Tag Archives: Charcoal

Sketching, draw easy.

Sketching, draw and drawing are the same thing right, are they really, but of course they are, aren’t they?

To draw and sketch, are they the same?

Dictionary examples:

“To draw is to sketch (someone or something) in lines; delineate; depict: to draw a vase with charcoal, to compose or create (a picture) in lines, to mark or lay out; trace: to draw perpendicular lines.

A sketch is a hasty or UN-detailed drawing or painting often made as a preliminary study.”

Many years ago when I was in school, I took an option to do Technical Drawing, I didn’t like it because it was more about mathematics, accuracy and precession with no room for mistakes, I did not consider it to be drawing at all. I believed it was too mechanical, too calculated and I did not realize then, that all drawing is about these same processes of measurement but carried out in different ways, using your eyes rather than a ruler. When doing Technical Drawing, you know how to do it and how it will look, before it has even been done but when you do some sketching, these restraints are not as important, as just getting something down on paper.

To me there is a big difference between them are: drawings are about accuracy and detail, where as sketches are about speed and experimentation, but to clearly define them individually, is difficult because aspects of both spill into each other.

When you draw with accuracy, the information you record becomes visual knowledge, so when you sketch, that same visual knowledge spills over into your practice, which in turn informs you’re sketching.

Sketching is about getting things right and wrong, to test or find new ideas, to drive your ability, where as drawing is about doing this but also it is about getting it right, with all the details in all the right places.

Drawings can sometimes also go wrong, which often inspires new ideas but with sketches, there is less emphasis on accuracy, so more opportunity for errors of judgment and greatly increasing the chance of finding happy accidents.

Happy accidents, are where people find positive outcomes by accident and many great discoveries in art, science and all other areas are found often, in this way, the one premise for doing this is, you won’t find anything if your not looking.

When people draw they first sketch an outline, then they sketch where the detail goes and then they draw in the detail. This process is one of the basic rules of drawing and sketching, along with working from light to dark.

When people draw, they first make small light marks identifying where everything goes, in relation and proportionate to everything else in the drawing, as compared to the subject of your drawing or sketching.

Drawing focuses on conveying subjects, through the deeper understanding of details contained within them, both require you to think, about what you are doing, at least in the beginning, both require you to constantly look, from subject to work area.

Both teach you to see and to look for more, even when producing less detail, you still learn to see in terms of plains, angles, curves, contour, light and dark, the process of drawing or sketching, will both aid the development of this ability.

The more you do it, the better you get at it, sketching, draw and drawing are the same thing right?

A quick sketching made with marker pens.

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To find cool drawings.

Cool drawings are not as easy to find, as you might think because your version of cool, is almost certainly not my version of what is cool, anymore than the next person because it is a matter of taste and you might find that, some of the people can be pleased, some of the time but not all of them, all of the time, labels such as cool are subjective, so they are as individual as the individuals themselves.

I have already established, that it is highly unlikely that, what I find cool, you will also but I can still help you find cool pictures, by giving you some ideas about the ways that I use.

If I know what I am looking for I do searches on Google Images, this is the quickest way I know for finding a picture or drawing, I am looking for because in case you did not know, you can search using key words, the same way you do when you are searching for anything else online, there is one down side to this and that is, although it is much easier nowadays, than it would have been ten years ago, it is still time consuming and laborious. Sometimes you have to literally look through hundreds and hundreds of them, because there are so many.

The pretty pink pain killer image.

You can also do searches on other sites, like Flickr or Flixya but there are too many photo management sites to mention them all, these sites store millions of indexed images, belonging to other people, pictures they have submitted. Some of these types of sites, actually pay you a small fee if others, want to use the ones that you have submitted. They all have rules about this but these are usually quite liberal and open minded, yet still quite tasteful or respectable because they have to try to please all.

One of the best ways to find cool drawings or pictures, that I especially like because of the way it works is a free online tool, called Stumble Upon.

