Charcoal: contemporary explorations

July 22, 2016

Photo credit: Alex Kasyan, Lightbox Studio




Charcoal: contemporary explorations


If one enters the words “charcoal drawing” into an Internet search engine to see what images materialize, a plethora of portraits copied from celebrity photos will spread across the screen, partnered with academic treatments of the human figure and the occasional representation of fruit. Innovative creative explorations using charcoal as a medium may not rise to the surface.


After applying a “Mulvey” filter to the quest for contemporary examples of charcoal drawing, I have assembled a series of links and commentary on artists who I feel are truly deserving of attention. 


Below are two artists who I have recently added. This archive of other charcoal artists can be accessed in its entirety by clicking here.



Kelly Blevins (Lives and works in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.)


Kelly Blevins’ imagery is populated with a variety of human, animal and insect subjects. The occasional hybrid image or strange juxtaposition, combined with a generally gritty or shaggy appearance to most of her subject matter, unsettles the viewer. Kelly’s drawings are like electric prods that push viewers away from complacency and towards a series of questions about societal norms, acceptable behaviour and conventions of beauty.



Iskra Johnson (Lives and works in the Seattle area, Washington, U.S.A)


The eloquent Iskra Johnson has developed a visual language rooted heavily in printmaking techniques and aesthetics. A range of materials, including charcoal, are thoughtfully explored and layered into challenging pictorial spaces. Natural and architectural forms emerge. The work of this artist reveals a deep sensitivity and reflection upon the fleeting visual experience that inspires its production, whether related to transformation in nature or in man-made environments. In all cases, Iskra embraces the textures and atmospheric effects to which the physical properties of each medium lend themselves.



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