Charcoal Is Not My Friend

My second drawing class was last night; we worked on our "entrance drawing".

It was a still life: bottles and trinkets around a long table. We were allowed only charcoal, a few erasers, and a chamois. She refused to comment on our progress. She said we could stop when we had a "full, complete drawing".

I found my self incredibly nervous when starting out, and did a miserable job blocking in, so things were out of proportion... I completely screwed up the angle of the edge of the table. I focused on a small grouping of items, but--since this was 18x24, larger than I have ever attempted--I started way too small, and decided to incorporate as much of the scene as possible, including another cluster to the left and over the edge of the table to the right and above. The overall drawing ended up low-key as a result. My favourite part of the resulting drawing was the knee of another student across the table. ; ) Anyway, the cluster to the left was disproportionate. I attempted to fix it slightly, but it was too far gone, so I just tried to relate things as naturally as I could, even if it was wrong. The feather fucked me up entirely: it just looks like a big long, odd-shaped and out-of-place shadow. I finished in about 90 minutes.

I'm not fond of charcoal, and know none of the techniques. If the damn drawing were in graphite, I'm sure it would have been fine (though it would have taken twice as long). That said, I was able to intuit some of the advantages of smudging, and I have to say the tone in my drawing wasn't horrible. My line sucked: I am simply not used to drawing on that scale. All in all, I would have thrown it out when I was done. Sorry, I didn't bring my camera, so I can't show it to you. But I can tell you that charcoal is not my friend.

On the positive side, when I walked around the room after finishing, I noticed that everyone else's drawings were just outlines of forms. No one really used tone at all. There was one nice drawing, but it was nice only because she had abstracted everything (again: just line, but with nice gradients of tone coming from select edges). ...Unfortunately, this is something the professor has already said wouldn't fly: this class is about accurate rendering, not interpretation. I foresee arguments with this student on the subject. And, in her defense, it was a nice drawing. A keeper, in fact, where mine (best rendering in the class) was trash.

Two final comments: 1) after loosening up (about 30 minutes in), the rest of the class flew by. Drawing is very relaxing, once you're in the zone; and 2)
my hand is cramped today.

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