Charcoal is my medium of choice. I’m actually kind of snobby about it haha… I have tried several media over the years. I started with graphite and then tried colored pencils, pastel pencils, carbon pencils, just anything in a form of a pencil. I have not seriously tried painting (other than Paint Night with my friends for funsies), using brushes is a whole new level. Though I do use brushes for blending my charcoal, but I think it’s different with painting.
I tried charcoal early on when I was just a beginner, but I hated the messy charcoal dust and debris plus the squeaky noise it would make rubbing against the paper (shivers). So I kept using graphite and colored pencils for a couple of years. I hated the unsavory, silver sheen graphite would leave because it made it difficult to scan and take photos of the drawing. The darker the graphite grade, the more sheen it got. Annoying AF. Then the wax colored pencils would leave wax bloom on the surface of my drawings. If the drawing is not sprayed down, over time the wax will continue to surface to the top to leave a wax film on top of your drawing. Again, annoying AF. I tried using oil colored pencils, but I seem to like the wax pencils better. I don’t know what possessed me to try charcoal pencils again. Charcoal doesn’t have the sheen, the blacks are really black so the charcoal itself is very soft compared to graphite. The softness is what makes it really messy and the squeaky noise.
Somehow I toughed through its temperament and found myself falling in love with it. My drawings became exponentially better transitioning from graphite to charcoal. I felt I was starting to plateau with graphite and didn’t think I would get any better until I reintroduced charcoal. I learned to deal with the mess and ignore the squeaks because the end result is so much better than anything I’ve ever tried. I learned how to blend, learned how to make sharp lines, keep highlights white and light, and create textures. These skills took me years to learn, but so worth it. I like to keep my drawings soft, but very detailed and textured at the same time. I like my highlights really white and my shadows really black, but with so much greys in between to add dimensions and layers. Graphite gives me the ability to do all of the above, but charcoal will do all of the above on a much higher scale.
For those who use graphite, I strongly encourage you to give charcoal a try. Yes, it is a difficult medium to work with at first because you’re used to the graphite, but trust me— once you’ve learned its temperament, you’ll be so damn grateful. I love it so much that I’ve abandoned all other media and have no desire to try anything else. Charcoal is the one.
And if you find that charcoal wasn’t for you, hey, at least you tried something different and it’s another notch to your art experience.
P.S. My favorite charcoal brand is General’s Primo Euro Blend.