Lion's Share

 This is the first full drawing I have done (that I will admit) using charcoal.  What a discovery!!!  Why did I wait so long?!
When I was younger, and started getting serious about drawing, I used materials readily available. Pencils are everywhere! I must say I dabbled in painting a little, but the space and supplies required were too expensive for a young military housewife. I stayed with pencil, grabbing cheap colored pencils when I could.  Since then, thankfully, I have learned the value of quality supplies.  Prismacolor is my brand, they could make tube socks and I would buy them, simply because their consistency in quality and selection has not been surpassed by any other brand.  From colored pencils to graphite to art markers, I can always count on Prismacolor. Derwent is also a great brand, as is Staedlter.
Charcoal was not available in pencil form, at least not in the places I tended to shop. I found the sticks and vines tragically messy, and being a bit of a messy person, the trouble was compounded.
   It was not until my 30's that I discovered charcoal in a wooden pencil form.  I had played around with it, and had seen the beautiful work that other more practiced artists had done.  I felt their time would come, and every year or so, I would pull them out and experiment.  I was way too heavy handed, and the drawings were chunky, and unrefined.  I clearly did not know how to use the medium, it wasn't time.
  After I turned 40, life changes allowed more time to practice my art, and I developed a fine and detailed style with my beloved pencils.  My drawings took less and less time while still maintaining fine detail and depth.  However, I was getting frustrated at the limitations of graphite.  The endless layering and blending smoothed the paper out, and in areas where the tones were darker, the layer and layers of graphite tended to shine and change the look of the subjects. I wanted my art to reflect details that graphite could just not provide every time.
  I picked up my charcoal pencils this week.  Yes, this week.  I have been officially using charcoal for less than 7 days.  I look at the doodles and sketches and know now is the time.  I fall asleep dissecting images and breaking them down into techniques in charcoal.
I am also incorporating charcoal white, shown here in the speckled jaw and chest of the lion's prey. Though charcoal lifts a lot easier than graphite,  unless there is a plan made for it, white will not be truly white no matter how hard one tries to erase after the medium is laid down.  The charcoal white adds that detail, that sparks, that shine, that gives a drawing a finished, intentional look.
  Now I have a use for the kneaded erasers decimated by erasing fields of graphite! What lovely effects, and so much more forgiving charcoal is than graphite. The integrity of the paper stays intact, and the tonal range is amazing, and NO SHINE!
 I am less compelled to detail out every element in the drawing using charcoal.  For one, charcoal is not a very fine medium.  It is dusty, gritty almost, and does not allow for it.  HOWEVER, implied detail(like the light across the lion's back leg, and the shadows in the grasses behind it, shown above) allows the viewers eye to understand the effect and think for itself.  I find this is often a more engaging technique than spelling out every single minute detail.
Because of this new level, this new door that has opened(it has always been there, I just now have found the key) I am feeling less stressed about generating an inventory.  My goal is to fill my portfolio(50 pages) and then do a show by spring.  On average I am getting a drawing done every two or three days, while also working on a commission, being mom, wife, and job seeker. My beloved husband has been so supportive, and I am determined to show him and my stepson that dreams are worth having.  If you love doing something enough, and work at it, and stay committed to it and yourself, overcoming all those roadblocks is worth coming out the other side with skill, an audience or market that you have created that wasn't there before.  Being a successful artist, I am finding, is creating a market for YOU.  You must stand out. There is so much talent out there to compete with, being confident in yourself is priceless.