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How to draw a Still Life with Charcoal

In this drawing tutorial I would like to show you a little more about drawing with charcoal. In the tutorial I will show you how to paint a still life with coal. I use a piece of charcoal, a carbon pencil and a white pastel pencil. With the white pastel pencil I will highlight the picture at the end.

In addition to these pens, I will also use an estompe (paper wiper) which I use to work with the smudging technique to add beautiful soft tonal gradients. In addition, the kneaded eraser will be an important aid.

Draw a still life with tangerines

As already described, the subject should be a still life consisting of three tangerines and some dried tangerine slices. Here is the photo reference for the picture (in color and monochrome):


Photo reference still life in color

drawing still life with tangerines
Photo reference still life in black and white

To start drawing, we need a small sketch of still life. To this end, the still life on the carton is sketched with the help of the photo reference. I used an HB pencil for this. You can see the sketch in the following picture.

drawing with coal
Preliminary drawing of the still life

Now we can start drawing with charcoal. So we take a piece of charcoal and draw carefully the shadows of tangerines and the dried tangerine slices. Try to add a few structures with soft strokes. Do not press too hard with the carbon tip, otherwise you will make the drawing too dark. The real dark areas will be drawn later.

draw a Still Life with Charcoal
First layers of coal with a carbon pencil
How to draw with Charcoal
First layers of charcoal

When drawing with charcoal you can easily use the smudging technique which is a classic drawing technique. We will try it out in this exercise.
An estompe can be used to blur the charcoal. This paper wiper blurs the coal so that single stroke can be seen. It is thus possible to paint smooth light-dark gradients or even gray shades with the charcoal.

working with estompe
Blur the shadows with an estompe

In the picture below you can see how the charcoal drawing looks after using the smudging technique.

smudging with charcoal
Charcoal drawing after smudging

Structures with charcoal

The application of the coal and the blurring afterwards have already created some shadows and structures. Now it is about to work out these dark area.
I draw the first structures of the tangerines for this purpose with a pointed carbon pen. By working out these dark structures, a very considerable effect is already created, which makes the charcoal drawing clearly more expressive.


Working out dark structures with a carbon pencil

I also draw the shadows of the tangerines darker with the charcoal, which let the fruits appear much more plastically.

shading of charcoal drawing
Working out darker shadows

And now we just continue in this way. You can always blur the coal on the paper. If an area is drawn too dark, the coal can be removed with the kneading eraser to brighten up this area. Especially in connection with coal the kneading eraser is an important help. With the eraser pencil you can work out the light structure of the tangerines.

 shading with charcoal
Further shading of charcoal drawing

Not only as a beginner, you will have to do corrections with an eraser every now and then and then tone down again with the charcoal until you are satisfied with the result of the shading.

Drawing the highlights

At the end, I still work out the brightest areas with an eraser. In addition, I also use a white pastel pen for drawing this still life. With the white pastel pencil I have brightened up the highlights additionally, because the eraser pen can not always remove the complete coal from the paper.

Paint bright areas with a pastel pen
Paint bright areas with a pastel pen

In the picture below you can see the finished still life, which we have drawn with charcoal. Compared to the previous step, a few lights have been integrated here, which intensify the overall contrast and make the tangerines even more plastically.

finished charcoal drawing
The finished charcoal drawing

So much about drawing a still life with charcoal. I hope you have learned a few useful techniques to improve your own drawings and paintings.

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