Unwanted attention: working within a time limit.

Unwanted attention is a charcoal sketch worked within a time limit. Well, that was the goal. But like so many other works of art, I get carried away with the fine tuning in the last stretch. I worked two hours (rather than one) on her including a 15 minute false start.

Unwanted attention


Charcoal on bristol paper.

This young woman is shying away from the spotlight. She longs for anonymity; consequently, her head is turned away from the bright lights. However, she will have to confront the dreaded cameras sooner or later. Her audience awaits!

For my second attempt on another day, I chose to work on Bristol paper for the first time. I like the smooth feel of this paper, but I was a bit concerned that it would not have enough tooth to hold the powdery charcoal. Happily the charcoal did stay on the paper except for a few clumps here and there left by the XL charcoal blocks. I had issues with the left eye that is in darkness and had to rework it over and over again.

My version is darker than the photo used as inspiration. I printed the photo and painted what I saw on paper rather than what was on my Ipad screen. Only later did I realize that I could have had a lighter version. So there were a few lessons to be learned with this one!  In spite of those problems, or maybe because she was a tad challenging, I do like the final result.

Finally, I sprayed the finished sketch five times with a Golden fixative to set the charcoal.

Weekend challenge series.

This sketch is a “weekend challenge” at Olga Furman Art.

Katrina Koltes selected a vintage photo as inspiration for this past weekend’s challenge.

Everyone who participates in the challenge can then post the sketch in the Facebook group dedicated to these challenges. It is lots of fun to see the different interpretations.

Although I love charcoal for the quick results one can achieve, it is rather messy and it leaves dust all over the worktable.

Below is a collection of portraits I have completed in the past with charcoal or a mix of charcoal and another medium. My favourite is "Danny Boy" with the curly hair because he reminds me of my brother.

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From my slideshow, it is easy to see that charcoal is very versatile and can be used on its own or with many different mediums.

What is your favourite way of using charcoal?

Do you have tips for working with charcoal and keeping the mess and the dust in check?

Please leave your comments in the box below.

4 Responses

  • Wow Louise, what a great selection, some I appear to have missed along our journey. Unlike you my charcoal is still intact, one day I will put it on paper ?

    • Sally, when you feel you need a change any long term art project, charcoal is the go-to medium. It is so versatile and a loose sketch can be worked up rather quickly and look good. But one has to expect dirty hands and work space. In spite of all the portraits I have done over time, the charcoal is put away and I use it sparingly. Thanks for reading the post and commenting!

  • No tips for keeping it clean sadly, I feel the same way..not something you want all over your sofa! Your selection of portraits are great!

    • Thanks Joanne. I keep the vacuum close at hand. I wondered if that was a good idea and if it wouldn’t be better to use a damp cloth to clean up charcoal dust. In the end, I used the vacuum!

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