things when there is no reverse gear in a medium.
though I know it is going to be an uphill battle and I'm not going to turn into
a skilled user overnight (or in the next decade), I'm still keeping my eyes on
the prize. I would love to create charcoal drawings like Hilary Brace, whose
abstract cloud-water-sky forms are so subtle and have such a force of motion
that I kind of feel like I'm experiencing vertigo; or give my drawings a nostalgic
feeling like Timothy Jahn, whose charcoals are like objects out of time. They
look like old photographs and have a mysterious, shadowy quality that I'm drawn
at the works of all these great artists and knowing how far the medium can be
pushed, I'm glad to know that I'm on the right track now, too. I've had a
breakthrough with artist and instructor Chris Wynter. His new DVD, Dynamic Charcoal Drawings Lessons, has
given me the building blocks to capture an object spontaneously and accurately
in charcoal. I can't believe it either, but in Dynamic Charcoal Drawing Lessons Wynter walked me through what the
medium can do, how to control it, and how to achieve all the effects I'm interested in. Enjoy!
P.S. Whose work in charcoal inspires you? Leave a comment and let me know!