ANIM1003: Life and Observational Drawing
This drawing is the opposite of other drawing methods, in which dark marks are added to white paper. A drawing can be made by covering a piece of paper in charcoal and then rubbing into it to reveal the paper. The white of the paper is revealed as a positive negative, and at is whitest, it reads as a highlight - the lightest tone. A range of mid-tones can be made by rubbing out more or less charcoal.
Try to see your objects as being larger than life and having monumental qualities. Imagine them being as tall as the Eiffel Tower - a landscape to walk across - or an island in the sea, around which you could fly a helicopter. Visualise the spaces between them as being alive - sea, sand, sky.
1) Cover the whole of the drawing paper with charcoal, edge to edge, in a mid-to dark tone, by using the side of the charcoal stick, and a tissue or old cotton rag to slightly rub the charcoal into the surface of the paper.
Imagine being in a dark room, where nothing is visible, and you have a dimmer switch for the light - gradually turn the switch on and the objects and the space become visible. Your blackened piece of paper is the dark room, and your erasers and rags are the dimmer switch. You will gradually reveal your composition by taking the darkness away, and revealing light through the whiteness of the paper.
Imagine you are Michelangelo chipping away at a large piece of stone. Your charcoal blackened piece of paper is the equivalent of Michelangelo’s stone. You now have to use the eraser as a chisel and carve into the darkness to reveal.
Start by drawing/describing the negative space and creating a context for the model.
2) With your eraser start to take the darkness out of the negative space. Look very carefully to establish the areas of most and least light. You will need to erase right back to the paper for an equivalent of most light, and will probably have to add more charcoal for your darkest areas. Establish the lightest areas first and have in mind that you are trying to create a feeling of light.
3) Keep looking and comparing the tones of all the parts, each area against another “this is lighter, this is darker” etc.
4) Use the cloth, the eraser, your fingers, a soft brush, and the ball of your hand to adjust and integrate the negative light of the paper and the charcoal. You might like to describe the light as soft, gentle, dappled, or harsh - so make your rubbed out marks accordingly. It might help to think of your drawing as a black and white reproduction of an Impressionist painting, where the negative dabs of light left by the putty rubber are the equivalent of lots of relatively small brush marks.
5) Show that the surface of the paper that the model is standing on passes underneath them, and that at the same time, the light in the negative space is behind, between and wrapping around them.
6) When you have dealt with the negative space, and start working on the objects, it may be necessary to define them a bit more clearly at their edge.
7) Use the pointed end of a piece of charcoal to make short, slightly stabbed marks, or slide the side of the charcoal stick to define any bits of contour, and integrate the marks into the picture space with your finger.
8) Wherever possible, make a feature out of any incidental detail, quirky or particular characteristic. The eye needs to be offered moments of interest in the drawing. Mould your eraser into a point to get at the details. Gradually as you begin to work on the figure, it will seat itself into the background and it will probably be necessary to re-work some of the background at the same time.
9) Do not be afraid to use your cloth and rub out areas that you are unhappy with in order to restructure your drawing. Charcoal is very flexible.
On completion of this drawing you will have carved into the surface of charcoal covered paper and revealed an illusion of the visible world. In a similar way to the way in which Michelangelo found his figures in a piece of stone. You will begin to recognise the flexible beauty of charcoal, and this subtractive all over way of using it to make drawings.