SHARING A SECRET – charcoal on carbon

This is a drawing I completed in October of 2016. My oldest sister suggested that I do some wildlife, or perhaps some horses, since many people who live in the area like or raise horses. Having never drawn a horse before, I thought it was a good idea, so she went down a ways from her country home and took a few photographs of her neighbor’s horses. The drawing that follows is a result from her photographic adventure. 

Oh!  Before I forget, I want my readers to know that this blog post contains a special “surprise” for my big sister, Yvonne. I won’t tell you where the surprise is but she’ll know it when she reads it (grin).

I decided to use Strathmore bristol board vellum surface paper for this project because I wanted a bit of ‘tooth’ to work with.  Vellum is a slightly rough, not quite smooth, paper surface that works great when you want to give the appearance of rough skin or hide. Most horses look sleek but only when they are brushed down really well and then they can shine. These horses were out in the pasture parading around for everyone to see. They weren’t exactly “smooth and pretty”, so that is why I decided to use the vellum paper.

Since the hide of a horse can develop a natural sheen due to its body oils and sweat, I wanted to utilize carbon for the foundation and then overlay certain areas with charcoal to create the illusion of a “natural hide”.  At no point while rendering the body of the horses did a pencil ever touch the paper. Instead, I used fine sandpaper to create carbon powder and I applied it to the paper using a blending stump.  Below is an image of how it began.


I then moved on to the second horse, continuing to apply the carbon powder via a blending stump. I did not apply any pressure while layering the carbon. I basically allowed the weight of the blending stump to do the work for me. Yes, it can take quite a bit of time, but I’m after results, not speed.  I want people to look at the drawing and believe that the horses have a natural hide and not a smooth skin.


The fence posts that you see were rendered in vine charcoal and a 2H hard charcoal pencil. The eyes of the horses were rendered using a dark carbon pencil. Once I got the carbon laid down, I continued to layer more carbon powder with a blending stump until I achieved the texture I wanted. I also overlaid some charcoal powder in certain areas to help create highlights and shadows.  Here are a few close-ups as the horses developed.


You can see what appears to be light-colored manes on the horses. That was achieved by using a kneaded eraser and a pen eraser that I cut down to a fine edge. Carbon does not erase well, and it was because of this that I laid down the layers very gently with almost no pressure whatsoever. It allows for easier extraction when necessary.


The barbed wire was something I decided to add since the original photograph shows a square wire meshing tacked to the fence posts. It just looked tacky and out-of-place, and I wanted the horses to look like they were at least out on the open range since they were a bit rough-looking.

So, I decided on the barbed wire. And since I couldn’t quite remember how barbed wire was weaved, I walked out the front door, down the block, crossed the road and went to the farmer’s pasture where there are cattle, so that I could have my memory jogged about barbed wire weaving.

After observing the barbed wire and talking out loud to the many head of cattle that came over to observe me (and were wondering why is there a strange-looking human, who doesn’t look anything like the human that comes to feed us, standing there looking at that metal string with the sharp, pointy things on it?), I said “Good bye” to the cows and bull, turned around, walked back home, and drew the barbed wire.


Below is the final result and some further information that readers might want to know.


As of June 27th, 2017 the ORIGINAL drawing has been sold to a private owner.  Fine art prints will be available in two sizes and I will post a notification when the prints will be ready for purchasing. I will also offer a Limited Edition of only 25 editions for this print. They will be numbered and signed by me, personally. 

Original Size 14″ x 17″ on Strathmore bristol board Vellum surface (archival)

Thanks to everyone who has been supportive and thanks to my readers for stopping by and having a look. A special thanks to the individual who thought my work worthy enough to purchase the original.  Thank you so very much!

I’ll be back towards the end of this week (Sunday?) with a new drawing.




2 thoughts on “SHARING A SECRET – charcoal on carbon

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