One of the most striking aspects about charcoal art is that it is completely devoid of color. Thus, within the limited constraints of black and white, the portraitist has to express his subject. In fact the French painter Odilon Redon rebelled against the predominant impressionism of those times. He was of the idea that society curtailed natural phenomena. He consciously chose to work with pencil and rendered black and white paintings as his way of rebelling against the dull reality of color in real life. Having a fascination for the morbid and the menacing, many of Redon’s paintings contained creatures like insects, amoeboid creatures, as well as plants containing human heads. Through his paintings, this revolutionary portrayer served to refute the standard differentiation between ugly and beautiful.
A depth of meaning
If you consider the works of James Drake, all of his works were done in charcoal and served to represent the looming and gloomy image of war. For example, in his painting the War in Heaven he has patched and taped various animals and birds such as hawks, gazelles, insects of giant proportions etc. In this painting, the portraitist has tried to showcase the ‘patched up’ nature of memory. Just like one’s memory which gets torn, weathered and repaired once again, this work too depicts a melancholic and dramatic effect. Portrait artists who have depicted work in black and white have managed to convey a far deeper meaning in their paintings as compared to colored paintings.