Zoe Dillon Workshop

I have to admit that when I first heard the next talk/workshop hosted by the Greystones Art Group would be on charcoal, I had some reservations. Admittedly, all of the G.A.G. talks and workshops I have attended so far have been brilliant, but charcoal, mmm, not sure. Like many other members, I have a few broken bits of charcoal lying around. But other than using them during a rather unsuccessful attempt at life drawing, the sticks were just gathering dust.

Over to Zoe Dillon, who kindly agreed to be persuaded by G.A.G. president Breda Mathews to share her knowledge and artworks with us.

After a brief introduction, Zoe explained and presented the various tools of the trade. We learnt that there’s a lot more to charcoal than charcoal sticks. There’s the traditional willow stick, then there’s compressed charcoal in various forms, pencils, white charcoal and even those burnt bits of wood, that come from the fire or barbecue. Pastels also find themselves in this category as they behave very similarly to charcoal.

Suitable paper varies just as much, from the super smooth Bristol board, to rough or smooth watercolour paper, coloured paper and newsprint for practice. Strathmore and Fabriano Artistico are some of Zoe’s favourites, but she strongly encourages to try and experiment as effects differ hugely across different papers.

To shape the drawing, techniques are used to add as well as remove charcoal. There’s a host of implements that can be used for this, such as pared down pencils, different erasers, brushes (incl. make-up brushes), bits of chamois or cloth, brushes dipped in rubbing alcohol and of course fingers, palms and fists. In that area, Zoe led the pack, her hands and various other parts were covered in charcoal. Embrace the mess was the message and we happily obliged.

We all had a go at mark making with different types of charcoal, varying shapes and thickness of the line through wrist and hand movement. Endless options present itself to show textures, and landscapes and woodland are great subjects for charcoal. One of Zoe’s favourite subjects are tree stumps and she showed us some of her wonderfully atmospheric works of fallen trees and woodscapes. She also shared her sketchbook with us, to show preliminary drawings and her methods of preparation.

And then she did a full demo of an agricultural landscape, adding, taking away, shaping, some areas very light, others strongly emphasised, incredible to watch. The room was in total silence as we witnessed the landscape slowly emerge and come to life.

There you go, a total turn around for me and I’m sure other attendees too. Charcoal is a medium that can be moulded and shaped, pulled back and pushed forward. Inspired by a bubbly tutor with hearty laughs, I reckon we have learnt some very useful techniques to try.

Zoe’s Instagram page is: zoedillonart

Zoe Dillon_Charcoal Workshop

Pictures from the workshop, including work from Evelyn & Ian, 2 member participants.