Tools and Writings for Oil Painters, Draftsmen and Artists


Charcoal is a difficult beast to tame

If graphite lives in the light and behaves smoothly in all circumstances, charcoal has a wild and shadowy nature. Raw, coarse, obscure, velvety, unforgiving, it is a god of the underground.

1. What is charcoal?

The truth is something that burns. It burns off dead wood. And people don’t like having the dead wood burnt off, often because they’re 95 percent dead wood.” Jordan Peterson in video below.
Once you’re done, save the burnt wood for drawing.

2. Charcoal is dark enough

Charcoal is a lot darker than graphite. Charcoal will get us much closer to those realistic rich black shadows. But once we’ve tasted such darkness, it seems it never gets dark enough. Let your eyes look into its profundities. It will always come out as a untruthful shade of dark grey. But if it were rich enough, would it still even exist?

3. Shaping charcoal

Charcoal is coarse and impetuous. It needs to be shaped like a needle if you intend to fill those valleys in the paper. Your best bet is to use charcoal pencils and learn to be nice to your pencil sharpener.

4. Choose your paper carefully when it comes to charcoal

Charcoal, sheet, scissors. Sheet wins charcoal : choose your drawing paper very carefully. Most papers just can’t take it! Experiments are key.

5. Charcoal and light gradations

Light gradations reveal what charcoal can’t hide. They need more practice than you’d think.

6. The dream of sharpening charcoal

Pencil sharpeners are charcoal black holes. They irremediably break and eat pencils. They finish by eating themselves, your hand and you entirely.

7. Charcoal likes to fly everywhere

Charcoal likes to fly and explore unknown territory. Make sure you have a device that catches devilish charcoal dust.

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