I first discovered charcoal pencils about 20 years ago - like most artists I tried a bit of everything, but was finding myself increasingly focused on drawing mediums because they allowed me to create very detailed work. I'd picked up a cheap packet of charcoal pencils in a local department store and was immediately hooked. They gave me crisp sharp points for the finest of lines but with much greater contrast and a matt finish to the shadows. Over the years I've refined my technique and created distinct themes like my dark box drawings below - objects photographed in a home-built setup that are then drawn with charcoal pencil and velvety carbon block on paper to create simple yet very dramatic compositions.
Marionette drawing, 6" x 6" in charcoal and Wolff's Carbon pencils. This was a prop that I bought and dirtied down to give him the right character before photographing in my dark box, ready to draw.
I borrowed this skull from a friend - no not like that, it was in their collection. Honest. I was playing about with the lighting for this piece when I caught the remaining teeth, giving it a wonderfully vampiric appearance. 12" x 12" charcoal pencil on paper.
I was given this little bat by a friend whose dad used to ring and release. It's mummified in a sleeping position and so with a little additional creativity, I restored a sense of life for this drawing. 6" x 6" in charcoal pencil on Fabriano paper.
Charcoal is a wonderfully versatile medium and I have used it to explore more ephemeral things too - moonlight, fog, even a spectral dragon (though I did curse myself for thinking that one up, after I'd started...). Whatever the subject, what I am essentially drawing is the light - or rather, where it isn't. That might seem a slightly backwards way on of doing things and maybe it is, but it's my way and it expresses how I see the world - hence the name, Drawing in Dark. I always feel I can express things far better in my artwork than I can using the written word, pictures really do tell a story, so I'm letting the next selection from the book Tales in Sombre Tones explain that for me. The book itself was a collaborative project with author Sean Walter and contains 24 stories, each with a full page illustration.
This cemetery angel was the first time I'd attempted 3 layers of opacity in the same piece, representing two spirits bound to a churchyard.
This wasn't the first time I'd tackled fog in charcoal but it was the first time there had been quite so much of it - using my former home, Church Street in Whitby, as my reference.
This was a fun one - my take on the family tomb of the Frankensteins, putting the mausoleum bold and brutal in the foreground with just a hint of the gravestones behind.
This one became the book cover because I think it summed up the stories and the settings so perfectly. Here we have the Barghest racing up the 199 steps the spectral hound manifesting against the moonlit grass.
It was that book that prompted the biggest change in my work yet - when it came to promoting the book, we both wanted our tour to be engaging, approachable. For the first time in a long time, I stepped back and looked at what I was doing from an audiences point of view - not in the sense of whether or not they were going to like it, but how they might appreciate and respond to it. That threw up some very interesting questions about perception, our sensory capabilities and so I am starting a new journey which takes those charcoal drawings and turns them into something new, something that can be picked up and played with. As we all know, that is not something normally encouraged where easily smudgeable pieces are concerned. The pictures and video below are a taste of what is to come, what can be added to enhance sensory experience and allow audiences not normally catered for by the visual arts to attend mainstream exhibitions.
To create a 3d print, first I have to scan the original 2d illustration
The 2d scan is then converted to a 3d render on the computer (the central frame) that can be printed in PLA filament to create a solid, 3 dimensional piece (the white frame on the right)
A full scale translation of the original illustration. I chose white filament so that the pieces can be lit to replicate the shadows in the drawings they will be displayed beside.
It's allowed :) 3d prints are robust, tactile pieces that are designed to be handled, adding a literal new dimension to my work
There are two main means of translating a visual to a tactile experience. Areas are raised or lowered to indicate foreground and background. Different textures are also chosen to represent different things in the drawing. Clouds are soft, metal railings are hard and cold to touch with the application of enamel.
The prints are further sculpted by hand using sandpaper etc, then finished using varnishes, paints and textural additions like sand to define areas.