Charcoal drawing has a long and rich history that spans thousands of years, and it is an excellent medium for students to explore their artistic skills.
We started the activity with a brief history of charcoal drawing:
- Prehistoric Period: The earliest evidence of charcoal drawing can be traced back to prehistoric times, with cave paintings dating as far back as 30,000 years ago. Charcoal was one of the earliest drawing materials used by early humans to create images on cave walls.
- Ancient Egypt: Charcoal was widely used in ancient Egypt for both artistic and practical purposes. Egyptian artists used charcoal for sketching, preparing outlines, and creating preliminary drawings. It was also utilized in the process of creating papyrus manuscripts and murals.
- Ancient Greece and Rome: Charcoal drawing continued to be popular in ancient Greece and Rome. Greek artists used charcoal for sketching and as a medium for preliminary studies. It was also used in combination with other materials like red chalk for life drawings. Roman artists, such as Pliny the Elder, mentioned the use of charcoal in their artistic practices.
- Middle Ages: During the Middle Ages, charcoal drawing became an essential part of artistic training. Artists used charcoal for preparatory sketches and underdrawings, which were often later enhanced with other materials. Charcoal was particularly favoured for its versatility and ease of use.
- Renaissance: The Renaissance period saw a significant advancement in charcoal drawing techniques. Artists such as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo used charcoal extensively to create highly detailed and expressive studies. Charcoal became a favoured medium for capturing the human figure and exploring light and shadow.
- Baroque and Rococo: Charcoal remained popular during the Baroque and Rococo periods. Artists like Rembrandt and Watteau used charcoal to create lively and gestural sketches. Charcoal drawings became valued not only as preparatory studies but also as finished artworks in their own right.
- 19th and 20th Centuries: Charcoal drawing continued to be practiced by artists in the 19th and 20th centuries. Artists like Edgar Degas and Odilon Redon experimented with charcoal to create atmospheric and emotive drawings. Charcoal also gained popularity among Impressionists and Expressionists for its ability to capture movement and mood.
- Contemporary Era: In the contemporary art world, charcoal drawing remains a versatile and widely practiced medium. Artists use charcoal to create a range of effects, from delicate and precise lines to bold and expressive marks. It is valued for its ability to create rich tonal values and its tactile nature.
Next, we warmed-up with a couple of short drawing exercises.
- The 1-minute drawing warm-up exercise is a quick and dynamic activity designed to get your creative juices flowing and loosen up your drawing skills. It involves setting a timer for one minute and challenging yourself to create a drawing within that time constraint.
- The continuous line drawing warm-up exercise is a technique where you draw a subject without lifting your pencil from the paper. It involves creating a continuous, unbroken line that follows the contours and details of the subject in a single, fluid motion.
Finally, armed with their newfound knowledge and skills, the students eagerly put their artistic abilities to the test. With a renewed sense of confidence, they carefully selected the objects they wanted to draw, each choosing subjects that spoke to their individual interests and preferences.
It is important to fix charcoal, like other drawing mediums, in place to preserve its integrity. Our Campus and Academic Manager Lisa studied Fashion and Textile Design at university, and she shared her insider-trick for fixing artwork on a budget – hairspray!
Everyone was really impressed with the results, as were the passing classmates and teachers who stopped-in to see the masterpieces.
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