Practice with Charcoal

I am about to start my first Graduate course for my MFA.  I am excited and scared.  You see, many years ago, I was accepted into a MA program for English, and I completed 2/3 of that program until expenses forced me to leave Grad school and my dreams of working as a college professor.  So the years went on and I found myself still writing and drawing.  It was what I really loved to do, and as time wore on I found myself trying out new mediums to be creative in.  I started painting wooden boxes while I did Ren Faire for a couple of years and that got me started into acrylic paint.  And the more I played with the paint, the more I wanted to see if I could get any better at it.  Now I am to the point again in my life where I want to do something with my artistic talents.  Unfortunately, jobs for artists that do not have at least a Masters Degree are non-existent, at least from what I have discovered, so a degree is really needed.  So here I am about to start my first required class.

This is my last practice picture using some of the tools that I will be required to use for the drawing course.  I wanted to select a subject that I found inspiring and that I would care enough about to fight with the materials and try to get them to perform in a manner in which I thought was satisfactory.  The picture I worked from came from a facebook friend’s photo collection.  I barely know the gentleman, but I find the images that he posts of himself to be fabulous.  His face is charismatic and the settings he chooses are wonderful.  His photographer is also very talented, so I cannot take credit for the composition of the picture.  Although I did add the boat since I kinda wished that one had really been waiting in the background to take this man on some grand adventure.

Sketched out the basic lines.

I started the drawing by keeping the charcoal outlines very light.  I just wanted to get everything sketched out so that I had a basic idea of where everything was to be placed.  I don’t normally work from an image on the computer screen, so this was another first for me.  I was surprised that this went as well as it did.

Making sure the Viking man was drawn well first.

When I paint, I normally do the background first along with areas that will require layers of color, but this time I felt it was important to get the most important part of the picture put into place.  I felt that if my Viking man did not look good and I went through the effort to get everything else done that it would have been bad for me emotionally.  So I wanted to make sure I liked the way he looked.    And once I was satisfied that he looked pretty good, then I could proceed with the rest of the practice drawing.

Trouble with pencil strokes in the clouds.

So the third picture shows the man is completely drawn and the sky has been filled in as well.  While doing the sky I discovered that the charcoal will not blend all the marks put down by the pencil.  I tried to use the stomp/tortillion to smooth out the circular pencil strokes that I made when applying the charcoal to the paper but I could not smooth it out.  This was important to learn for other parts of the picture such as the water and ground.  I did not want to make that same mistake twice.

Added the boat, water, and rocks.

The fourth picture shows the water added in and the start of the shading for the rocks.  I made sure that the pencil strokes followed the waves or horizontal directions so that when I used the stomp to blend and smooth the charcoal that I would not be fighting the pencil strokes.  As for the rocks that appeared to be some form of granite, I stippled dots onto the rocks since I knew that blending would not make these marks go away.  This created a different feel or texture for the rocks making them more believable, and then finally I added the final shading on the rocks, ground color, and shadow for the completed 5th photo.  During the final stages of the composition, I discovered that the rubber kneaded eraser worked very effectively to create lighter areas such as the sunlight breaking through the clouds and highlights on the water and clothing.

Final. It is also good to know when to stop working on a piece of artwork.

I know that this is not as good as a great master’s work, but this drawing tells me that I can improve and learn how to use this medium, which I don’t really like.  I can do this.  So practice, practice, practice.  The old schools of arts and crafts must have inspired that saying because practice really does make a difference.

It goes for the Bloggers as well. 🙂

G. Winkler ©2012

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Gretchen Winkler is a Writer, Artist, Radio Show Co-Host, Costume Designer, and ordered Knight. For the past 20 years she has authored several informational websites, started several technical companies, and has been an avid student of art, literature, history, technology.

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Posted in Art, Inspiration, Preparation

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