It works like this, you join Stumble Upon by submitting your details, to become a member, then you select topics of interest, the more you pick the more variety you will see but these will not all be pictures, unless you clicked on the tool bar to select just images. The great part about it is this, you click a button to be presented with random pages of interest, if you set it to images then you will just Stumble Upon random pictures, covering any topic.

Now because the best usually climb to the top, through popularity in this program, then you get presented with the most popular, so they are usually very good but also besides this, they are random, so you do not have control and are presented with images, that also surprise you, giving you some great random subjects, that often stimulate your own ideas, for creations to work on.

I find Stumble Upon a great tool for giving me new ideas, when I don’t have any but also very entertaining, with it’s rich variety of cool drawings and pictures, also a great place to put your own work on too.

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Drawing with prehistoric drawing tools.

32,000 years ago our primitive human ancestors, used charcoal as a black pigment for decorating their caves, with drawings and images. Along with the cavemen, the Egyptians also painted their highly decorative hieroglyphic writings, with this very same substance that is still being used to day for the same purposes of drawing, writing and decorating.

Thankfully we don’t still live in caves but we do still use charcoal for drawing and the pigmentation of black paints, such as Carbon Blacks, Ivory Black, Vine Black and Lamp Black.

Carbon black is the name used for different but common black pigments, that are made by charring organic material, usually wood or bone, it only seems to be black because there is almost no light being reflected from it, that is visible to our eyes. Carbon black substances reflect very little or no light at all, so because of this, they give the impression of being black.

These black carbons where produced originally, by charring different types of organic material, Ivory black was originally made, by charring ivory or animal bones, where as Vine black was made in much the same way, by using the dried out, chard stems of grape vines instead. Nowadays you can still obtain vine charcoal but this has been mostly replaced with willow and other similar woods, making it more substantial for use in drawing. There are many different other types of charcoal produced, for different purposes, just one example would be charcoal grills, for grilling your steak and other meats outdoors.

Lamp black as it was called, was originally produced from the soot that gathered inside oil lamps, that was also called lampblack because of where it came from.

These end pigments are all carbon substances, which give them the generic term of being called carbon blacks.

As it stands today, charcoal is a prehistoric drawing substance, that is still effectively being used by many artists in the production of fine works of art, all over the world.

32,000 years on into the future, with the production of fine art still being practiced by many using charcoal in the drawing process and almost all black pigment, being obtained from chard materials, thus making charcoal the granddaddy of all the drawing substances, known to man, it must be good because we still use it.


Dead Bird Drawn With Compressed Charcoal
Road Kill , a dead bird, a compressed charcoal drawing.

Aerial maneuvers, dragon over the roof tops.

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Hatching, cross hatching and tonal modeling basics.

Hatching, cross hatching and tonal modeling basics, will help you understand shading techniques, this understanding I am going present will further enable you to develop your drawing skills, by using these simple methods.

A very basic explanation of tonal modeling is as follows.

If you draw on a piece of paper with a soft, 3B or 6B graphite pencil and make a dark line by pressing hard, then rub over the top of the pencil line, with your finger or with a piece of paper under your finger, you will see that line you made has now been smudged. Now the line that you made, will not be as well defined with the edges of it being softer and less definite or hard. This is known as a tonal modeling technique, one method of creating this tonal modeling technique is by smudging the pencil marks used for shading, to help create a more realistic three dimensional form. This is not the only way to do your tonal modeling or shading, as it can also be achieved by rubbing the pencil lightly over the paper to create a soft blended tone also.

There is also another shading method called hatching and cross hatching as well that we will explain a little later in this article.

Tonal modeling is when the pencil marks are modeled or smudged, so instead of them having hard edges, they have soft blended edges, this smudging can be done using your fingers, a paper stump, soft tissue or cotton wool. Using your fingers is not recommended because of the oils from your skin, that contain acids being left on the paper, these oils with time can cause discoloring and rotting of the paper, ruining the finished drawing, over a period of time.

