TECHNIQUE - CHARCOAL TEXTURES
Artists & Illustrators|December 2020
Drawing media can have as much versatility as paint. LANCELOT RICHARDSON shows how he created two detailed charcoal works by combining a variety of marks
LANCELOT RICHARDSON

Charcoal is an effective medium for producing textures, as it both comes in many forms and is easy to manipulate. I wanted to share a few of my approaches with you, beginning with how to use additive and subtractive marks, and then turning to more experimental techniques using charcoal dust and acetone.

Typically, willow charcoal and charcoal powder lend themselves more readily to creating broad areas of tone and more atmospheric textures. They are the easiest forms of charcoal to smudge and “push” once on the paper. It is also easier to erase them, though you may never fully return to the initial white of the paper. I used Coates willow charcoal for this feature.

Charcoal pencils and compressed charcoal sticks are denser than willow. They will make darker marks and won’t readily erase. They also tend to be physically harder, allowing for finer lines from charcoal pencils, and bold, expressive marks from sticks. I favoured General’s charcoal pencils and Cretacolor compressed charcoal sticks for this. All of these drawings were made on Canson’s Bristol boards, using a blending stump, a kneaded eraser and make-up removal pads to manipulate the charcoal further.

Whatever form of charcoal you choose, remember that it is easy to smear because of its malleable nature, so don’t forget to protect your finished drawings with a good quality fixative.

SUBTRACTION

A subtractive technique involves removing tone from the drawing. It helps to think ahead when starting a drawing in this way, in order to use the white of the paper for the lightest tones, and potentially achieve more contrast. Expect a little back and forth with this approach as you remove and restate the tone.

1 To preserve white areas, one must first lay down tones around them. Here I omitted an area of white with the willow charcoal, which I then blended into the paper to create a tonal base. Charcoal pencil is harder to erase, so leave that for later stages.

2 To start to define the texture, erase the edges of the lighter area with a kneaded eraser, which can be easily shaped. Here I moulded it into a narrow edge to make the directional marks required for the fur.

3 Add details with the charcoal pencil. Be sparing with your marks – make just enough to describe the texture. Use well-sharpened pencils to create thinner marks and press lightly. If you make the marks too dark, try dabbing them with the kneaded eraser to lighten them.

ADDITION

Layering tone can help build up richer textures and deepen dark shadows. These steps show the process of drawing fur textures, but this general process works in many situations. Look for the edges, shapes, and rhythms present in the components of the texture.

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