In an effort to re-ignite a friend’s artistic capabilities I recently gave her a set of oil pastels, which I was not using. While looking for the pastels I went through some of my older art supplies and found some drawing charcoal, artist’s eraser and drawing paper.
It had been years since I last created a charcoal drawing so I decided to do a quick drawing of a woman’s face. Remembering the method that I learned more than a decade ago, I created a decent drawing in approximately 45 minutes. If you would like to learn how to do a fairly easy yet effective method of creating a charcoal drawing here is the way I was shown by a very talented artist.
To create a charcoal drawing you will need some drawing charcoal preferrably both thin and thick sticks. An artist’s putty eraser, also known as a kneaded eraser is also a necessary component. For best results, a smooth, heavy paper should be used. Special drawing paper may be used, but I used an 8.5″ x 11″ piece of regular computer paper and it worked just fine.
The method of creating a charcoal drawing that I am referring to I often describe as ‘lifting and rubbing’.
Presented here are instructions on how to easily create an authentic charcoal drawing.
First you will need a piece of drawing paper on which to create the drawing. Completely cover the piece of paper with charcoal. If you apply the charcoal thickly that is okay and almost preferable.
Next, with a piece of cotton or other soft material rub or wipe the charcoal down until it produces a fairly even shade of grey.
Once the entire piece of paper is grey in color it is time to do a rough drawing of your subject with a piece of charcoal. When you do the rough drawing it brings out the spots where dark and light highlights should be.
It is at this point when a putty or kneaded eraser comes into play. With a putty or kneaded eraser you can first concentrate on bringing out the lighter areas (such as a face) in your drawing. This is done by gently rubbing the eraser into the greyed-out charcoal. It’s easier to understand this process when you think of it as a reversal of the usual method of creating a drawing. Instead of adding charcoal details to the drawing you are using a method of subtraction to create the details.
When the rough drawing is beginning to take shape you can add areas of dark and bold definition (such as hair and eyeballs) with more charcoal. With the putty eraser you can rub or lift-away any desired detail that you want to add. The shape and size of the eraser can be changed by shaping it with your hands. If the process seems confusing to you, just remember that you are using a method of reversal.
One of the most important parts of this process is making sure that you apply a generous amount of charcoal to the drawing paper at the beginning. By doing so you are making it easier to bring out both the dark and light features of the picture.
The putty eraser is a great tool. Once you’ve become used to using it, you can create fine detail or large expanses of light with ease. A charcoal drawing is frequently considered an advanced form of artwork and this method is widely recognized as being a standard and effective procedure.
Charcoal drawings make excellent gifts and portraits in charcoal are always appreciated by the recipients.
Personal experience with making charcoal drawings