The two most crucial principles in charcoal drawing are 1) layering and 2) thoroughly mixing all of the above tools together into a cohesive whole. The chronic problem I see in students is when students limit themselves to only using 1-2 charcoal supplies. If you are failing to see the importance of one of the above listed supplies, then you need to start experimenting with that supply and figure out what it’s good for. In this drawing below, the student only used vine charcoal and did not take any initiative to add compressed charcoal or engage with the erasers. Consequently, the drawing has a very thin, washed out look because the range of tones is so limited.
Another common issue is students isolating each supply into one area of the drawing. For example, in this portrait drawing below, it’s evident that the student only used charcoal pencil in the hair, and used a lot of smudging of compressed charcoal in the face. These two areas are drawn so differently from each other, that they fail to integrate within the drawing, giving the drawing a fractured appearance.
Layering is critical in a charcoal drawing, most students only do 1 layer of charcoal in their drawings and stop working prematurely. For a charcoal drawing to demonstrate a significant sense of depth, texture, and substance, a minimum of 4-5 layers of charcoal marks on top of each other is necessary. In a charcoal drawing, you’ll remove and add to each area repeatedly, this builds a visual history for your drawing that will show a rich feeling of depth in the marks.
Art Supply Tips
Charcoal drawing supply set
erasers for charcoal drawing
white plastic erasers