In May I had a really good drawing session when Jamie asked me to use a large piece of charcoal and define the figure with broad strokes, I posted about it here. Ever since then I would on occasion pull this tool out of my growing bag of tricks, its fun and easier than focusing hard on getting proportions correct. Unfortunately I didn’t grasp the full potential of this method, that was until these last two drawings. Previously I thought this was a gimmick. Yes, this is an easy way to quickly grasp the basic pose, but it did nothing to further my education. It didn’t test my knowledge or help train my eye to see or strengthen my hand eye coordination. But I was wrong…
Initially when I block in the shadow shapes, they barely resemble the figure and their placement is, most of the time, vastly incorrect. This initial stage doesn’t remotely improve my training of proportions but, what it does well is free my mind of fear. Specifically the fear of making mistakes. At this point is a huge mess of charcoal it can only get better. Furthermore an initial form block-in give an initial placement of the subject for when I’m concerned about composition, which I must say doesn’t happen often.
After the initial form block-in I continue with this method but now I treat the charcoal more like a flat brush rather than the point of a pencil. I also use a kneaded eraser to pull out lighter areas in the same way, as if it were a brush full of a light value.
Most objects can be reduced broadly into three tone masses, the lights (including the high lights), the half tones, and the shadows. And the habit of reducing things to simple equation of three tones as a foundation on which to build complex appearances should early be sought for.Harold Speed
And as Harold Speed so elegantly indicates, this is exactly what I’m doing. I break down the form much like a sculptor would break down clay into smaller and smaller details, always trying to describe as much with a single stroke as possible. If painting is like drawing but with paint, than this is like painting with charcoal. But, as Mr Speed indicates I must be careful…
The use of charcoal to the neglect of line drawing often gets the student into a sloppy manner of work, and i snot so good a training to the eye and hand in clear, definite statement. Its popularity is no doubt due to the fact that you can get much effect with little knowledge.Harold Speed
So this is what I should be careful of. I need to work in the manner, but refine it, much like Sargent, and erase if any part becomes sloppy.
This was after 30 minutes of drawing. You can see how quickly this methods describes the initial form. At this point its all about moving the charcoal around, refining and correcting.
I like this Ingres paper it really pulls the charcoal right off the stick, but its is so coarse that getting any definition of the subjects true texture is near impossible. Also it doesn’t like to hold the charcoal well, If I didn’t spray this drawing I’m sure a small shake would remove most of the charcoal from the paper.