This is a guest post by Rob Wellings. Rob graduated from The Landscape Atelier, and now serves as a teaching assistant. Rob shows his paintings and drawings in galleries and juried shows, and maintains a studio in Mt Desert, Maine
With its many moods and qualities, charcoal is a time-honored medium for artists across the genres. As a medium for artists drawing the landscape, charcoal is particularly suited to the changing light and weather we encounter in Nature. The wide range of values, edges, and textures possible with charcoal give the artist a naturally expressive tool that can also address the needs of fine draftsmanship.
Charcoal’s diversity is also seen in its many applications and uses. Whether applying it to laid or textured paper or canvas or using it to produce larges masses, fine lines, or washes, today’s artists continue to explore its flexibility. As we see in the examples below, artists are using charcoal to explore the aesthetics of the landscape in beautiful and interesting ways:
In these four examples, we can see the multitude of grays, the painterly drawing, and the atmospheric textures that one can achieve with charcoal. Its dry application naturally achieves an atmospheric look and can enhance Nature’s abstract qualities, as in the works of Emily Nelligan and Alexandre Hollan; or can be used as a wash and applied with a brush, as in the exciting surfaces of Michael Wann’s drawings. Even the complex forms and refined details found in Sue Bryan’s work are laced with an existential mood.
In the drawing below, Deborah Paris used the texture of the tinted paper and vine charcoal stick to depict the mass of foliage; whereas for the tree, she judiciously used a charcoal pencil and eraser to represent the contour and interior forms.
In the drawing below, I used a combination of charcoal (both vine and compressed) and wash. The fluidity of the charcoal is a wonderful medium to use when working from imagination, as I was in this drawing.
In The Landscape Atelier, we use charcoal as a bridge between graphite and oil to move students from line and contour to mass drawing, as well as exploring its possibilities as a medium for finished work.
No doubt, working with charcoal presents many challenges. Its sensitivity to touch and poor adhesion to surface call for gentle care and transport. Despite these challenges, the qualities of charcoal for the depiction of landscape is well worth a thorough exploration.