Burning the paintbrush at both ends

I’ve been playing with yet another medium this spring – charcoal this time. I’m finding it much quicker to work with than pencil, and it lends itself to loose construction, so I’m more inclined to block in my notan structure properly before getting ahead of myself and trying to sketch in any details too early, as I’m tempted to do when working with pencil.

150307cc Feeling the Water

Charcoal smudges easily, which can be both good and bad. It’s advantageous because it softens and blends beautifully, but it’s also a problem because it smears … often far more than desired … onto other parts of the paper, my hands, my clothes, and any surface that comes in contact with the sketch.

I expect to try various types of charcoal—vine, willow, pencils, shaped sticks, both compressed and uncompressed, and in various levels of hardness in the months ahead. Then there are such peripheral materials as white chalk pencils, tortillions, chamois, and fixatifs. Not to mention experimenting on a variety of surfaces. (So much to check out even for such a seemingly simple medium.)

But overall, I like what I’ve experienced with it so far. I like the sense of spontaneity it conveys, the rapid application that suggests an immediacy and liveliness of the subject matter, even when drawn from a photograph rather than from life. I’m not sure yet whether I would choose it as a medium for finished work, but in the meantime I’m enjoying using it for studies and sketches.

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