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Drawing – Charcoal
The average person who hasn’t taken a drawing class might think that drawings can be divided into graphite, ink, and crayon. After all, those are the tools used by the average person when they are doodling for fun or tasked with drawing in a class. But artists know that one of the best mark making tools is a good stick of charcoal. Many painters love to use charcoal when they draw because drawing with a stick of charcoal has the feel and flexibility that you can usually only get with a paintbrush or stick of pastel.
What is Charcoal
As the name implies, charcoal is related to coal. It is created by burning wood under special conditions so that it leaves behind a pure black and flaky substance. If you have ever burned the end of a wood stick and used it to draw black lines on a lighter piece of wood, then you understand the principle behind charcoal. Charcoal can be used in pure sticks, or it can be placed inside of a wooden casing to create pencils that look like traditional graphite pencils but leave behind a different looking mark.
Charcoal Drawing Techniques
The beauty of drawing with charcoal is that it is a very flexible medium. You can sharpen it to a point to create thin and precise lines. You can leave it to think and fat to create lines that are big and bold. Or you can sharpen it one way and leave it flat the other so that you can vary the width of your line as you go along. It’s also possible to ground up charcoal into dust and cover paper with it before smearing it in. Charcoal remains fairly pliable even when it has sunken into the paper; it can be smeared with shading or relatively easily removed with an eraser. It’s messy to work with, so artists need to be careful where they use it, the charcoal drawing should never be done in white rooms. But given its flexibility and natural appeal, it’s a great tool to use when learning to draw.
Famous Artists Who Made Charcoal Drawings
Vincent van Gogh was an artist who used many different mediums over his career, and one of those mediums was charcoal. Often, he would mix charcoal in with other mediums like graphite. The German Renaissance artist Albrecht Dürer is known as a painter and a printmaker, but he was a big proponent of charcoal, which he often used to create preliminary sketches before diving into his paintings. Albrecht Durer's “Praying Hands” might be the most famous charcoal drawing ever created. Douglas McDougall is a modern artist known for making photorealistic charcoal portraits that show just how far the medium can be pushed.