Serengeti Sunset, charcoal drawing

My latest drawing was chosen to continue working lights and darks using purely charcoal.  This African scene was perfect for the challenge .  .  . with the sun setting over the trees, the hot bush giving way to a background thick with haze and a lot of atmosphere, yes a lot was here to capture.  There always seems a bit of mystery and romanticism about the gems found in bush country  ~

Serengeti Sunset, a charcoal drawing (9×12) was done on Strathmore Bristol Vellum paper using compressed, willow vine, pencils and loose charcoal powder.  Most of the textures in the piece was a process of putting the charcoal on and taking it off with a variety of tools (tortilium, pad, Q-Tips and kneaded erasers).  If you notice the sun, it wasn’t quite brilliant enough to distinguish it from the clouds and rest of the sky, so a bit of charcoal was used around the sun letting it be barely there combining brilliance and haze.

A few visitors that made their way into the drawing, can you see them?  Thanks for checking in ~ click onto the image for a larger view.


About Mary

Oil Pastelist
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93 Responses to Serengeti Sunset, charcoal drawing

  1. An awesome rendition Mary. Love it!!

    • Mary says:

      Thanks so much Emily for checking out the drawing. It was a great scene for the subtleties of elements of the region – charcoal was the perfect medium to bring it all out. Hope you are well – loved the photographs from your trip.

  2. Such texture you get with your charcoal. Those wispy mountains look so real. And the visitors are just hinted at, just like a real safari would not get too close. Well done!

    • Mary says:

      Love your description and thoughts on the drawing Brenda. It is one of those scenes/places where we are so much better off to just let that world be to themselves. Perhaps that the ‘magic’ as Jet said of Serengeti. Thanks again my friend.

  3. Jet Eliot says:

    Fantastic drawing Mary! The magic of the Serengeti, the sun, the acacia trees, and the animal looking up–very well expressed.

    • Mary says:

      Hi Jet, thanks so much I really appreciate your thoughts on the scene – it was a great piece to work out in charcoal. There is a certain magic in this region, no doubt that you are familiar with.

  4. Lovely sinewy trees, Mary and if that’s a water buffalo I can see, I’d get out the way

    • Mary says:

      Thanks very much Graham – you are absolutely right and the first person to identify the water buffalo! Appreciate your thoughts on the piece, thanks again ~

  5. Beautiful tree branches here… so graceful and full of life! ~Rita

  6. Jenna says:

    This is gorgeous! I love that rich contrast of light and dark. And I really like those thin, confident branches – you’re very good at charcoal drawing. Excellent work!

    • Mary says:

      So great to hear from you Jenna! Thank you very much for your thoughts on the drawing, the elements that you mentioned are what attracted me to draw the scene. Thanks again, have a beautiful weekend.

  7. jvandervlugt says:

    You’ve got it. The trees, the haze and a little elephant. Is that what I see?

    • Mary says:

      Thanks so much Joanna for your comment! Ah those visitors can be whatever you’d like them to be ~ it was a great scene to create in charcoal.

  8. dorannrule says:

    It seems impossible to capture a sunset in this art medium but you have done it and done it well!

  9. exiledprospero says:

    Wonderful. Are the trees Acacia tortilis or Acacia abyssinica?

    • Mary says:

      Thank you my friend – I think that these are the Acacia Tortilis species. But to tell you the truth it’s very difficult to tell the two differences apart in all the images I found.

  10. Absolutely stunning. Your art is so versatile. The common ground to each piece is the ability to transport us to another place.

  11. Paul Beech says:

    Mary, you have truly caught the moment here, the quietude of the coming dusk. Pure magic.


  12. restlessjo says:

    Yes! You’ve taken us right there, Mary 🙂 🙂

  13. The branches of your trees as so very sensitively rendered. Little portraits of the individual angles. Fabulous.

    • Mary says:

      Awesome description Elena – loved the “little portraits of the individual angles.” Really appreciate your feedback and colorful words describing the scene.

  14. Highly atmospheric, Miss Mary.
    One of the things i’ve always loved about Africa – my favourite continent – is the subtle light

    Big hugs

    uncle john

    • Mary says:

      Thank you Uncle John and for connecting your favorite place to this drawing – the atmosphere is unlike any other place. I was hoping to convey the subtle light, appreciate your thoughtful comment.

