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  • Hélène Planquelle

My Struggles with Charcoal Drawing… (and Why I Love it)

Updated: Dec 29, 2020

Thanks for joining me on my artistic journey!  As I spent these past two months abroad, and away from my studio, I took that opportunity to focus on improving my charcoal technique. It is always easier to take a piece of paper and draw than get into the whole oil painting process. Although I primarily define myself as an oil painter, I want to keep a drawing side to my practice for the sake of aesthetic diversity.  Out of all the drawing techniques, I recently grew fond of charcoal for the stark light and shadow contrasts it allows as well as dramatic effects. It also has an incredible soft powdery texture that brings a lot of depth to a work if one knows how to control it... And here comes the tricky part!  Charcoal is basically powder and uncontrollable in essence:  it is hard to sharpen, it breaks all the time, it is extremely volatile and it stains everything... So let's be honest, it is hell! But I'm a bit stubborn so I have made it my own challenge to tame that beast! Now let me introduce you to my latest charcoal drawing piece... 

Let's give credit where it is due!

I am not reinventing any wheel and many great artists have paved my way whether in their use of charcoal, or similar mediums like black stone and graphite powder. Here are a few which technique and aesthetic I relate to the most.  

My absolute reference being French artist Ernest Pignon Ernest.

His classical style, technical mastery as well as the emotional charge of his drawings are pretty much all I aim for in life... 

I am also looking up to more contemporary artists like Allen Williams and Sainer in two completely different genres, one being a sci-fi artist and the other a street artist. 

Now it's my turn!  

I have entitled this new series of charcoal drawing "In the confines of fear", quoting the lyrics of one of Ben Howard's song (check it out) "We all live our lives in the confines of fear". 

I believe, one of our biggest fears is abandonment, loosing the people we love. So we cling on to them and hold them so tight in our arms they might suffocate.

Of course, it's totally different from what I just showed you up there, but this is the magic of creative inspiration. However, I feel I overworked the lighting, and aim at a more chiaroscuro rendering in the future. But this is an ongoing process...

I am currently working on a second piece in the same vein and for the same series.

And, most importantly, I have started doing time-lapse videos to share my process! Have a look! 

If you want to see more of my works, check out my galleries!


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