Drawing Tips of The Day Number 3. – Charcoal

by Jollyone Hooley
(Key West)

Drawing by Georges Braque

Drawing by Georges Braque

Charcoal is a wonderful medium to use where you can get your blacks really black, you can get subtle nuances in your drawing with soft edges and very hard edges.


The problem with charcoal is the messy side—it smudges easily and you have to use a fixative and that is not the best way of fixing your drawing.

If you’ve never used charcoal before now is the time to start.

When I go out into the country and start on my thumbnail sketches, I can get immediate results as you only need about three or four tone/values.

You use your fingers to smudge the larger areas and to create soft edges. Also, it is very fast and you do not have time to fiddle with detail.

Charcoal has been around for thousands of years from the willow wood, and was originally made with linseed oil to give those very rich black areas of your drawing.

An important point is to obtain a quality paper where the charcoal does not damage the paper surface and retains the “tooth” (the texture of the surface).

Like a pencil, you can get a hard to very soft charcoal so don’t press too hard when drawing with the harder pieces. I think it is great using charcoal and it is a pity not more artists use this medium.

See Kathe Kollwitz’s charcoal drawings on Google images and take note of the really soft areas and the broad dark areas of her drawings.

Jollyon Hooley
December 2015

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Dec 02, 2015
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Thanks Again Jollyon
by: Jon

I must say I use all my prelim sketching using charcoal. In fact it is used by most artists--especially landscape artists.

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