Charcoal Drawings

1,849 artworks, 322 artists
A piece of burnt wood is perhaps the first art material that humanity began to use for drawing. Charcoal drawings are one of the first art lessons for beginner artists who start their path to painting. However, the apparent simplicity of the material does not mean that learning to draw with charcoal is an elementary skill at all. Charcoal drawings teach you to see the main and secondary details in sketches for a future picture, build a general composition, use a paper background as a color, and give excellent skills in toning and shading.

The charcoal painting technique appeared about the 15th century. Initially, the artists used common charcoal, preferring walnut, willow and grapes. It was only in the 19th century that they thought of grinding and pressing coal using vegetable adhesives — the lines and spots could get thicker, more color-saturated this way. For good adhesion in this technique, rough paper is chosen.

Easel painting often begins with charcoal drawings — artists use sketches to select a composition, proportions, estimates of the foreground and background, decorative elements, the poses, the model’s gesture. However, many drawings can be considered full-fledged artworks and have a high artistic value. Charcoal was one of the favourite artistic materials used for sketches by Sandro Botticelli and Leonardo da Vinci. Such masters of painting as Ilya Repin and Théodore GéricaultEdgar Degas and Paul Gauguin left us many fine works that were executed in coal. The “zigzag” art of John Singer Sargent is widely known, who, at the height of his fame, in 1907 abandoned oil painting and switched to charcoal drawings, creating several hundred wonderful portraits.

Charcoal drawings, as well as any preparatory drawings, teach artists to define the main idea of their work and focus on it. The play of light and shadow, accents, highlights, the choice of line thickness, training in the correct use of tone, working with shading — these are some of the skills and abilities that a future master receives in the process of such training.