Charcoal Class Sketches

charcoal drawing of pears


I just finished the last session of a charcoal class I was taking, so I thought I'd share the progression for posterity. ("What posterity is reading this blog, Keely?" It's me. I'm the posterity.)

I have never drawn in charcoal before, and my last art class was in middle school, which means I lack a lot of the fundamentals that I think any artist should probably have. I know I have made similar comments on some of my past art posts about trying to play catchup on learning lately. This class was one of the ways I was hoping to achieve that, and I think it helped!

For the first few sessions we focused solely on drawing lines and attempting to reflect something accurately on the page in front of us.

charcoal sketches of circular bottles charcoal sketches of square bottles charcoal sketch of pepper mill charcoal log sketch charcoal ribbon sketch charcoal rope sketch

This was hard for me. I've never sighted before, and no matter how many weeks went by my arm never stopped shaking wildly when I did it. Drawing at scale was new for me; drawing large and using your shoulder was new for me. And the worst part was that most of these drawings were time limited, so I felt like I was constantly struggling to get anything done.

After we got a handle on that (or at least could pretend we had a handle on it), we were finally allowed to try shading. It turns out I really like shading in charcoal. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it's actually not that hard for me to portray an object somewhat accurately if I just allow myself to spend enough time on it.

Of course, my main character flaw is chronic impatience, so we'll see how well I apply this knowledge to my daily life.

charcoal drawing of glass bottles charcoal drawing of bananas and squash charcoal drawing of a dodgeball and deflated dodgeball charcoal drawing of pears

Once we got into shading we dropped the timed exercises and started spending our entire two hour class times on each piece, which (for me) included the time spent on some warm up sketches so I could sort of figure out scale. Some of my classmates jumped right into drawing each time, which was very brave. One of the best things about the entire class was being in a room with other people doing art.

It didn't really matter that none of our experience levels were the same because each of us felt like the things were were trying to learn were mind-meltingly impossible at the start--and then largely achievable by the end. And it's so reassuring to be surrounded by other people who are having the exact same struggle you are. Since I haven't taken many formal art classes, it's been a long time since I've had that feeling. I really look forward to having it again.

My absolute favorite thing to work on was the deflated ball: it provided a lot of opportunity for deep shadows and reflective highlights. My least favorite were the pears, which I think would be a fun painting exercise but in charcoal I was really struggle to be able to see the values in their shadows.

The only regret I have from all of these classes were the glass bottles: I didn't have enough time to really give them the time I needed since it was our very first shading exercise. If I get a chance I definitely want to try more foundational art classes!

Now I guess I'll go figure out what to do with a bunch of literally messy sketchpad pages??

Last Edited: 12.5.2022 | Return to Blog Index