The First Medium Monday


Medium Monday

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Hey, Everyone! So, today is Monday. I had some inspiration this morning to do a “Medium Monday” blog every monday. These will be about one drawing medium (what it’s used for, definition, type), my opinion on it (boring, I know!), and they will show examples, pointers and maybe some how-to stuff. Hope you enjoy them!

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..:: Definition: A black, porous, carbonaceous material, 85 to 98 percent carbon, produced by the destructive distillation of wood and used as a fuel, filter, and absorbent. ::..


Charcoal is made from wood, and like the variety of trees it comes from, there are various forms, and some of them are used for artwork.

When sketching, or trying to add a light shading to something, vine charcoal is usually the best choice. It’s hard to get a ‘dark’ tone with vine charcoal, and is usually the first piece an artist will pick up to get a rough idea onto the paper. Using this instead of a pencil when sketching for a charcoal drawing will reduce the shiny silver marks left by a pencil (if you draw hard!), and will keep a consistent color throughout your drawing.

The most commonly used type for drawings is compressed charcoal; this type will give you the darkest shades when drawing. Compressed charcoal is also put into pencils for easier use, and is usually used when trying to get a substantial amount of detail in your work. However, it is almost impossible to erase, so take your time with it.

When trying to cover large areas, like backgrounds, there is a powdered charcoal. This kind can also be used to tone an area of your work, and can be erased completely, or just enough to lighten the tone of the area.

Lastly, when the paper just isn’t light enough for those light spots, white charcoal pencils can fix that. Yes, charcoal does come in a white pencil. This is commonly used when trying to lighten an area, add details, or even help to erase that pesky compressed charcoal line that just wont go away.


Using Charcoal:

When drawing with charcoal, you will usually want to start off by lightly sketching your idea (with the vine charcoal) since once you start to draw, erasing is extremely difficult. Make sure you have a light source for your drawing figured out, shadows are a large part of charcoal drawing, and they are used to give your drawing a realistic look and shape. Once your sketch is done, bring in the compressed charcoal and start adding in the details, paying close attention to your shadows. Darken the shadows first, then from there start to shade rest of the drawing. With charcoal, lines aren’t really needed, as you can shade the drawing into shape. Once you’ve got your drawing near the finish line, you can bring in the white charcoal (if you feel the need) and add some small details. Adding small, light areas will really make your dark charcoal drawing pop!

Charcoal can also be used with pencils to get really dark details or shadows, since pencils will only get shiny if you try to get them dark. JD Hillberry can give some pointers on this! He is a great artist and he does a great job of showing his techniques in this video.

Tip:: While you draw, you need to be careful not to put your arm or hand on the paper. Skin easily picks up charcoal residue, and if you move your hand to a different spot, it will leave some of that residue right where you don’t want it. It’s also easily smudged, and that can often ‘ruin’ a drawing. If you use your fingers carefully, or a smudging tool, you can use that residue to your advantage with shading, or smoothing out the drawing. There will be a mess if you do this, and you probably shouldn’t wear a white shirt!


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My view:

It’s been a long time since I used charcoal, not since high school, but it’s still one of my favorite mediums to work with. I like the darker tones of charcoal more than the lighter tones of a pencil because in my opinion, it looks nicer. There is also nothing like getting down and dirty (and I mean dirty) with a lump of charcoal, and feeling your drawing through the medium. Feeling the texture of the drawing through charcoal is something personal for me, and it’s a kind of cleansing of sorts for me. When I draw with charcoal, I tend to add a splash of color using pastels. Though black and white is beautiful, I love color, and adding a bit of color to a black and white drawing gives it some of my personality!


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Thanks for reading! ♥

Photo credit:

First Picture (horse)

Second and Third drawings (by one of my best friends!)

The last one is mine!


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