Charcoal?!? Why did it have to be Charcoal?

I hate charcoal.

I hate the mark that it makes. I hate the tactile sensation of it moving across the paper.

I hate the way it smudges and gets everywhere.

I hate the way it is almost impossible for me to get a nice smooth line out of charcoal.

I hate it.

But I keep coming back to it because so many amazing artists do so much amazing work with it. Plus I firmly believe that working outside of my comfort zone is good for me. It pushes me and helps me grow as an artist.

So I signed up to take a two day workshop from David Kassan at Off the Map – because his portrait work is stellar and because he likes charcoal.

I learned a whole lot from David. The singularly most important thing being that if you use the right paper and materials you can erase charcoal. This lessened my despising of it as a medium ever so slightly. Also he showed me a really simple way to sharpen charcoal pencils.

Of all of the portrait classes that I have taken, I liked David’s philosophy best. It made more sense to me than some of the things I have heard in other classes. He was very down to earth and made an effort to make everyone comfortable. There were some wildly differing political opinions going on in the class and he did a great job of keeping everyone calm and working together. He’s pretty bad at telling jokes, but even that helped put everyone at ease. He is a great teacher and I enjoyed getting to know him. (He was also at the show I did in Venice, but I didn’t get to talk to him much there).

Apparently he did a workshop here in Rochester a couple of years ago, but I missed that one. It was right before I started taking workshops through the Rochester Art Club. If he comes back this way, I wouldn’t hesitate to take another class from him.

I took photos of what he did as demos, but he asked us not to put them online. So here is the end of each day on the drawing that I did while I was in the workshop.

First Day:

charcoal portrait study

Second Day:

charcoal portrait study


charcoal portrait study

So a few weeks later I decided to give all this a try at home (and finally had time to do so). I started with a little bird that I had on my iPad from reference for a tattoo.

chickadee in charcoal

Then on to attempting faces:

(These are all from photographs)

portrait study charcoal

portrait study charcoalportrait study charcoal

My goal is to do a few more of these from photos and then find a figure/portrait open studio where I can try some from life. I also have a few friends who volunteered to sit for me. I need to get my lighting game down (I have a new camera) and then I can do that as well, both from life (if they will put up with me) and from photos when I can get them.

I still don’t like charcoal, but I think maybe we may have a little bit more of getting to know each other to go before we can be friends.

~ by justteejay on July 2, 2017.

3 Responses to “Charcoal?!? Why did it have to be Charcoal?”

  1. I love this TeeJay! I always enjoy seeing your work(and one day hope to have some of my own, whether on skin or on my wall), and I love reading your perspectives on medium etc. I hope to one day be brave enough to take a class. You always inspire me!

    • Take a class! Take all of the classes. Every class I have taken has had all sorts of skill levels in it, there is always something to learn. I continue to process things that I have picked up from classes long after the workshop is over. At the very very worst case scenario you find a method or a media that you don’t like and you move on. Every other scenario is better than that 🙂

  2. I always tell people that loving something and doing it well don’t always have to go hand in hand… You may not love or even like charcoal but you are so very good!! Brava!

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