Coal: the story of its history and use of artists for 26000 years


You just got back from the mammoth hunt. Today no luck. Have you seen a bison in the distance, but the mammoth did not appear. You and your clan a little bummed when you return home. Instead take it to a member of a clan, you decided to go into a cave and sulked a bit. You walk by the smoldering fire that burned all day and pick up a piece of the limb still burning at the end. It will light your way for a while, you think. At the same time, you see a little piece of wood, which is carefully charred, but now cold. You choose it as well. You look at him. Something deep inside your primitive brain intrigued with this black stick. With “the torch” in one hand and burned the stick in the other, you pass to the cave. As you drag the charred stick on the stone. He leaves a trail of soot. You drag it over the rock again, another black line.

Then, something, some glimpses of the creative impulse, some spark of “what if” race through your brain. You reach the ceiling of the cave and make another black line. You cross that with another. Then, as if some magical force was guiding your hand, you will begin to draw on the cave wall. A crude form emerges. It looks like the outline of an animal! And voila! First a charcoal drawing. You look at it. Although crude, it mimics the shape of a bison you saw, and killed, on past hunts. Not finding that today mammoth suddenly not a problem. Not only did you do the first a charcoal drawing, you have experienced the power of art!

Something similar happened in Spanish, French or Australian cave about 26 000 years ago. It was not the beginning of “art”, because cave paintings have been traced back to 70,000 BC. Some negative hand stencils on the walls of the cave were carbon dated to 40,000 years BC and is considered by many to be the first cave paintings. But our savage may have been the first to do the actual drawing in charcoal on the cave wall. If he only knew what he started. By the beginning of the Renaissance in the 15th century, charcoal is used by most artists, including old masters, to create preliminary sketches for frescoes and murals. At the end of the Renaissance, to the early 16th century, artists like Michelangelo will use charcoal and chalk to draw on large-format paper. They then prick holes along the drawn lines. They would place the figure on the surface they were going to draw. Grinding coal into a fine powder, they would put it in a small linen-type bag and attack the bag punctured on the drawn line. Coal dust is filtered through the bag and hole to transfer the dotted line reproduction of their application to the painted surface.

Preliminary sketches for a more permanent job, drawing, exercise, fast research, and for other artists, was characteristic of coal until the 1980’s. In this decade, this versatile medium finally began to be accepted as a significant art. Today, coal comes in several different forms for artists. There are powder, block, block, cylinder (or loaf), compressed, pencil and pen. Wands are made mainly from carefully charred grape vines and willow. The main difference between Vine and willow that willow tends to be darker than the Vine. Most types of coal are very soft giving the artists a large range of values from light gray to Black. Powdered form is used to fill large areas, which can then be manipulated with rubber bands or cancellation from the different methods. A cylinder, or a loaf, form ranges from 6mm to 50mm in diameter. Usually they come in six inches long. Nitram makes these and they are very high quality. You can find them on higher quality art supply stores. Blocks and blocks used by artists for making heavy, thick lines or fill large areas. Compressed, which also comes in the form of sticks in different degrees of soft to hard is in powdered form mixed with a binder, as gum Arabic or wax, sometimes on less expensive brands. Compressed can give you the blackest blacks and can be used with all other forms, but because of the binder, it is not as versatile. It cannot be easily removed, for example. The binder makes it harder to remove and can discolor the paint, if used for the preparation of the composition before painting. It’s not a problem with regular coal. Compressed also in charcoal pencils. They are the hull form of the tree and sharpen like a regular pencil. They also come wrapped in paper in the form of a pencil. There is a string wrapped inside along with the paper and pulling it off tears the next layer, so it can be deployed exposure “news”.

Coal is a tool that allows you to relax in your drawing. Its dusty nature makes it interesting and challenging and also frustrating at times, especially when he misses. The figures should be “corrected” with a workable fixative, which allows you to Refine the drawing until you are satisfied that it is completed. Then, after a few final coat protects it very well, but even then, it will not smear-proof. Solve that with a beautiful frame, Mat and glass!

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