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Charcoal Sketching Tutorial

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#1 Erix

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Posted 11 October 2005 - 09:51 PM

My sketches are done mostly with charcoal, sometimes adding chalk or graphite. So for anyone interested in the technique I use, I hope this will be helpful. - Grasshopper :grin:

Firstly, I normally sketch using the Rite in the Rain paper and the charcoal I use I've had for so long that I don't recall the brands. However, I do know that it's compressed and reformed from pure wood charcoal. The broken bits have their use as well, since sharp edges can be used for finer areas.

Also, I think it should be noted that my paper usually is approximately 4x7", with my sketch only using up 1/2 - 2/3 of that page. And all my lunar sketches are done at the EP using a bluish/white soft headlamp that normally hangs from my EP or the focuser.

For the sake of this tutorial I have used a 60 lb wt art paper at my tool bench with camera and tripod set up above me. My sketch is drawn using a photo from Nasa out of Wood's "Modern Moon" as my subject. I never use photos for my renderings, but rather I sketch at the eyepiece. However I chose to use the photo for the sake of this tutorial because its been cloudy for days.

First step - lightly outline the featured object and fill in the darkest area of it faintly. This way you can draw over it in case you don't have the formation correct. It gives me a starting point to focus on.

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#2 Erix

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Posted 11 October 2005 - 09:53 PM

I call this "dipping the stump in the charcoal" as I do this very often for faint areas to leave a soft outline or to fill in very faint shaded areas.

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#3 Erix

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Posted 11 October 2005 - 09:56 PM

Next I add shading inside the crater by using a light gray chalk. Normally I would dip into the charcoal with my blending stump (and use the blending stump then to fill in the shaded area), but this sketch is so big it would have taken me ages. So I substituted with the lighter chalk.

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#4 Erix

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Posted 11 October 2005 - 09:58 PM

This handy little gadget is a holder for my charcoal stick pencils. The pencils I use have no wood around them and this holder supports it better so I don't snap it in half with my clumsy vice-grip landscaping hands! :lol:

In this photo, I now begin to outline the shadowed area of the crater since I am happy with it's shape.

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#5 Erix

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Posted 11 October 2005 - 10:01 PM

I then filled it in with a larger chunk of charcoal, blended it in with the larger stump, and started adding a little detail as placement points (meaning little markings that will help me with placing more details as the sketch progresses...am I making sense? :question: :crazy:)

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#6 Erix

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Posted 11 October 2005 - 10:03 PM

Now it's time to add some background effect. Again, normally I would do this with my finger dipped into the charcoal, but the area is so big that it made it easier to use the chalk.

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#7 Erix

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Posted 11 October 2005 - 10:03 PM

NOW I can use my finger...it was beginning to feel left out!

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#8 Erix

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Posted 11 October 2005 - 10:05 PM

Now I add the preliminary darker area around the crater and the surrounding area.

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#9 Erix

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Posted 11 October 2005 - 10:07 PM

More detail is added inside the crater as well switching back and forth between the charcoal pencil and the lump of charcoal.

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#10 Erix

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Posted 11 October 2005 - 10:09 PM

Nearly done. Finishing touches are added with light gray chalk, sides of a small round stick of charcoal, part of the fat lump of charcoal, and finer details with the charcoal pencil.

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#11 Erix

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Posted 11 October 2005 - 10:10 PM

Et voila! May I present to you, my friends, Linne!

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#12 Erix

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Posted 11 October 2005 - 10:18 PM

Here are some of my kit that I like to use. In this sketch, I've used two blending stumps, my fingers, the white vinyl eraser sparingly for highlights that I accidently marked over, the little round long piece of charcoal, the fat lump of charcoal, the charcoal pencil, and two of the gray chalks, oh and the sandpaper.