When a sculptor models with clay, he creates the shape and form of the sculpture by modeling the clay with his hands, tonal modeling is when you model the pencil marks to create soft blended tones of graduated shading with a pencil, charcoal, pastel or paint, it is a process of blending tones or colors, so there is a soft graduated transition from one tone or color to another.

Tonal modeling in a drawing or painting context, is when the pencil, charcoal, pastel or paints are blended to create soft shadows, to produce the form and shape of the object, being drawn on a 2 dimensional surface creating the illusion, of a 3 dimensional form or shape.

The blending of the drawing materials, into graduated tones to create the illusion of a 3 dimensional form or shape, on a 2 dimensional drawing surface is what’s usually referred to as tonal modeling.

Below you will find an image of two pencil drawings.

1.    This first image has been drawn with a 5B graphite pencil, using a hatching and cross hatching method.

2.    This other second image, has been drawn with a 5B graphite pencil, using a tonal modeling method.

Example of hatching and tonal modeling.
The two methods as example, cross hatching and tonal modeling.

Both depict the shape and form of the image but the second example, is modeled, using the tonal modeling method, notice that the shadows and tones are soft, with few hard edges, unlike the first cross hatching example, with many hard edges/lines.

Essentially there are hatch marks and smudge marks, with both these types of marks having attributes, also associated with the use of charcoal, that enable you to learn to understand tonal variation better.

•    Both types of marks are good and effective in their own right, as well as when used together.

•    Both make excellent drawings, in their own right and when mixed.

•    Both can have specific, common and preferred uses.

•    Both are also used when painting.

•    Both can be used effectively, with other types of drawing tools, especially the hatching marks.

Modern mark making revealed again.

Crosshatching and tonal modelling.

Pencil drawing photo image of a thumb and finger.

The above is a combination of hatching, cross hatching, line drawing and tonal modelling with only a HB pencil being used to do this.

Crosshatching and tonal modelling.

Example of two different mark making techniques, cross hatching, tonal modeling.

  1. Cross hatching style drawing, of a dolls leg but although very messy looking in the detail, it is a fine example of how, even soft flowing shapes can be created with crosshatching.
  2. Tonal modelling or blended style, with very hard edges, although you can see some of the hatching marks showing through as well.

Hatching and tonal modelling revisited.

Example sheet showing different types of mark making.

  1. Example of a loose tonal modelling or blending style drawing, of a face that is really somewhere between, hatching and tonal modelling because of the even marks, slanting downward to the right.
  2. A Yorkshire terrier dog, which happily lends it’s self well to this loose but flowing hatching technique, which is highly appropriate for drawing fur or hair, as can be seen a little in image 3 as well.
  3. A soft blending of tones creates this portrait, this is mostly achieved by smudging the graphite pencil marks, with a paper torchon or drawing stump, this is just a hard paper pencil type tool, that can be used to smudge the pencil marks.
  4. Although some like to call this a squiggle or squrkle technique, it is actually just another form of cross hatching, this image has been drawn with a permanent ink pen.

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The graphite pencil.

No education is neutral, that is fact, so the only way you can really find out is for yourself, drawing is a good way to do that and I would like to suggest, that we start with the faithful graphite pencil.

The pencil has been around for many years because it’s good to use, easy to hold for most people, even the oldest available drawing tool, other than the finger (charcoal) comes as a pencil nowadays.

It is interesting to understand, that what we think of as a pencil, is most often a graphite pencil and has many similar qualities as charcoal, it can be used in much the same way but the graphite pencil will produce, more tonal variation.

The good old graphite pencil, comes in many different measures of hardness or softness, which enables the user, to create many different qualities of line, as well as a very wide variety of tones, from almost black, to almost white and everything in-between. The softer pencils come in the B range, they are identified as, B to B9, with B9 being very soft and because of this, it dose not stay sharp for very long, consistent fine lines are more difficult, without a fine, sharp tip. If you watch a well practiced expert drawing, with a softer pencil, you will notice how often they turn it, between their fingers to change the drawing tip and keep it as sharp as they can, as long as they can. The other side of this is the harder pencils. These range from H to H9, with the H9 being very hard, they will stay sharp for a long time but will also gouge deep groves into your paper, if you press too hard, when drawing but can be useful, when shading very light areas of tone or creating effects.

The graphite pencil is very versatile, it has many different capabilities, that produce many different results, all of them worth knowing about and worthy of taking a look, or even a second look, even if you have been drawing for years.

Everything we look at and see is a shape, that is often made up of other shapes, most of these shapes, change shape, when moved to different view points, this is the bulk substance, creating the three dimensional form of the shape. These can be created with two types of line, a linear or straight line and a curve. If you can draw these two types of line, you can draw, if you can draw stick figures you can draw. If you don’t draw more than stick figures, then you either don’t want to draw or don’t really know how.

The simple lines below, show some shapes and lines that can be drawn with a graphite pencil, it’s as it says, if you can write words, then you can draw straight lines and curves. If you can read then it’s even better and you’re lucky, because many people world wide, can’t.

A straight line and a curve, created a stick man.

Straight lines and curves, graphite pencil lines made with a 3b & HB pencil.

Graphite pencils 5b & 4b wooden type.

The simple lines above show, how simple it really is to draw lines and curves. None of them are outstanding, these lines have been made with HB and 4B, graphite pencils. But none of the full range of pencils, should ever be overlooked and as you can see, they are versatile, the lighter lines are with a HB, which is probably the most common of all and is a Hard Black, HB. Where as the darker lines, the word (yes), are made with a B4 pencil, which is in the B range of Blacks.

Mechanical Pencil with 3b graphite sticks.

Lets look at an exaggerated, three dimensional line drawing of a cup. These are common shapes using line and hatching to emphasize, the three dimensional form or shape of the cup using a 4B.

A single point persepctive drawing of a cup that is distorted.

You can also see the construction lines, drawn with a pencil, that where used to help create some of the out line or shape, using a single point perspective, this can also be used in a vertical direction to create a wheel shape.

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Modern mark making, in the context of drawing, a point of view.

I took the charcoal drawing of a 1967, Austin Healey, 3000 Mk III, sports car and super imposed it into another image of a thumb and finger, using GIMP photo editing software, I fused them together to compose the image below, about understanding perspectives and using mark making, as a visual dynamic for tricking the eye.

Pencil drawing photo image of a thumb and finger.In the drawing above you will see two different pencil techniques, one is called hatching and the other is called tonal modeling, both are used often, as drawing techniques for different reasons mostly. The hatching or also called cross hatching technique, is often used to draw subjects, that lend themselves to that type of mark making, like hair, grass and other textures, that can be described with lots of little lines or dashes going all in one direction or differing directions, and is a natural way to use a pencil.

The other technique is tonal modeling, which is where the pencil is smudged or modeled using graded tones, to create soft edges and shadows, most often seen in the drawing of skin tone, and clouds but in the drawing above, you will notice that both are being used in the same drawing.

The finger and thumb of the hand is drawn using hatching and cross hatching, whereas the back of the hand is drawn using a tonal modeling technique. The example is used to show how these techniques, can be used in this way and although they lend themselves to best describe textures that have been mentioned, they can also be used effectively to describe textures, that would not really lend themselves to these techniques, like with the finger and thumb.

This is also an example of how you can take already existing drawings and with photo editing software, fuse them together as a means of generating new ideas, bringing very different tools together to aid the creative process.

