Posted in charcoal, studio tip

CHARCOAL STUDY: Mini Pumpkin Still Life

Hello and happy belated Thanksgiving!

With all the busyness of preparing for the holiday and finishing up our homeschooling before we take a fall break, I haven’t had much time to be creative.

With so little time available, I found a way to get some art time in and not spend a TON of time on it.

Time for CHARCOAL!

I set up a little still life scene using some mini pumpkins I bought from a local farmer’s market. I love using these for decorating too, so they served double duty.

I made sure to set up my light source to get some fairly strong cast shadows, and I also made sure to have some overlap between the pumpkins, placing the different-looking pumpkin in the middle. In hind sight, I probably would have made the stem of the pumpkin on the right point toward the middle, but oh well!

Here I have the pumpkins in different stages of development using vine charcoal. If you look closely at the pumpkin on the left, you can just make out the faint outline of the rectangle I used to block in the overall shapes–I find drawing rectangles much easier than drawing ovals to find correct proportions.

Here are the materials I used for this study: extra soft vine charcoal; Derwent Charcoal Pencils in Light, Medium, Dark, and White; a white Conte’ a Paris pastel pencil; kneaded eraser; and a Koh-i-Noor Heavy Drawing (114 lb-185 gsm) 9×12 sketchbook. I like this sketchbook for studies because I can remove a page and clip it to a drawing board, and then replace it back into the sketchbook when I’m done!

Here is the first result. Not bad, and I thought I was finished….but after taking a photograph, I found myself wanting to do a bit more to punch up the contrast and some of the detail. So….

I got out my General’s Carbon Sketch pencil. I used it to punch up the darks. I could have used compressed charcoal for these darkest darks, but I don’t like using compressed charcoal….

Above, you can see a value scale for the different pencils I used. I didn’t include the vine charcoal.

Here is the final version. Much happier with the adjustments I made, and it was a great study in value as well!

ART TIP: Photographing your art when you “think” you may be done is a great way to see your art more objectively. There’s something about seeing the piece in the camera frame that can help you decide if any refinements need to be made or if you are done!
It can also help you avoid overworking the piece!

I hope you had a wonderful holiday and I hope you get to invest in a little creative “me time” soon. 😉


Rhonda is an artist, violinist, mountain dulcimer player, composer/arranger, homeschool mom, and chicken/goat farmer. To purchase her fine art, visit

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