Drawing with Charcoal: Historical Techniques of 19th Century France


Dark. Velvety. Grainy. Soft. These are some of the central characters of charcoal-gray that artists are drawn to. Charcoal comes from charred bits of the grove, capable of producing a range of feelings that are easily reworked. But because charcoal-gray specks are large, they don’t readily adhere to a surface. And so finished jobs of artistry could not be made with the medium until the 18th and 19th centuries when creators had the means to bind or fasten it to paper–producing a golden glow. Timothy Mayhew demonstrates the method used are exploited by French producers who fell in love with charcoal…

Among them Maxime Lalanne, whose “Castle Overlooking a River” exemplifies their methods. Driving outdoors, the artist draws an easel and a portable frame handled with stretched article, which resembles a painter’s canvas. The article itself is textured–ideal for maintaining charcoal-gray. The artist likewise draws a variety of attracting tools and materials. Utilizing the side of a stay of charcoal-gray, he puts down large-scale areas of tone–the foreground, middle ground, and sky. He mixes these wide-ranging blows with a cloth or a feathering, to soften them. Another way to apply the medium smoothly is with a brushing dipped into a powdery kind of charcoal-gray. To make marks, 19th-century creators generally used a pencil-like holder for charcoal-gray, which they treated as a small paintbrush. The key is to apply everything gently so that the light white of the working paper appearances through, and differentiates are easy to erase. Describing with charcoal-gray likewise implies selectively removing it, to make highlights.

Various tools can be applied, including a brushing. Creators of the past often used kneaded food merely like an eraser. Tightly rolled article or leather with a tapered objective, called a stump, likewise works well. Stumps or a finger can be used for blending. A charcoal-gray attracting rises over occasion through blankets of soft feelings and selectively placed darker ones. 19th-century creators generally protected their moves by brushing a resin-based fixative answer across the back of the working paper. In 1850 s France, artists created soft, ethereal-looking sceneries with charcoal-gray. Only a few years after that, darker-toned moves are the most in vogue, generally representing somber topics or darkness panoramas. Creators began working not only with charcoal-gray but with similar powdery materials–black chalk, Conte crayon, pastel–or they blended them. Experimentation emphasized the medium itself as integral to a work of art.

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