Saturday, December 4, 2010

Free Topic Post: I Love Charcoal

I first used charcoal two years ago. Didn’t explore it much—I didn’t draw very well then and I found it too challenging to figure out how to use a new medium and learn how to draw at the same time.

One year ago, in my school art classes (independent study and portfolio), I again discovered the wonders of charcoal. I was also taking classes after school at the Carrboro ArtsCenter, which furthered my introduction to the medium.

I first loved the thick dark line it creates without any effort. I then loved the move-ability of charcoal dust. Then, I loved range of values. Most of all, I love the tactile quality of working with my fingers to blend it.

One of my ArtsCenter teachers introduced me to the concept of sculpting a drawing, rather than drawing it linearly. This was revolutionary- I had for years struggled with my in ability to draw smooth pencil lines. Rather than drawing the lines of the face (I love to draw people), I would begin with the darkest places and draw in shapes of shadow.

After exploring this method with charcoal for several weeks, I stumbled upon a box of gray-scale soft pastels in the studio. Amazing! I continued working with the sculpting process, using the highly pigmented pastels. I mostly did fairly simple faces, just trying to get the main idea. I love(d) how powerful the gray-scale drawing are—I often did them on black construction paper, which made the white highlights appear that much more striking.

In the spring I took courses at the ArtsCenter in figure drawing, in which we utilized the quick expressive qualities of charcoal, and pastel painting, where I ventured into colored pastels.

This semester I feel like I’ve expanded on my previous knowledge—I’ve drawn more still-lifes than ever before and drawn my first landscapes and buildings. I’ve discovered that if I am using charcoal with a predominantly subtractive method I actually enjoy drawing still-lifes, which is great since I have always detested them. I haven’t been doing much of my own personally-motivated artwork this fall, so I’m looking forward to winter break when hopefully I can break out the pastels.

And that is how I came to love charcoal.

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