Charcoal Still Life


I have been trying to improve my drawing skills, so last weekend I bought some charcoal and set up a still life table in the corner of my studio. This is my first, fairly quick study using my dear cast iron teapot and pottery mug.

As I did this, I was just playing to get a feel of the charcoal again after a long time. I was amazed at how the forms took shape even though I had only filled in the silhouette, before I had rendered any variation in values.

Hawthorne said:

Draw as little as is compatible with your conscience – put down spots of color. Seeing things as silhouettes is drawing – the outline of your subject against the background, the outline and size of each spot of color against every other spot of color it touches, is the only kind of drawing you need bother about. If you do that faithfully you will be surprised at the result. (from: Hawthorne on Painting). [italics mine]

The dark of the charcoal and the inside of that teapot made me think of a poem by Charles Simic about the inside of a stone. Here is the last of three verses:

I have seen sparks fly out
When two stones are rubbed,
So perhaps it is not dark inside after all;
Perhaps there is a moon shining
From somewhere, as though behind a hill –
Just enough to make out
The strange writings, the start chars
On the inner walls.

Thanks to all of you who have encouraged me with follows, likes and positive comments. May the star charts on your inner walls lead you to your true self.

7 thoughts on “Charcoal Still Life

  1. Of course, when Hawthorne writes “draw as little as is compatible with your conscience” he addresses the art of PAINTING. Drawing — in and of itself though — is the Best Thing Ever. Drawing is a universe unto itself. A sketch. A fully realized, elaborate work of art. Gazillions of approaches in between. So, just saying. My advice (notwithstanding that I love the Hawthorne quote) would be “draw to have as much fun as you can handle.” One still has to do the chores, pay the bills, meet one’s social obligations …

    I really admire this drawing — in particular because of the way you have included a perception of behind and around the objects. The biggest mistake people make in art is to somehow think that the picture is about the stuff. But the picture is everything between one edge and another. Even blanks left in the page can come alive when one is sensitive to the energy of that space. You’ve got all kinds of interesting bits of light and dark going on everywhere in this picture and yet the things that you meant to emphasize are duly there presenting themselves.

    Remember what I said about drawing! BEST. THING. EVER.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Aletha, I was convinced you would have an interesting take on the Hawthorne quote! Of course you are completely right – Hawthorne is talking about drawing in the context of painting – probably specifically oil painting. And even there, I know his views were/are seen by some as controversial. An lack of drawing skills always show up at some stage, in my own experience.
      Like you say – drawing is something that can stand very well on its own as an art form. Just think of the drawings of Da Vinci, Daumier and Kathe Kollwitz. Thanks for your comment!

      Liked by 1 person

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