Tips for Doing Charcoal Drawings

1. Try to use ‘smudging’ sparingly. Smudging can help blend the lines on a charcoal drawing, but so can many other techniques, such as etching. Relying on smudging too often comes across as lazy compared to using other techniques, and it can make the picture look surprisingly flat and gray. Even practically speaking, the more artists rely on smudging, and the more their hands will get stained with charcoal. They will undoubtedly get awkward charcoal spots all over their pictures as a result. Smudging is best used to supplement other basic drawing techniques.

2. Balance the different values carefully. Charcoal is very dark, and creating a light and dark contrast is important to make the picture visually dynamic. It is very easy to press too hard and have nowhere to go when it comes time to draw in the darkest parts of the picture. Starting by drawing very lightly and progressively darkening the values is more likely to produce the necessary sort of powerful, dynamic values.

3. Start with broader strokes first. Creating fine details is more difficult with charcoal, since charcoal utensils tend to be very thick. Some areas of the art piece will demand thick, heavy strokes. Artists can start there, and then gravitate towards the finer lines. At that point, the pencil would be worn down enough to make the transition possible.

4. Avoid using color with charcoal drawings, unless the picture is supposed to include mixed media in general. Part of the appeal of charcoal drawings is the black and white contrast and monochromatic simplicity. Charcoal is an inexpensive, low-maintenance medium, and charcoal drawings are often supposed to have an appealing sketched quality. Most colored utensils will only disturb the work artists have already done in crafting the charcoal drawing.

Tips for Doing a Creative Collage

1. Try to select a broad theme for the collage. An assemblage of entirely random text and visuals can still be interesting to look at, but deciphering the theme of the collage can add an additional layer of depth for the audience. A collage that is just about, say, standup comedy could work, but it may be less visually interesting than a collage about comedy in general. Collages about topics have a sense of unity and purpose that is difficult to achieve with a less focused collage.

2. Choose a wide selection of both images and text. The important thing in creating a collage is to avoid the feeling of sameness. Collages need the same sense of dynamic visuals as any other sort of art piece. A contrast of pictures and text makes the collage itself stand out in a way that is more memorable than just a straight assemblage of either words or pictures.

3. Try to avoid too many obvious patterns. Collages look better when they reflect a sort of loopy energy, as opposed to when they appear too ordered and controlled. A symmetrical collage may simultaneously look too tidy to be a successful collage and not tidy enough to be successful as another type of decoration. Having too much text in one area can flatten a collage, while too many pictures next to each other can look too much like a photograph album. Achieving a degree of randomness can give a collage its charming, characteristic look.

4. Choose the colors of images carefully. Having too many comparatively dark images scattered throughout the collage will give it an oddly spotty look. Colors can create visual patterns that make the collage look too symmetrical. However, having a certain section of the collage be filled with darker pictures and scattered with text can contrast nicely with a lighter adjacent section.

5. Use three-dimensional media sparingly for a more striking effect. Some random additions to the collage that stand out from the rest of the composite materials can help bring the piece together. Things like artificial flowers or pieces of fabric can add texture without dominating the collage.

6. Choose a sturdy background material for the base. Solid Styrofoam poster board will work, as will wood and many other types of heavy materials. The bigger the collage is, the more the paper items, glue, and any additional items will weigh, and the harder it will be to use a flimsier base. Collages need not be two-dimensional or flat sheets. Vases and bowls can be decorated collage-style for a creative effect. Using a standard printer-sized sheet of paper probably will not work for a base by itself.