Charcoal Drawing Lessons: Learn How to Draw Charcoal Art and Improve Your Charcoal Drawings

One of the biggest challenges of shading art is capturing how light travels across forms and figures. So many artists take charcoal lessons in order to hone just this ability to observe and execute the play of light and shadow. There are many strategies to meet this challenge, but they all have one underlying tie, which is that this medium shows a strong gradation of light from the lightest lights to the darkest darks through a deft sense of value. From here a charcoal artist can confidently create small charcoal portraits, or even a full-length charcoal figure drawing.


To get to this level of confidence when mastering how to draw charcoal pieces, it is often helpful to see how a charcoal artist takes a drawing and refines it so that the movement of light is well captured. Watch our newest free video tutorial and you’ll see artist Chris Wynter give a drawing lesson that is all about drawing forms that show the movement of light from light to dark and dark to light.



What’s inside this drawing tutorial?

In our free charcoal lessons video tutorial, you’ll actually see how the artist creates gradation. Wynter shows this part of drawing in a variety of ways. He shows you how a change in pressure while sketching changes value in the charcoal painting. He also shows how to use erasers, cloths, and even fingers on charcoal drawings when you observe that your darkest darks are too dark or if you want to soften the edges of the forms. Plus, along with this video, you’ll also receive a free membership to our Artist Daily community. This membership provides you with access to our free techniques, blogs, and newsletter; plus you’ll gain the help and support of thousands of artists of all abilities.

Learn How the Effect of Pressure in Your Mark Making Can Lead to a Successful Charcoal Portrait

In Artist Daily‘s free charcoal drawing video, Wynter mentions the difference between hard and soft varieties, clarifying that soft sticks are the type he recommends learning how to draw charcoal gradation with because they can be easily lightened or darkened—an asset when you are first learning charcoal painting and drawing.



Mastering Gradations for a Complicated Charcoal Portrait

A charcoal drawing lesson should foremost be a lesson in value and gradation—this is the most distinctive characteristic of the medium, and it is this that separates works of the highest order from those that still need to be refined. Drawing lessons that tend to be most successful at this are the ones that allow the artistic demonstrator to take the viewers through the light and dark “map” in a composition, showing how to pull light out and push darks darker, as Wynter does in these lessons. Lessons that are rooted in this kind of instruction are sure to bolster students’ confidence so that they can create a charcoal figure drawing or a more complicated portrait in no time.


Using Paper Texture to Enhance Your Charcoal Art

Wynter also discusses how charcoal drawings can vary depending on whether or not the charcoal artist wants the texture of the paper to show through or if the artist wants the materiality of the work to be less detectable. In a charcoal portrait, the texture of the paper may enhance the work—giving a sense of the model’s skin texture. But on the other hand smoothing out the lines and blending the stark areas of black and white, shadow and light, in order to reinforce the realism of the drawing, could better serve the charcoal portrait drawing.


Draw a Charcoal Portrait with a Visual Sense of Movement and Light

Artistic ability starts with seeing and executing gradation throughout a composition. That means from a drawing of a cup or vase in which the mapping of light and dark values is correct, you can create charcoal figure drawing art that really gives a visual sense of the figure’s skin texture and the subtle movement of light on the body. You can also create a dynamic charcoal portrait drawing, or even a sequence of charcoal portraits, with dramatic light or more delicate gradations of value. It’s all there for you to decide how to draw charcoal by interpreting tone and deciding how you want the finer details of the works to appear.

Learn the Importance of Knowing How to Draw Charcoal as an Artist

Artists have used the medium to draw figures for millennia, since the first piece of burnt wood was used to scratch out figures or a scene on a cave wall. And it never hurts to realize that when you learn how to draw charcoal works you are in the best artistic company of all—the Old Masters were incredibly prolific in the medium, and contemporary masters create charcoal art as well. It is also exciting to know that as we put the stick to paper, we are not only connecting to artists from the past and present, but we are also “paying forward” the pursuit in our own way, and keeping it a viable artistic option for the next generation of would-be charcoal artists.

Mastering your ability as a charcoal artist means that eventually you will be able to take this skill and apply it to more complicated works. So get started on your own charcoal painting progress and watch the free video today to master this historic art technique.