Sunday, 18 September 2016

Inspiration: Charcoal

Dennis Creffield ‘Norwich from the East End: High Summer’, 1987
© Dennis Creffield
I am enjoying a current experimentation with charcoal so someone said I should be looking at Dennis Creffeld, he of Warwick Cathedral large charcoal fame.  He did produce some stunning work and as soon as I looked at these it did remind me of what I have been looking at going towards with not only my charcoals, but my paintings too.

Left is 'Norwich from the East End: High Summer 1987, from the Tate.  Typical of Creffeld, the charcoal drawing is a quick yet considered study of an old building that is steeped in the grime of history.  What I like about the study is how Creffeld has worked in both loose, broad, textured strokes that use the side of the charcoal and mixed that with angled, bold lines.  One mark (the wider more vague mark) describes the form in stark light and shade, while the other (angled and bold line) picks out the structure of the architecture.

What is interesting is how Creffeld is pushing back elements by smudging and while bringing others forward, even using white chalk? in the final stages as a highlight.

In Leon Kossoff's charcoal self portrait, also from the Tate, you can see a similar approach.  Kossoff is deleting areas with rubber and working back on top with repeated layers of charcoal to create an energetic and sculptural work.

You can see that Schiele has wanted the direct approach, eager to capture the pose of the nude before the moment is lost. His use of continuos line follows the lines of the body, moving in directions and creating form just with weight in the line.

This is what I wish to achieve.
However, I feel that both miss maybe what I am enjoying about charcoal.  I am inspired by both pieces, but feel that it is the use of line that I am beginning to enjoy about charcoal.  A variety of marks can be achieved as can a quality of line.  I mean that the line can go for a walk, while describing contours and texture almost in the same line. Egon Schiele's charcoal studies on paper study are the epitome of this idea.

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