The image below, is almost completely created using tonal modeling and is a example of use, where it would accurately describe the fleshy textures of the baby’s skin tones, as well as, the bone textures of the skull, with the only hatching type marks, being around the word zeitgeist, which are again smudged pencil lines, with slightly modeled edges, that are not sharp or well defined. Mark making is also found in painting as well as drawing and is an important part of all kinds of art, where sometimes they are not lines, dashes or modeled areas but can be splashes, scribbles or pointillist type marks.

Zeitgeist, spirit of the times, pencil drawing.
The Zeitgeist, is the spirit of the times, this is a pencil drawing of life and death, called Zeitgeist .

A hand and the artificial creations, born from its great ability, to manipulate the world around it, isn’t all intelligence artificial because we only think we know, when we recognize the mark making?

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Charcoal drawing of a 1967, Austin Healey

This is a charcoal drawing of a 1967 Austin Healey, 3000 Mk III, it was my first attempt at drawing a car using charcoal. The fact is it was my first attempt at using a charcoal pencil. Most of my work up until this point when using charcoal, was much bigger drawings and mostly life drawings. Charcoal drawings are good to draw because you can get very good tonal definition. Although the charcoal does not give you the same subtle tonal variation, you can get with a graphite pencil. This is mainly because it is usually very black or dark brown, almost black, where as graphite is grey but never quite reaches a black.

1967 Austin Healey 3000 Mk III charcoal drawing.

The other issue with graphite is the darker, the tones and thicker the layers of graphite are the reflective they are. This makes them seem lighter than the they actually are, at different angles because of the reflected light. Charcoal does not present this issue, as it is courser, producing little or no reflective qualities. Another issue with charcoal is, it is difficult to make very fine precise lines, partly because the material it’s self is quite soft and powdery. This issue can be improved considerably with compressed, harder charcoal or some harder charcoal pencils which I did not have when doing this drawing. The wheel spokes and some of the fine chrome details, would have benefited greatly from having some hard compressed charcoal pencils, when doing this drawing.

Charcoal drawing-size can be an issue.

The car was drawn onto A3, 300gsm watercolor paper, using the smooth side of the paper, the quality of the paper was not a problem but the size was. It would have been better if it was draw on A2 sized paper. This would have given me a bigger drawing area, so that the fine detail would not have needed to be so small. It would have reduced the need for very fine detailed lines.

The 1967 Austin Healey 3000 Mk III, charcoal drawing above, was drawn onto A3 water color paper, also with a little photo editing in this image, using PC software. This amounts to amounts to the darker faded area around the car being added. This gives the impression of it being under a spot light.

Charcoal drawing-better detail with marker pens.

The Austin Healey, 3000 Mk III, drawing below is not a charcoal drawing or graphite pencil drawing. It has been created with various grey marker pens. Slightly larger in size at A2, on 180gsm cartridge paper, it looks better because of it. There are no reflections of light from the marker pens but they have very nice tonal variations, with nice fine details. The issue with marker pens is that they tend to bleed through the paper. This makes the lines thicker than intended but because this was drawn on A2 paper, it compensated for the issue. The marker pens produced a nice drawing, that I was pleased with at the time. There are a few minor issues with it now, after reflecting on it but over all, it is a nice drawing that I am still pleased with.

Austin Healey 3000 MKIII Marker Pen Drawing
Austin Healey 3000 MKIII, this drawing is another example of the car but it was drawn with marker pens and not a charcoal drawing like the one above it.

The grid drawing below is of a Ford Mustang Shelby, GT 500, in graphite pencil. It was used as a construction drawing and was later was filled in using marker pens. It shows how neat and more precise the lines can be using a graphite pencil. It can be compared with the first drawing using charcoal.  The final drawing made from this also turned out well when finished in marker pens.

The  point to remember when when drawing, is size, it is much easier to draw a very fine detailed drawing, when doing it on a large drawing area, than it is when drawing in a small area, so size dose matter and large drawings will also look very impressive, to the onlooker.  If you are going to draw a charcoal drawing of a 1967, Austin Healey or any car with fine detail, then you will be best remembering, that bigger is better, size matters.

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