Do you want to practice landscape drawing while improving your nature sketches? If so, practicing drawing landscapes with charcoal can help you.
First, and most importantly, drawing with charcoal will help you see values better. But what are values, you might ask. Value is the art term for how dark something is. We think about color a lot but actually value is more important. Below is an example of a value strip showing levels of value.
While charcoal is not the most convenient material for the field it offers many benefits. Foremost being its ease at achieving precise values (especially compared to watercolor). It can also be challenging for perfectionist people like myself.
Landscape Drawing: How to Use Charcoal in 10 Steps
- First, choose a landscape photo that has extreme values. For more about how to choose a good photo for a landscape see this video
- Next, start by drawing in some of the darkest areas that you see.
- Don’t think about edges. Instead focus on the mass of objects and use your charcoal to draw from the inside then towards the outside of shapes. This goes against how we usually draw.
- Next, use a rag or paper towel to smudge the charcoal around the paper. By so doing you are knocking the values back down towards the middle.
- After knocking the values back to the middle ground take some time. Look closely at your subject and adjust the values in your drawing accordingly. What in your landscape drawing needs to be darker.
- Now you can knock the values back down with the rag.
- Next, use an eraser to lighten some of the values in your drawing that are too dark.
- Repeat steps four through seven a couple times.
- Stop before you start fussing over details too much.
- Start another drawing. You will get better by doing many landscape drawings. Don’t rest on your laurels if your first try looks good. And don’t give up if your first try looks bad.
For more inspiration around drawing landscapes in your nature journal check out this video by John Muir Laws.