Posted in Art and Artists, Research & Reflection

Maggi Hambling (Revisited)

I was thinking about the exercises, and what “loosely describe” actually needed. They reminded me of the Maggi Hambling Works on Paper exhibition. Much of her work in charcoal could be “loosely described” and yet manages to get a lot over emotionally and in terms of atmosphere. I went back though the book mentioned in the latest article and started to think how that style might be applied within the current exercises.

an00195317_001_lHer work often involves strong use of line, with denser line being used to highlight focal areas, or to provide some idea of form. Lighter lines are used for less critical detail. Some of the emotional impact comes from the subject (as in the featured image), but not all of it or in all cases. In “Portrait of Henrietta Moraes” the subject means little to me (though much to the artist), and yet the emotional content of the image shines though. More in the original than the internet image.

Mostly the image is based on line, with mainly the eyes having been blended in the paper (presumably using a stump). This draws the spectator to the eyes, and is part of the effect of the image as a whole.


In “Max Wall and His Image” the style is quite similar, with mostly expressive line used to convey the character of the subject. This seems to be the most common approach for her charcoal drawings on paper. This can be to a degree where I’m not sure how she managed to get such softness into the work using a charcoal stick. See “Portrait of Cedric Morris on his deathbed” as an example.


I can only assume that she is using a very fine piece of charcoal that has been broken to get a fine end, and then manages to use a very light touch. She may also have a supply of relatively hard charcoal. I’ve noticed that the charcoal I’ve used varies in hardness which has a similar effect to different pencil hardness.

So, what have I learnt?

To be honest that I need to “Experiment and practice”, which isn’t new, and the fact that I have a long way to go. I should, however, definitively try drawing with charcoal more expressively without trying to blend the particles with a stump. If I get time to repeat Project 2 Ex 1 then it would be a good opportunity to “loosely describe” the objects again.



Image source All images are from the collection of the British Museum and appeared in the “Works on Paper” Exhibition. For the featured image see  “Study for ‘The Descent of the Bull’s head’; the bull seen in several stages as he falls. 1985 Charcoal; framed







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