Getting Started with and Becoming a Professional at Charcoal Painting
Are you fascinated with the lifelike sketches from artists made with charcoal? Charcoal painting is quite an art and it takes years of practice to become a master at it.
But, if you are an enthusiast who wants to learn from scratch, you would first need to know a few things about charcoal painting.
It is not just the charcoal that will help you start with the sketches. You will need a few things more to complete the entire set. But first, let’s take a look at the types of charcoals that you will be using:
• Compressed charcoal – these are help together in one piece with the help of a gum binder. You will get darker shades with compressed charcoal. Although they are quite difficult to smudge or erase, you can use them only in areas where you are confident of applying darker shades.
They are available as square sticks, or as pencils or even as rounded sticks. Some of the compressed charcoals come in pigmented forms. The white charcoals that you will be using are all pigmented.
• Vine charcoal – these consist mainly of burnt willow wood. As a newbie, you will be using vine charcoal and not compressed charcoal. The advanced stages of charcoal painting involve the use of compressed charcoal but as a beginner, vine charcoal is the best.
It is easy to rub and spread on the sheet pretty easily. Since the first shades should always be light, you can use any vine charcoal and use it on paper to get a feel for it.
Now that you have known the types of charcoal, it is time to know some of the other tools that will help you paint the perfect masterpiece:
• Blending stumps – there were will be areas in your sketch that will require smearing and blending of the charcoal. Blending stumps will help you with that. It creates that unique blending effect that spreads on the paper. You can use a paper towel to smudge along with the blending stumps.
• Kneaded eraser – this is a special eraser that helps to rub the charcoal sketch from the paper.
Holding the charcoal
Holding a charcoal and holding a pencil is not the same. It has a different technique. Yes, every artist may have their own style of holding the charcoal but ideally, the positioning is different than that of a pencil.
You should start by holding the charcoal with your thumb in the bottom and the forefinger on the top.
Your palm should be facing down on the paper. The idea is to draw with your elbow and shoulder movement and not your wrist.
The first lines
If you are trying to sketch with charcoal for the first time, do not expect to hit the bulls-eye on your first shot. It would be best to start with loose contour lines. You can take a portrait photo and keep it at your eye level. Start by sketching the structure of the face.
After you are done with the eyes, nose, and lips, spread charcoal powder on the drawing surface and mop it with a brush. This is for the effects. Take a paper towel and spread the powder of the darker areas. You can also highlight some of the critical areas with a white charcoal pencil.
The same pencil can be used to improve the texture of the sketch. There will be areas that require shadows. Always use a softer charcoal pencil to apply the shadows.
Newbies often use compressed charcoal on shadows but that is a wrong technique. The shade should be lighter to darker and not dark directly.