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.
In the month of October the north coast nature journal club will be exploring the rolling hills and oak savanna of Helen Putnam Regional Park near Petaluma. We will practice several techniques for doing small watercolor landscapes to capture the essence and atmosphere of the place. We will also practice drawing three-dimensional trees with several tricks that will make your branches look like they’re coming off the page.
We will be hiking short distances up and down hill on this trip with mostly even terrain. Bring all your normal nature journaling supplies and binoculars. Be prepared for sun and warm conditions. A small folding stool could be useful for the longer landscape drawing. This location has a bathroom and seven dollar parking unless you are a member of the Sonoma County Regional Parks. Bring a potluck item that is not too hard to carry onto the trail because we will not want to go back to the parking lot for lunch.
In December we will meet at the Laguna de Santa Rosa trail during the most exciting and most beautiful time of day! The crepuscular hours are when many raptors can be seen hunting and many mammals are out in the open. Every time I walk this trail near sunset I’m surprised by how many birds I see and by the incredibly lit landscapes. Last time, I saw a family of owls!
We will focus on techniques for drawing and painting quick landscapes and how to crop and choose a good composition. We will also work a lot on colors and light as the sun drops. While we are working on these, there will probably be cool bird sightings mixed in.
This trail is a very easy hike on flat and mostly paved paths. It is wheelchair accessible. We won’t cover much distance and we will probably have long stationary moments. The weather is unpredictable and can get cool as the sun drops. Bring a packable snack item to share because we will eat on the trail. A foldable lightweight stool and binoculars will be very handy on this trip.
For this trip we will meet later than usual at 1:30pm until 5:00pm to allow us to be out in nature at a special time of day. Our potluck will therefore be more of a “Linner” than a lunch. Meet at the Laguna de Santa Rosa trail parking lot off of Hwy 12 just before the entrance to Sebastopol. There is no address or street name but it is the next turnout after this Saddle Shop: 6144 Sebastopol Ave, Sebastopol, CA 95472 and before the Chevron.
If it is raining hard the morning of the event we will meet at our backup location, California Carnivores, and draw the incredible plants inside their wonderful greenhouses!The address is:
California Carnivores 2833 Old Gravenstein Hwy Sebastopol, CA 95472