The joys of charcoal

Updated: Oct 17, 2021

There's obviously something primitive about using burnt sticks of wood to make images. There's nothing fancy about it. It comes down to tone, texture, composition and line. And that's precisely why I like it so much. Getting those components all working together is, of course, easier said than done.


I'd had a couple of goes using charcoal before signing up for the life drawing class with Paul Millar at the Kur-ring-gai Art Centre in July 2020. Given the difficulties I have working in colour, I had a feeling charcoal was a medium that could really work for me. Paul's enthusiastic and knowledgeable instruction greatly encouraged me and, for a number of months, I endeavoured to do at least half an hour's sketching a day.


Drawing from life in a class setting was very demanding. There was no time to sit around navel gazing - well, actually, there was a bit! I found it helpful to have the constraint of very short, one or two minute poses, that forced me to try and capture the essence of what I was seeing instead of getting bogged down in detail. It brought back memories of my life drawing classes at Methodist College Belfast with the fearsome Mr Stewart, our head art teacher, and classmates like Steve, Janet and Fiona as models - except they kept their clothes on! I wish I'd kept a sample of those drawings but, alas, I binned them years ago.


Although rarely satisfied with the life drawings I do, it is great to feel I am back on the learning curve. And, my goodness, there's so much to learn.


Here's a selection of drawings taken from my sketch books:




Enjoying the sunshine at Port Macquarie


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