This drawing was from a few months ago. I had a bad headache for six days straight and decided to try drawing something to take my mind off it. It’s probably no coincidence that this is what I ended up with as it depicts pretty accurately how I was feeling at the time. Surprisingly, the headache actually started to let up after I finished the drawing. Maybe the headache itself was an angry snarling beast that needed to be released onto paper.
This was also my first time using a blending stump with charcoal. I had recently bought a new set of drawing pencils that included one but at the time I had no idea what the white thing was and actually had to google it. For anyone who doesn’t know, this is what I’m talking about:
The white piece on the right is the blending stump. Basically, it’s just a roll of compressed paper that you can hold like a pencil. You use it instead of your fingers to smudge the charcoal and create nice smooth blending effects. When the stump starts to develop a thick layer of charcoal (or graphite) on it, you can use the sandpaper block on the left to freshen it up again and reshape the point if needed.
This thing makes charcoal a little easier and less messy to work with. My parents will probably remember a lot of black fingerprints and smudges on the walls and doors in and around my bedroom when I was a teenager. I didn’t know about these things back then and I always just used my finger to blend. Charcoal is still as messy as ever, but this thing does reduce that quite a bit, and makes it possible to create much more refined effects than you ever could by smudging it with a finger.
Another important tool to use in this kind of work is the good old kneadable eraser. If you’ve ever done any pencil drawing you probably know what this is, but for anyone who doesn’t know, here is a picture of one sitting next to a regular eraser:
The kneadable eraser is very similar to that blue tacky stuff you can use to put pictures up on the wall, and actually I have heard that you can use that stuff as a super cheap kneadable eraser but I’ve never tried that myself.
The kneaded eraser is AMAZING. As far as I’m concerned it’s purely magical. It can be squeezed and shaped into whatever form you need to create precise effects. You can make it round and blunt, and just gently dab or brush over the drawing to create softer highlights, or you can make a fine point for a more defined effect. You can also use it to clean up smudges and refine edges. It’s much more versatile and precise than a regular eraser, but not as effective if you have a lot to erase or need to clean up a large area. I consider both types of erasers to be equally essential to drawing with either pencil or charcoal.
When I get to a point where I start causing more harm than good in a drawing, I call it finished. It’s like when you’re curling your hair.. there comes a point where you just start messing it up the more you try to work with it, and you have to just stop and say you’re done. I find that drawing or painting in any medium is exactly the same. When I’m done with a charcoal drawing, I spray it with a fixative to keep the charcoal where it should be and move on to the next thing.