1. Charcoal pencil in its holder
2. Sandpaper for sharpening and cleaning my blending stumps
3. Section of harder charcoal pencil
4. Round pieces of charcoal
5. Fat charcoal lump
6-11. Shades of gray, black and white chalks
12. Graphite stick
13 & 14. Fat sticks of graphite
15. fatter piece of gray chalk
16. Fabric eraser (white vinyl)
17 & 18. blending stumps
19. Kneadable eraser

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#13 Erix

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Posted 11 October 2005 - 10:19 PM

And for those of you interested in the differences between charcoal, regular pencils, chalk and graphite sticks (as well as three types of papers):

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#14 Paul Rix

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Posted 11 October 2005 - 11:47 PM

An animated GIF of the photo's Erika took while creating the sketch:


Animation (209K)

#15 Tim2723

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Posted 12 October 2005 - 12:10 AM

Thanks Erika (and Paul too!)!!!

Another fine contribution to our little community.

Do you find charcoal messy at the scope? I've only tried the regular charcoal pencils and even they scare me when I think of the mess I could make of my equipment. What's the secret to keeping everything clean?

#16 Erix

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Posted 12 October 2005 - 12:25 AM

Thanks Tim!

I'm very careful with our lenses...everything that is not in use is covered and my journal or clipboard is on my knee far away from the EP.

I have a little plastic pencil box that I take out with me and it usually only has a small portion of the tools shown above.

So bottom line is....no, I don't find it messy at all. I'm just careful of wiping my finger tips off on my jeans before changing EP's.

#17 kraterkid

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Posted 12 October 2005 - 02:00 AM

Erika what a wonderful tutorial and a great sketch! That drawing of Linne seems three dimensional and the tonalities are so rich. Charcoal is quite expressive in your capable hands (Perhaps they are as strong as a vice grip but they are as precise and graceful as a concert pianists')! Thank you for the depth of detail you brought to bear on the matter of tools and the different appearances of the various mediums (charcoal, #2 pencil, gray chalk and graphite stick) on select papers.

Does laying down graphite first prevent that same area from taking a subsequent layer of gray chalk or charcoal?

You've done such a fantastic job! :bow: :bow: :bow: Thanks for enlightening us all on the use of charcoal as a sketch medium. Tom, this post has sticky written all over it! :jump:

Rich :cool:

#18 Sol Robbins

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Posted 12 October 2005 - 05:36 AM

Excellent!

#19 oldsalt

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Posted 12 October 2005 - 05:46 AM

Outstanding Erika. The animation is also very nicely done, watched it loop a few times just to catch all the progress. Looks like I'll be adding charcoal to my arsenal next.

#20 Gandalf

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Posted 12 October 2005 - 08:06 AM

Erika,

Thanks very much - this is all great stuff!

I plan a big sketching season as soon as my new telescope arrives and I get it installed. I have all the supplies for pencil and charcoal sketching and a little desk easel which I'll get set up in my observatory on my folding pine table.

Meanwhile I'll do some practice sketches from photos, which should put me in the right mood :)

Thanks to you and other Lunies I have plenty of hints and tips to get me started!

Stuart

#21 Erix

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Posted 12 October 2005 - 08:25 AM

Thanks everyone.... :rainbow:

Rich, graphite and charcoal do hinder each other somewhat. If I add graphite first (I rarely do as I normally do all my initial outlines with a thin blending stump or lightly with a thin piece of charcoal) it is applies sparingly. Sometimes if you press down too hard with the graphite, you can see every line of it after you rub in charcoal. As you stated, the paper doesn't seem to accept the charcoal well if graphite is used first.

Graphite was not used at all in this tutorial sketch.

Normally if I were to use graphite, it would just be a graphite pencil stick (#12 in the kit photo) and done for some very fine areas of a nearly finished sketch. It seems to work better over the charcoal than the other way around.

#22 Erix

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Posted 12 October 2005 - 08:27 AM

Stuart, congratulations on your new scope!!!

#23 Gandalf

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Posted 12 October 2005 - 10:02 AM

Thanks Erika, I am now counting the days until it arrives... :grin:

And it has started raining already :bawling:

Stuart

Stuart, congratulations on your new scope!!!



#24 Jeremy Perez

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Posted 12 October 2005 - 11:44 AM

Wonderful tutorial Erika! :bow:

I know when I'm ready to give charcoal a try I'll be referring back to this. Thank you very much!

#25 LivingNDixie

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Posted 12 October 2005 - 11:56 AM

WOW...I'm impressed!






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