Drawing with charcoal offers an artist incredible versatility with their composition. In much the same way paint can be manipulated to achieve a certain look, charcoal can be detailed with fine lines, blended, and spread. What’s more, it can be easily erased.
There are a variety of charcoal tools, each which must be held in a certain way. Charcoal pencils come in varying thicknesses and are held like normal pencils. Vine charcoal is typically held between the thumb and index finger, similar to a piece of chalk. Charcoal powder is used for covering large areas of the composition and can be added to your piece in a variety of different ways. Since charcoal can be erased, there are a few types of erasers used to create highlights. Finally, a blending stump is used to soften edges and smooth out lines.
Like pastels, it’s common to use charcoal on surfaces that are toned, or have a great degree of “tooth.” Smooth surfaces also work, from newsprint to Bristol board.
The Prismacolor Premier® Charcoal Drawing Set offers a broad range of charcoal products to empower you to create a charcoal masterpiece. The high-quality charcoal delivers a rich, smooth laydown and is ideal for sketching and underpainting layouts.
Here are a few tips as you practice the art of charcoal drawing:
1. Wear a glove or put a piece of paper under your hand while you work to keep the oils from your hand from damaging the paper or repelling the medium. If you have a hard time keeping your hand from smudging the charcoal while drawing, tape the paper to the wall and draw that way.
2. Use white paper, when possible. For charcoal, white is the ultimate surface to work on. The white helps create highlights and different gray tones.
3. It helps to spray your artwork with a workable fixative to keep the charcoal from getting messy as you draw. Hairspray works fairly well as a last-minute substitute, but it can darken the composition. Fixatives can be both permanent and workable. Stand about a foot from your composition as you spray.
4. Don’t be afraid to cover your composition in charcoal and work backwards, using your erasers to draw. When drawing, don’t always think in lines. Charcoal is a versatile tool and can be used for creating shadows and highlights. Establish these and mid-tones as you initially sketch.
The world of charcoal is rich with possibilities, and despite the absence of pigment, can help you create some very memorable work.