Learning to handle charcoals Made by burning organic material we get different grades of charcoal with degrees of softness. Cheap and readily available , it is excellent for practicising, sketching and some really good art .
The first time I held a charcoal stick, it brok –I probably held it too tightly . Then when I tried to draw with it on paper---the point crumbled , there were pieces of charcoal everywhere and the black dust messed up my hands which messed up my clothes and I had a messy face too . Lessons learnt were ….. 1.don’t hold the charcoal too tightly 2.do not press it hard on the paper 3. do not put the dirty fingers anywhere near the face or in mouth !!!! 4. keep some paper towels or a rag handy to clean up .
It took a while but I started holding it like a brush and voila –it worked . Suddenly I discovered the freedom in drawing with charcoal. I could make big strokes ,, fat strokes, thin strokes , small tiny strokes . Blending was so easy with just a finger or a piece of paper, or a soft brush, or a stomp or a small small . All done with really no effort ---it was all so relaxing . For me charcoal is awesome and I have learnt to control it . It is available as a vine stick ( very fragile) , a thicker stick –Conte ( much more stable ) and as a pencil (very stable ) To get a really fine line all I do is either sandpaper the point or keep rotating the side of the stick while using it for thicker strokes –the point can be filed to a needlepoint, perfect for getting into those tiny areas . The trick is hold the stick lightly , keep the wrist relaxed , and the pressure on the paper very light . To get the dark effects , just keep layering lightly over and over again. The paper should have some tooth texture to it . Of course I still have to figure out how to preserve the drawings –spraying with a fixative is not really recommended. Till I have an answer, my drawings are kept covered with Glassine paper and are lying flat in the cupboard