Blog Ready Charcoal

I’ll be talking mainly about the use of charcoal and chalk, both ostensibly mass mediums, but here’s some brief thoughts on line and mass as it relates to drawing.

Line is a convention, as the artist uses different kinds of the lost and found edges and how those edges suggest perceived boundaries in nature, the artist does this by thickening, darkening and tapering (etc) the line inferred from nature.

Mass mediums such as charcoal, usually a medium taught to students learning to paint, is very helpful as it teaches value and laying-in with mass: things can be pushed closer to what’s viewed in terms of value.

I think most mediums have a set of things that they’re best at, not that one has to stick to these laws, but it’s helpful to find out where certain mediums can be pushed.

Line medium like pencil, lead-point etc..can be used similarly as mass mediums, but I wouldn’t personally do this, like I said above about different mediums and their uses, for instance I wouldn’t push pencil too dark to achieve a wider value range, it’s not really suited to it and it becomes shiny and horrible: I believe that pencil drawing only really works on a small scale…at least most of the pencil work that I’ve enjoyed have been small (some of the French artist Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres 1780-1867 pencil portraits), the strokes start to break down when done on a larger scale, even in the most skilled of hands.

A lot of my favourite drawn pictures have a wonderful balance between line and mass.

Here’s three artists that I’ve been looking at recently, then some of my drawings.

Nicolai Fechin 1881-1955

Nicolai Fechin 1881-1955

Fechin’s work can lean towards illustration and away from visual impression, like I said above about combining line and mass he does this beautifully…there’s a lot of cleverness here.

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He goes for a lot of values and detail hence why the reference to illustration, but they still have a impressionistic feel.

The life he gets into the heads are glorious, you feel like you know them, personalties you could meet in everyday life.

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I love his use of accents, such in the above girl’s nostrils and eyes. Such interesting mark making, and also things fading in and out of focus.

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Blog Ready fechin man

Blog Ready nicolai-fechin

 Vignetting shoulders etc…is also quite lovely in many of his sketches.

Kathe Kollwitz 1867 – 1945

Kathe Kollwitz 1867 – 1945

There’s not many artists that can make Images emote to the degree that Kathe can; I sometimes find looking at her work emotionally draining.

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She deals with such heavy topics and emotions that it takes an artist of her quality to relate these things to the viewer.

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Blog Reday kathe-kollwitz

A lot of imagery dealing with mothers, children and death….as you can see she’s unflinching!

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Broad, brave and definite marks bring the drawing to a pure simple finish. Great directional lines in much of her work, whether in charcoal or chalk, as seen in the drawings above.

Philip de László 1869 - 1937

Philip de László 1869 – 1937

Though many of de László’s drawing were done straight on the canvas with paint, and very fast at that, here’s a few of his charcoals.

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These are society portraits and to that end they’re rather idealised. Lovely rich shadows that aren’t laboured and the marks have free feeling.

Blog Reday De Lazlo

Though not my favourite draftsman by any means, I find a great deal of charm in his work. These drawings couldn’t be much more different from Kollwitz’s work, either in subject matter, feeling or execution….they make a nice juxtaposition.  

 Here’s an assortment of my charcoals, some recent and others from five years ago or more.

Here’s an assortment of my charcoals, some recent and others from five years ago or more.



Here’s a very old charcoal of a writer friend of mine, I lived in the flat above him in my third year of my studies in Florence. With him I felt could get away with a wide range of mark marking as he had such an interesting face, with another model this could have appeared scratchy.



With this model I thought to put my jacket on her, thinking it worked with her pose and features. With female models I usually try to use few values and hope that my drawing suffices.



This drawing was done on the first summer back from Italy. I went for more tones in the face than I usually attempt with a female model.

Derek Mahon

Derek Mahon

This portrait of the Irish poet Derek Mahon was done this past summer in four hours, he was busy with his own work, he gave me one hour straight after his afternoon nap over the course of four evenings. Conversation flowed and I think that this has informed the portrait.



This model didn’t have a phone, she would just throw stones at my window when she felt like posing. She had an elegant neck which I’ve elongated. I very much enjoyed drawing her core features, especially her eyes which looked like she had some wisdom that she didn’t want to share with me or the world.
Jon (Miss Lucy)

Jon (Miss Lucy)

This portrait was done a number of winters ago, it’s of my friend Jon, he’s a performer in nightclub. This is one of his alter egos for his shows, Miss Lucy. He chalked up his face, used stuck on eyelashes and put scarlet lipstick on. His personality is quite gregarious, I’ve tried to show a side of him that I feel he doesn’t  show that often. I really went for very few values in the lights, obviously the chalked face helped this. I remember having a lot of fun designing the eyelashes.

I talk more about using less values in

“I felt that I have no right to withdraw from the responsibility of being an advocate. It is my duty to voice the sufferings of people, the sufferings that never end and are as big as mountains.”

Kathe Kollwitz

“I believe that to worship nature is a religious duty. I see in nature the fullest revelation of the Divinity, and my faith is that only by acceptance of this revelation and by striving to realise it in all its perfection can I prove my worship to be sincere.”

― Philip de László