In our first class we experimented with charcoal. Joy inspired us by saying that art is simply 'mark making'. We tried making marks with a piece of vine charcoal. We tapped it. We swiped it while holding the charcoal on its side. We tried dark marks, and marks that varied in intensity. We rotated the charcoal, and made long sweeping arcs. While making marks, Joy talked about composition, texture and value. Almost everyone drifted into making lines, then shapes and then creating something from our marks.
Then Joy showed us some charcoal sketches by John Singer Sergeant. She discussed different techniques he appeared to use. I was getting a bit nervous, as I was already thinking where this might be going! She let each of us pick a picture, and draw it. Oh! Horrors! "I can't draw a face!" she explained would be our first reaction. "But," she went on to say, "don't look at what you think should be there, concentrate on the shapes you see, and their texture and value."
I had (and continue to have) some difficulty with the proportions of the face. But, all-in-all, I was quite pleased with my first attempt.
My first charcoal portrait suffered a bit from being folded, but you can basically see what I accomplished. It looks OK… until you see the original:
pencil and charcoal
My charcoal and Sargeant's charcoal