I was baffled, the first time an art teacher handed me a piece of charcoal. A quiet child who compulsively inked animals on inappropriate surfaces (inside textbooks, on school desks, on walls, on the arms of giggling classmates), I had been enrolled in a Saturday class in hopes that it would channel the drawing urge.
Our subject was an uninspiring bowl of oranges — in retrospect, probably not a wise choice for a classroom full of energetic nine-year-olds. My brittle black stick of vine charcoal snapped in half and peppered the paper with a galaxy of specks and smudges. After a few minutes, I abandoned the still life assignment and sketched a herd of prehistoric horses I had seen in a book on cave paintings. Dark smudged heads and bodies fading to pale bellies, slender galloping legs. The teacher did not approve.
I did not return on the following Saturday, and for the next 51 years I had little interest in drawing with charcoal… until I met the carbon pencil a few weeks ago, and immediately fell in love.
A blend of lamp black and clay, the carbon pencil is harder than traditional charcoal. It produces a deliciously deep, flat black with none of the annoying shine that graphite can leave on the paper. The carbon pencil has a lot to teach me about drawing… and none of it involves a bowl of oranges.
As always I love what you write. Question. Can you erase with a kneaded eraser like you can using charcoal sticks?
Sent from my iPhone
Yes! It behaves just like charcoal, but is more controllable, and kneaded erasers work fine to pick it up.
Val, I hope you will offer a class on carbon pencil. 🙂
as always I am so inspired by your messages!
Loretta Armstrong said:
Your writing is delicious! Thank you. Thanks too for experimenting for us with new materials and/or old ones used a bit differently. I haven’t used the charcoal pencil other than for sketching and the vine for only sketching, but will try the pencil for very detailed work. Over the years I’ve used Conte crayon for all kinds of work and love it for detail as well as sketching. Take care, stay well.
I saw the drawing of Fidelis a few weeks back and your mention of the Charcoal pencil, and it reminded me that I had one stashed away, unused. I am trying to catch up on my Journey classes, so I busted out the pencil and used it to sketch my tea leaves in lesson 29. I really liked the result, (thank you for bringing it back to my attention), and will definitely continue to explore the possibilities! The butterflies are beyond beautiful – can’t wait to see the final piece!
Sandra Bell said:
Wow, Val the picture is amazing, such a softness to it.
Julie Abercrombie said:
Hi Val! Just checking in to say hi. It’s been a long time, sorry to say! I’ve gotten way behind on the “Journey” (been dealing with illnesses…both me and my sweetheart. But both of us are doing great now!). I’m ready to jump in again with both feet! I’m so excited about using the charcoal pencil! Fidelis and the butterflies are just gorgeous! I can’t wait! And your Mom’s essay is wonderful! I grew up on the west coast but her story was sooo familiar! Cousins, picnics, the beach in summer! Ahhhh what a hoot!
Thanks for sharing…everything! I hope all is well with you! Many blessings, julie
Scott Burke said:
It is unfortunate that there are teachers like you described. Teachers that don’t understand the importance of encouraging a student to creatively explore how to use the medium in hand. I too had more than one art teacher like that when younger and I wasn’t sure how to deal with their negative energy at a young age so I sometimes let it squash my creativity. But as I grew older and became a teacher myself, I came to look back at those teachers as something I began calling “Clarifiers”. I did not like the way they taught me, but I began to understand that their actions clarified for me the things I never wanted to do as a teacher. There will always be teachers that carry a negative energy with them because of a lack of understanding or just plain incompetence. If we can see them for what they are, we can clarify our own walk by letting their behaviors show us concrete examples of how we do not want to exist. I think in the long run that will make us a better person overall and more likely to be a carrier of positive energy within the circles in which we exist. Living is a matter of finding balance. For me, using the negatives to increase the strength of the positives helps maintain a good balance. Thank you for being one of the carriers of positive energy! Keep living in the healthy, positive circles.