Reduction charcoal drawing

Some years ago I tried this style of drawing and I revisited it yesterday in my art class.

Charcoal-2The subject matter was chosen for its very reduced colour palette, as we were to concentrate on the tonal values throughout without becoming distracted by colour. A lamp had been placed to the right pushing some subtle shadows to the left of the vase.

The idea is to completely cover textural drawing paper in willow charcoal then, using a cloth, soften the effect by rubbing the charcoal into the peaks and troughs of the paper.  Messy stuff.

We taped our paper down, thereby producing a clean edge for later handling and also avoiding moving the paper around whilst drawing and risking putting fingers across the surface by accident.

Charcoal-1Painters tape was used as it is easily removable and tends not to damage the paper.  I decided not to apply the charcoal right to the edge and to keep a softer surround.

Once the charcoal has been applied it is removed in selected areas to create the lighter tones of the image.  We covered numerous removal techniques: a standard eraser,  a putty eraser, paper hand towel, fingers.  Where darker tones are required – by that I mean darker than the original base covering – we applied either compressed willow or used charcoal pencils to draw more accurate outlines and shapes.

It was a challenge to just pick out the lighter tones and try to ignore the actual reality of the vase and flowers.  We had the option of using a charcoal pencil to lightly draw in the shapes in advance to give us some guidance.  I opted out and drew the vase freehand (nothing if not optimistic!!) and then gave myself a bit of outline work when shaping the roses.  I took a bit of artistic licence with the flowers and, once I had the idea, went my own way.

Charcoal-3It was a fun day and we all came out with very different results.  The tutor, Lee, remarked how much I veer towards simplification and flattened imagery (and how much she likes that style).  Now where have I heard that before?????


About Claire B

I'm a passionate printmaker, paper-maker and a poor sketcher (which I'm working to improve). I've stitched from early childhood and am a perpetual student, loving learning and participating in everything creative.
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5 Responses to Reduction charcoal drawing

  1. Nola says:

    Love the look of this, and I can see the printmaking aesthetic coming through. I guess that’s partly the simplification, but also the kinds of effects we know we can get with printmaking of various kinds. The drawing has a great feel to it, did I say I really like it?

  2. Colleen Little says:

    Hi Claire, I thought you might like to see this large scale Lino Printmaking by Angela Cavalieri if you haven’t already seen it.
    Cheers Colleen

    • Nola says:

      Wow, incredible! I’m a long way from being brave enough to try printing on that scale. Love, love, love the works, though!

    • Claire B says:

      Thanks for sending this link Colleen. No, I hadn’t seen it. I’ve been doing some other experimentation and haven’t printed for over a month now and can’t believe how much I’m hankering to get back to it. Today I started some preparatory drawing for my next project. I have in mind a bigger print than I’ve done before and am getting quite excited.

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