For pages 4-7, I decided I was going to compare and contrast graphite with charcoal. I’ve done a lot of graphite work over the years but never got a grasp of how to use charcoal in a way that approximated my graphite results. I’ve always wanted to sit down and do a piece in both mediums – one familiar and one not – and see what happened. The results are surprising!
First, I will not be using the even numbered pages for content. I want to capture any brainstorming process on the even pages and do the art on the right pages. I want to remember not just the artwork but also the process if any that went with it. I’m finding the whole aura of Moleskines very creative. Marketing savvy or not, I’m hooked!
The theme is “It’s not easy being green”, so I’m taking a strong figurate liberty and just sticking to ideas related to green, so it’s a little easier that way. Also, my scanner causes some serious ghosting of the pages of the Moleskine sketchbook. Very light weight paper indeed!
NOTE: Click for enlargements
Ok, so I took a simple #2 pencil and went to town as usual, remaining firmly in sketch mode. When I do finished fine art in graphite, I use a variety of lead weights, like 3B, HB, and H. But for this I wanted the purity of the experiment. I’d use cross hatching and that’s it.
I composed some Helvetica letters and got a little dramatic perspective going for fun. I got to about 90% done on this and decided to get to the charcoal experiment.
I composed a scattering of letters in Garamond and proceeded to layer charcoal into the background area. I grabbed my paper stomp and was not really sure what to do with it. In graphite, the stomp serves to blend away stroke marks, but with Charcoal, it acts like a brush with “dry” paint on it. Then the light-bulb went off. Charcoal is medium is in stick-form. Well, I suppose graphite is too, but a graphite pencil, in my mind and in my hand, is much closer in functionality to pen and ink where you lay down the strokes you want. With charcoal, you lay down some medium and paint a bit with it, add more, remove some, smooth it, push it around. To me, it acts nearly identical to transparent oil paints. I got stuck 20 years ago in art class with some vine charcoal and didn’t get past using it in a quick, non-detailed kind of manner. I have just discovered the joy of a new medium. Hello rich blacks!
I improvised the rest of the elements, styling, and coloring after realizing what I could do. I had a blast! The ability to play with light and texture far surpasses the natural ability of graphite. Everything I wanted graphite to be all these years and wasn’t, is truly in charcoal.
For instance, you can only get so dark, even with the softest pencils, because graphite ends up burnishing the paper and flattening the fibers. This causes that annoying shine. Graphite gets to about 60% black and gives out. With charcoal, since it is much more abrasive, will get as dark as the stick of charcoal you are using. Put some on, blend it in, ad more, blend it in, and in a few layers, you have the deepest, richest black you can imagine. I find it thrilling, I don’t know about you. I’m looking forward to the next charcoal “green” drawing!