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Charcoal Drawings: Scaling Up and Including Shade

Charcoal Drawings: Scaling Up and Including Shade

Charcoal Drawings: Scaling Up and Adding Color

Artist Susan Grossman talks about going large with charcoal drawings, including shade with pastels, and her immersive course of for capturing metropolis scenes.

By Austin R. Williams

Keep (charcoal and pastel, 50 x 60) by Susan Grossman. Courtesy Jerald Melberg Gallery, Charlotte, North Carolina.

On this dialog with Austin R. Williams, artist Susan Grossman gives fascinating insights on how she creates her placing and highly effective large-scale charcoal drawings, what she loves about drawing busy city areas, and her recommendation for younger artists.

How did town grow to be your important topic? Have you ever at all times been fascinated with city areas?

I’ve been fascinated with them since I moved to New York — wherever I’m is form of what I draw. As a result of I’ve been in New York Metropolis for a very long time I do know it nicely, and I exploit it in some ways as a metaphor, as all of us do. It’s my muse, I might say. And since I do know it nicely I don’t should work as arduous to seek out the imagery. I do know what I’m searching for, and I simply shoot photos. I then use a number of photos to make one drawing — I don’t work out of 1 particular {photograph}.

What are among the stuff you’re searching for when taking pictures?

Normally a time of day or a kind of climate. As an illustration I like nocturnal scenes, and I like when it’s raining or blustery out. Eight o’clock within the morning within the fall has lovely shadows. It’s so simple as that. In some ways it’s a proper want. I shock myself once I develop these photographs into charcoal drawings. In some methods these moments are type of banal, however once I draw them and blow them up, these banal moments grow to be one thing fairly completely different, and it turns into an attention-grabbing narrative.

In your drawings town is at all times alive, stuffed with individuals. Do you assume that is important to the look of a metropolis?

Come Again (charcoal and pastel, 50 x 60) by Susan Grossman

I don’t assume I’ve ever executed a New York Metropolis piece with out individuals in it, though as some observers have observed there are not any faces in my drawings — I don’t need the viewer locked in on an individual’s eyes. I like to make use of the determine in an nearly iconic approach. A lady whose head is bent carrying a bag or a toddler working a sure approach. We all know who they’re, I hope, from how they transfer and from recognizing our personal gestures.

How did you come to work primarily in drawing? And what about your mixture of charcoal drawings and pastel?

What I like about drawing is that we’ve all executed it. As little youngsters we choose up a pencil or a chunk of chalk and we draw. It isn’t valuable. I can spend the time creating these objects, however I like that everybody can relate to them. I additionally love that the sweep of my hand can change the picture. There’s motion in drawing for me, there’s a physicality to it, and the gesture of my hand is at all times concerned. As for the charcoal and pastel, over time I’ve been in a position to work them nearly like paint. I like the notion of a painterly drawing.

What do you want about working large?

Intersecting (charcoal and pastel, 50×60) by Susan Grossman. Courtesy Jeraild Melberg Gallery, Charlotte, North Carolina

I feel it began as a result of traditionally, drawings and works on paper have been regarded as research and as a sure measurement. So one cause is the concept of taking a drawing and blowing it up in order that it’s a piece unto itself, so that folks don’t see it as a drawing however as a murals corresponding to portray. A second cause is that there’s a special drama to a chunk when it’s giant, when it’s bodily. A big drawing invitations the viewer into a really completely different world. This isn’t to say I don’t love intimate drawings, however giant is the place I’m extra comfy. And going giant lets me get bodily. I like utilizing my physique to create the picture.

Do you do sketching or preliminary work or dive proper in?

I dive proper in. Once I say that there’s no preciousness, I imply it, and that’s what I like about drawing. If I feel one thing shouldn’t be going someplace, I rip it up and throw it away, and that enables me a freedom.

My course of begins with taking pictures. Then I’m going to a pharmacy and have perhaps 100 of them printed. I take these to my studio and discover issues in among the photographs that excite me, and I pin 10 or so of them up on my studio wall. Suppose I wish to make three 50-x-60 drawings. I put these three boards up. I put in my earbuds, activate the music, and I simply begin.

That’s to not say it’s going to all work. The following day I would are available in and scrap what I’ve executed. If my pictures aren’t permitting me to discover a storyline, I’ll go get extra photographs. I’ll change it.

Inform us extra about your course of. How do you start your charcoal drawings?

I love to do a really quick drawing. I’ll get every thing in, no less than initially, in a few five-hour interval. Then I wish to carry it collectively abruptly, to not end one half at a time.

I start by placing in what I name my “stage setting,” or my atmosphere. If I’m drawing a view of Lexington Avenue, that stage setting will keep the identical, however I’ll preserve altering the individuals in it till they work for me. The colour simply occurs. It really works itself in throughout the course of. I don’t plan that, however I do wish to have an allover sense of composition on the paper. It’s extra of an summary expressionist approach of taking in the entire paper — not the apple first, then the vase, then the desk.

What’s in your toolkit?

Shadow Passages  (charcoal and pastel, 50 x 35) by Susan Grossman

For charcoal drawings I exploit jumbo mushy darkish charcoal that I get at New York Central Artwork Provide. Finally these charcoals kind form of an underpainting. The pastels I like most are Diane Townsend. I organize them straight from her; they’re superb. Additionally, I exploit some Sennelier pastels, the jumbo ones. I can’t work with small drawing implements — I exploit my fingers quite a bit, however I can’t get tied down in little actions or sharp instruments.

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My floor used to easily be paper, however the giant items had been troublesome to border, so now I work on paper mounted to board. I additionally spray the drawings quite a bit, which lets me construct up the layers. For those who take a paper towel and rub a spotlight out, then spray it and put a white again on, it’s extra luminous.

Did you have got influential academics?

I studied at Bennington Faculty, which had an unimaginable artwork world that I grew to become immersed in. I received my grasp’s diploma at Brooklyn Faculty, the place Lois Dodd and Leonard Anderson taught. From Bennington to Brooklyn I used to be lucky to have extraordinary artists information the way in which I assumed and educate me a brand new language, a brand new mind-set.

Getting out of graduate faculty I used to be fortunate to have individuals concerned about my work. I used to be largely portray then, however I had some drawings sitting in a nook of my studio, and Rick Davidman, who ran DFN Gallery, in Chelsea, noticed them and stated “These are good drawings!” I noticed there have been higher painters on the market, and drawing got here simpler to me. Why drive your self to do one thing that’s tougher? I don’t need any extra limitations.

What’s your recommendation for younger artists or for somebody eager to get critical about drawing?

I’m a fantastic believer in artists going to graduate faculty. You get a studio, a spot to work, and also you join with different artists. It’s crucial to get criticism. There’s a language to be taught.  I additionally assume it’s a must to have an absolute ardour for this factor. There’s enterprise and creativity, they usually should go collectively. After which? Go for it. It’s powerful.


SUSAN GROSSMAN graduated from Bennington Faculty and obtained an M.F.A. from Brooklyn Faculty. She has held quite a few solo exhibitions, and her work is discovered within the collections of the Mint Museum, the de Saisset Museum, and the New York Historic Society, amongst others. To see extra of her work and be taught extra, go to susangrossman.internet.

A model of this text first appeared in Drawing journal, the place interviewer AUSTIN R. WILLIAMS is a senior editor.

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