2. Charcoal

This version of the Breathing Lines exercise is a little more difficult, but stick with it. Composition exercises which follow the Breathing Lines will require good control of the charcoal, which repeated work with this exercise will help to develop.

What you need:

  • Stick charcoal, the thin sticks. I use “Coats” willow charcoal.
  • Fine sandpaper for getting a smooth, flat end to the charcoal stick.
  • Ordinary sketch pad paper, with a bit of tooth so the charcoal bites enough to make a smooth mark. Most sketch pad paper will be fine, just make sure it isn’t too smooth.

How to do it:

Follow the instructions for the pencil exercise on sitting, posture and preparation.

Prepare your drawing tool

Sharpen the charcoal stick so that the end is at a slight angle to flat (much less than 45 degrees) and use the full width of the end for the lines.

Take a few deep, relaxing breaths.

Make sure that your arm has complete freedom to move across the page. Do a few practice strokes at the far left and far right of the paper to make sure.

Start drawing

  1. Place your charcoal stick at the top left of your paper (perhaps start at the top right if you’re left-handed, so that your hand doesn’t smudge the charcoal).
  2. Move the end of the charcoal stick against the paper a little to make sure the end is flat against the paper.
  3. Applying fairly firm pressure, pull the charcoal slowly towards you, breathing in as you go.
  4. Be guided by your breath for the length of the line. When you’ve completed your inward breath, stop the line.
  5. Move the charcoal stick to the right (or left) by around the width of the stick itself. Begin to draw a line upwards, pushing the charcoal away from you.
  6. Continue until you run out of paper.

In the next and final stage of this exercise, we’ll do the breathing line exercise with Chinese brush and ink on mulberry bark paper. This will stretch your skills and little, and prepare for using the brush in the design exercises.

Proceed to the next stage.