One Method of Drawing with Charcoal

I blackened the entire paper to start both drawings, and then used a kneadable eraser to draw the vase, flowers, swan, and reeds. One thing to consider when doing this is to leave the shape of any white object blank (free of charcoal) so that it will be as white as possible. Of course, you can use a white charcoal or pastel pencil to get the white as bright as possible.

Here is my method:

  • With a light pencil I sketched in the outline of the swan.
  • Using willow charcoal or stick (I use willow charcoal), I covered the entire paper with the charcoal except the swan/vase outline.
  • Then I took a cotton ball and smoothed out the charcoal. (Depending on the type of paper, the cotton ball may remove too much charcoal – use your fingers but beware of oily fingers leaving marks on the paper. You may want to wear gloves.)
  • I apply another coat of charcoal and smooth it out, so the background is darker.
  • Using a paper towel under my hand so I don’t disturb the charcoal, (it is good if you do not touch the paper with your hands), I take my kneadable eraser and start to make the reed/flower marks.
  • I use the charcoal to darken one side of each reed around the swan to give it dimension and a sunny side smoothing out the charcoal with a Q-tip.
  • I add a bit of charcoal to make shadows and light in the water and around the flower vase background. If your background is very dark, you may only need to use a cotton ball (or finger) is rub some charcoal away.
  • Using a Q-tip, I carefully apply charcoal to make shadow areas on the swan/vase and darken the swan’s beak and face and the vase’s shadow side.
  • Lastly, I used white pastel chalk to emphasize the whitest parts of the swan/vase.
  • Keep in mind that there are always adjustments to make as you go. You will touch the paper accidentally leaving fingerprints, but these errors are easily fixed with a fresh application of charcoal.

NOTE: You will have dust from the charcoal but do not blow it off the paper for two reasons:

  1. You will make a mess by blowing charcoal dust over your drawing.
  2. You could possibly inhale charcoal (dangerous for your health) as you take in air to blow.

The safest way to clear dust off your drawing is to carefully turn it upside down over a trash can and tap the back of the drawing.