Charcoal Explorations

FruitfulDark: Charcoal Landscape
Invented Landscape in Charcoal

I have been spending about 20 minutes each morning working in charcoal. I generally work without any plan or source. I have only about four basic charcoal colours, but I use mainly black and white. The images shown above and below were both about 15 to 20 minute sketches. I really enjoy the feeling of working on a slightly larger than normal format, and especially without a care about “wasting paint” if the result is less than satisfying.


I found the charcoal, unlike oil paint, does not look very good up close. One loses the effect that the work has when viewed across a room. The photos below shows the A3 pad on my makeshift easel. When I step back, as in the left photo, it allows me to see if the image has potential for a painting. I have since turned the left image (top of this post), into a painting that I am quite happy about.

I love the earthy matt look of a strong charcoal line. I have been thinking of ducks and drakes on still water as the night approaches. Wendell Berry wrote a poem about this:

The Peace of Wild Things
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Wendell Berry, from The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry. 
This copy from The Poetry Foundation

Thanks to all who have encouraged me with likes, comments and especially all of you who follow my blog. I hope you are happy and content.

24 thoughts on “Charcoal Explorations

  1. that first image, Invented Landscape…. is so incredibly beautiful! It really captured my eye. And, I do like the second one as well 🙂 Charcoal has a special grace that you captured wonderfully.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Debi. I did a painting based on the first one and I really like it. I hope to post it soon – but some matt spots have appeared in the dark areas so I need to “oil it out” – something I have not done before. Fingers crossed I won’t mess it up!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks FR. I think your observation is very sensitive to the image. I feel about the same way. The drawing really started with just a jumble of black in the corner, but as soon as the horizon line went down this desolate landscape emerged. It really has that feeling of a no man’s land?

      Actually, my studio has too many windows! Most of the right side is windows, but they face north-west-ish which in NZ means changing light all the time. I have them curtained up. But in any event – the photo is taken in early morning, so still dark outside!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks Simon, yes indeed it seems to be so. By coincidence I ended up with my kids in the Auckland War Museum today. It has an impressive WW I exhibition. Thanks for visiting!


    1. Thanks Margaret. It is Saturday morning now and I hope to turn some more charcoal sketches into paintings this weekend. I also plan to take some time to see what you and some of my other friends on WordPress have been up to. So watch out for comments!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I think it’s great that you’re pursuing drawing on this larger scale that’s closer to the size of the paintings. You can exercise the same freedom of invention that you’ve used making thumbnails and yet the drawing is already something in its own right. So glad that you’ve already used one for a painting. That will be fun to see.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Aletha. I hope to post the painting based on the first (top) drawing soon. As I commented elsewhere – the painting has gone dead/matt in some areas so I have to oil it out – something you told me about in one of my very early posts. Let’s hope it turns out OK!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Gretl for your kind words and also for the re-blog. It is very interesting that you think the paintings resemble the aftermath of a battle – see the comment by Fragglerocking above – it seems there is something desolate in the drawings that evoke that sort of emotion. I am not really such a dark person! But I do like the tonal contrasts and the mystery an open landscape with a low horizon line evokes. Thanks again for your comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I really like the energy in your charcoal drawings. Maybe as a result of your sense of freedom in the medium?
    And what a great poem. “Forethought of grief” is a particularly interesting idea.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Nadia. I really feel liberated when I work with the charcoal, no real outcome in mind, just playing around. Whether starting a business or an artwork, that is often the best attitude, I think?

      Liked by 1 person

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