About a year ago I started sketching dogs in charcoal. Sketching isn’t something that I have focussed much on over the years. I have tended to start with the intention to draw quickly, then gotten lost in the details and developing a piece more precisely.
Drawing with charcoal
As I am so familiar with pencils in the form of graphite, coloured pencils and pastel pencils, using a stick of charcoal feels very different indeed. I opted for charcoal sticks rather than charcoal in a pencil form as I wanted to work with a new tool and expand my skill set. A piece of charcoal is a really versatile thing, and as it is an organic item each piece is individual. I enjoy the immediacy of the colour, that I can hone a sharp point, that it erases and smudges easily, and that I can snap it to make different lengths which affects how I hold it and in turn draw with it.
Developing a new artistic style
Learning to sketch with charcoal took a lot of trial and error. A great many pictures ended up in the compost bin. I found that setting myself a time limit helped, at first an hour, then 30 minutes. This time restriction meant that I could not linger too long or get too fussy. My mantra when sketching with charcoal is ‘economy of line’. I find it helps to keep reminding myself to do as much as possible with as few marks as I can.
There is something about the immediacy of sketching in this way that keeps an energy and life in the artwork. And once I found a way of sketching that felt like mine, I practiced a lot, drawing many different breeds of dogs with different coats and characteristics so that I felt confident in my ability to reliably produce a likeness.
There is a vast difference betweeen the carefully selected images that I may choose to work from, and the photographs that can come from the general public. So to be sure that I would ready to accept commissions for my sketches, I asked my followers on Facebook to share photos of their dogs that I could practice with. I had an amazing response and received a wonderful array of images to reference, which built both my skill and my confidence. You can see some of these practice pieces in my previous post Charcoal Dog Sketches for Charity
Supporting Help 4 Hounds
My goal was to develop a new drawing style so that I could offer small, affordable, original artworks and raise money for Help 4 Hounds rescue, who helped to bring the most wonderful dog, Bruno, into my life.
Since then I have sketched a wonderful array of much loved dogs, and thanks to these dog’s people, I have been able to donate £300 to Help 4 Hounds. I am so grateful to each of you who have supported this venture, it continues to be so much fun, and really makes a difference to dogs and people’s lives.
Help 4 Hounds are a small non-profit organisation run by a dedicated group of animal lovers here in the South West. They have connections with other dog rescues across the UK, and a network of fosterers who do the incredible work of housing and caring for vulnerable dogs.
Help 4 Hounds cover the veterinary care costs of the dogs they take in, including vaccinations, neutering, spaying and more involved medical interventions when required. Home checks are always carried out for potential adopters, and they take great care to match people with dogs according to the needs and experiences of all.
As you can imagine this becomes very expensive. In recent years there are a record number of dogs needing new home through no fault of their own, so this work is so important and needs all the support it can get.
Commission a Sketch
If you would like an A5 sketch of a dog you know, I would love to draw them. These sketches are £45, inc P&P (UK) with £20 from each portrait going to Help 4 Hounds to support their rescuing, fostering and rehoming of dogs in need.
Help 4 Hounds have a Facebook page where you can find information about all the dogs who are currently looking for fostering or adoption. Or if you prefer you can email them on [email protected] or call/text 07516 279583