Wet Charcoal Drawing

Art Prof Clara Lieu demonstrates techniques for wet charcoal drawing.

74 min. video

Prof Lieu shows how to use a spray bottle, newsprint , and compressed charcoal in order to experiment with making abstract strokes on the paper to create a dynamic and engaging range of contrasting marks.

Video walkthrough

  • Try different degrees of wetness of the paper: paper that is damp vs. paper that is soaking wet.
  • Use cheap paper like newsprint, as this technique isn’t great for creating finished, archival work.
  • Start first by wetting the entire sheet of paper with your spray bottle.
  • You can also try putting the charcoal down on dry paper, and then wetting that paper after.
  • Blending with your hands is extremely easy and fast.
  • Wet charcoal is a great technique for loosening yourself up.
  • Experiment with holding the charcoal in many different ways: push it across the paper, press down with your palm, and more.
  • Mark making exercise: draw as many types of vertical lines as differently as possible.
  • You can get very harsh, dramatic lines, and lines that are soft & luscious.
  • Layer different marks on top of each other to build depth and variety.
  • Working on a large scale, at least 18″ x 24″ works best.
  • Get started by making marks, don’t try to draw anything recognizable.
  • Consider the rhythm and speed of your marks on the surface.
  • You can create a “paste” of wet charcoal and paint with your fingers.
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Show us what you make!

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Prof Lieu’s Tips

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As far as how to evaluate an abstract painting I think a lot of it has to do with defining some goals for the piece in advance.

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For example, do you want the piece to have a meditative feel, (Mark Rothko) or is the piece really aggressive with its marks? (Franz Kline)

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