Charcoal drawing is a technique involving the use of black charred organic material for sketching and making preliminary diagrams. Charcoal is made by burning a wood very slowly, covered it with soil, without the presence of Oxygen. This unique medium is carbon based and is much darker than a pencil. The richness of this versatile medium facilitates a unique experience for artists to create both extremely realistic and gestural drawings.
Cave paintings are the earliest evidence of man’s use of charcoal as an artistic medium. Probably the most famous are located in France. During the Renaissance, charcoal was often used for sketching and under-drawing paintings, but charcoal’s range of expression makes it a beautiful medium for finished work — from the gentle ochre used in Da Vinci’s Study of a Woman’s Hands to the intense black of Redon’s spiders.
Currently, three kinds of charcoals are used in art. Powered charcoal, compressed charcoal and willow/vine charcoal. In its powdered form, charcoal is used to achieve a desired shading and tone. Other kinds of charcoal are tinted charcoal and white charcoal. Charcoal is used in the same way a pencil is used. It’s a tool for drawing, shading and blending. Charcoal drawings can be loose or they can be rendered to a high degree of realism. It is easy to apply but does not adhere to the surfaces of canvases, giving artists the freedom to create smooth drawings that are easily corrected. However, a fixative is used to prevent unwanted smudging.