Updated: Sep 9
When I first started working seriously in art, before I made the jump to full-time, professionally guided study, I worked almost exclusively with charcoal. Charcoal seemed to focus me on shape, shading, texture, and the interplay of light and shadow – without the added complexity of color and hue. And, by no coincidence, charcoal is the medium for the first year of full-time study at the Atelier in Minneapolis, Minnesota (where I studied for four years).
Today, I use charcoal almost exclusively to do “studies” in preparation for a painting in oil. A study seems to me like a prototype for an engineer. Sometimes the prototype contemplates the entire picture I contemplate painting. Often, the prototype focuses on one very important subpart of the imagined image.
Doing a study always teaches me – sometimes to reimagine the setting that will be the context for the detail; sometimes to reconfigure the entire imagery, occasionally – “this is not a painting I want to do – at least not now.”
Below is the charcoal study that I did in preparation for a painting that has drawn considerable attention – Fearsome and Fearless. The painting juxtaposes the head and shoulders of a lion with the head and shoulders of a woman. The charcoal below is the study of the woman. Next week I will post the finished oil painting and explain how the figure of the woman evolved.
Charcoal on Strathmore Sketch Paper
18 x 24 in
Prototype as if you are right. Listen as if you are wrong.
Diego Rodriguez Telechea soccer player
The value of a prototype is in the education it gives you, not in the [prototype] itself.
Amari Cooper American football player
It isn't enough to pick a path—you must go down it. By doing so, you see things you couldn't possibly see when you started out; you may not like what you see, some of it may be confusing, but at least you will have, as we like to say, "explored the neighborhood." The key point here is that even if you decide you're in the wrong place, there is still time to head toward the right place.
Ed Catmull, Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration