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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Pencils Explained for Beginners

So you have just started drawing and aren’t sure what materials to buy or even what sort of pencils to get?  I explain what basic materials I recommend for all beginners and explain a bit about them.


The Noris or ‘School Pencil’ is not suitable for drawing

There are all sorts of pencils out there from the Noris ‘school’ pencil (pictured to the right) to artists quality pencils.  I have seen learners over the years drawing with all of them!

The Noris pencils is not a suitable drawing pencil, you want to be investing in some artist quality pencils if you are serious about learning to draw.  Having the right tools for the job will certainly make the task of drawing much easier.

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