Pencil or Charcoal?

When I start teaching beginner drawing classes the materials I put out are pencils and charcoal.  I soon noticed that some learners were confused by the choice and don’t know which to pick.  This is because they are not sure of the differences between the two and in particular they know very little about charcoal.

How is charcoal different to pencil?

Charcoal is produced by burning twigs.  The smoldering wood, usually willow results in a sooty black that makes a dark, rich, smooth line that can be smudged with ease.

Willow Charcoal
Willow Charcoal

Charcoal comes in stick form, willow charcoal is the most common and they look ‘twig -like’ being long and thin.  Below is a thicker type of stick of charcoal know as ‘compressed charcoal’ the result is a thicker, blacker line more like a pastel.  Both types are very versatile and encourage a bolder, more free line than pencil can give. Changing the pressure will give varying tones, much like pencil but charcoal can give very dark, black areas.

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How Do I Handle Working Outdoors?

Just the thought of working outside is intimidating for many of the beginner learners on my courses.  There are many benefits of doing some drawing and painting outside, so here are some tips to prepare you to go out.

There are many obstacles to drawing and painting outside, the British weather is one of course as it is not always sunny and warm.  Then there is all the other factors like the fact you can feel very ‘on show’ with every passer-by looking over your shoulder! These interruptions in busy areas from inquisitive public are not always welcome or conducive to our best work. I will explain some ways of getting around some of the issues of working outside.

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