Back in college in most of my drawing classes we used charcoal. Lots and lots of charcoal. We set up our large pads of newsprint on easels coated with layers upon layers of dried paint and charcoal smudges and began our warm ups. Gestural drawings of the model before us. Loose charcoal swishing about, fast arm movements. Open and wide and aiming for magic in a short amount of time. We were forced out of a comfort zone and it was thrilling. More often than not I walked away from a finished class with charcoal smudges on my face and as well as all over my hands and arms. And occasionally on the Dickies overalls I tended to wear too. If I wasn't headed to another class I would not wash the charcoal off. I saw it as evidence of where I had been and of the magic I tried to create. A reminder of the thrill of drawing fast and loose. Of trying to capture the essence of the model before me in a minute or less.
I haven't touched charcoal much in the many (cough, cough) years since then. In my recent attempts to stir up the coals of my creativity I had an inspiration to pick charcoal up again and see where it would take me. To shake things up, to help set me upon the path to my studio once again. To look to the happy past to alleviate the struggling present.
I found a few boxes of vine charcoal in my drawing tools stash. I smiled as I remembered that these boxes came from my husband's maternal grandmother. She was a woman so full of creativity. Perfect.
Sitting down with my sketchbook, some charcoal and a drawing reference I began. I hesitated at first as I became reacquainted with the medium. The softness of the charcoal, the smooth paper as my hand glided across it. And the smudges! The intoxicating process of smudging the blackish color down to a shade of gray. Creating a depth on the paper and seeing a face take shape. I admit to feeling a bit giddy and the need to giggle uncontrollably. I do remember receiving a sideways glance from my husband. Perhaps a small grin as well, right at the side of his mouth, showing he was happy for his weird wife and her happiness derived from charcoal.