  15. tedgiffin says:

    What is so striking of the image is that I can feel the temperature of the scene, and without color..I am flabbergasted , and love it!

  16. ĽAdelaide says:

    This is very cool and I blew it up to find those ghostly bovines(I think!! 😉 As always, just wonderful stuff! xx

    • Mary says:

      Awesome Linda – I’m so glad you blew up the drawing. You are so right there are three bovines wandering around out there!! I really enjoyed your thoughts on this piece, thanks so much!

  17. As I first saw this without even paying attention to the title, Africa popped in my mind, the tree shapes are typical for that region and immediately recognizable, then I read the title and I thought of course that makes perfect sense! What a beautiful multi layered piece Mary. The Serengeti is a complex region and you perfectly worked in so many elements of that: sunset, mountain, high bushes, animals all that with the haze, you really brought in the atmosphere for which Africa is known for. I especially love the trees, the shape, form and structure of it is so “African”, you executed them perfectly! There are many elements to this and you perfectly managed to bring this mysterious and atmospheric land onto your drawing and all that in charcoal! Excellent and most beautiful!

    • Mary says:

      Hi Eva, loved reading your thoughts on the region and how the elements of that special place connected to this drawing. It was a very different scene for me, but the quietness of the atmosphere and strength of the tall and graceful trees is what attracted me to draw it. It’s amazing to me how you sense what I’m trying to convey in each and every piece – in this case you are very perceptive with the direction of my work here. Thank you my friend!

      • That is why you’re a very special artist, you can make us feel connected to your artworks, make us feel it, be in it and sense your emotions which you went trough while working on it. You pour your heart and soul onto!

  18. Nicodemas says:

    Mary I love this. I feel like I am there.

  19. debiriley says:

    exquisite use of the charcoal and media! beautiful inflections of tone and you have a wonderful, sensitivity that makes the media perform like ‘magic’………… I love the trees and the foliage, This is a Lovely art work Mary!!

  20. Susan Feniak says:

    I am awe struck! And you did this with charcoal too!! The visitors the distant mountain and all the detail, wow! Hats off to you Mary! 🙂

    • Mary says:

      Thank you so much Susan for your thoughtful words, I love your response to the drawing and for taking the time to look at the elements. It was a great scene to work out in charcoal, a little messy though – at one point the charcoal dust was on the paper, desk and oh man the beige carpet, lol. Thanks again ~

  21. Oh yes, I see the visitors, Mary! The detail is amazing…well done!

  22. Only you can get this kind of detail with charcoal! Love the visitors too! Thanks for sharing, Mary!

  23. I do see the sun and the rays ‘bleaching’ the top of the tree, and the mountain and the beautiful tree silhouettes and the life under the grass – in the bush, a bull[?] and a very well camouflaged creature!… it’s a beautiful painting, Mary! 🙂

    • Mary says:

      I’m really enjoying reading your thoughts as you walk through the grasses and examine each of the elements – so exciting, you saw each as presented. Thanks so much Marina, this was very special.

  24. Wonderful charcoal drawing. I can point out the visitors there….the long grass and the mighty trees…a perfect Serengeti sunset!

  25. Leya says:

    This is really, really beautiful, Mary. It must be wonderful to be able to draw like this! I have never been to Serengeti – but this looks just like on TV!

    • Mary says:

      Thank you so much Ann-Christine – I enjoyed your reaction to the drawing. I’ve never been to Africa and this region looks like a gorgeous area to visit. Appreciate your thoughtful and enthusiastic response.

  26. The detail you give with charcoal is astonishing, Mary. My envy continues unabated!

    • Mary says:

      Thank you so much Sarah for your beautiful and generous feedback. If you could see my arm and wrist, every time I thought I was being careful – I’d look down and see more of the charcoal on me than the drawing, lol. Thank you, the variety that the medium comes in makes it possible to get loose and fine details. Thank you Sarah ~

  27. Amy says:

    This charcoal drawing is like a beautiful brush painting. So well composed, and the lighting is just perfect. Thank you for sharing with us, Mary!

  28. Wonderfully atmospheric and a superb use of the medium. Your work just gets better and better…..Have a lovely creative week ahead….Janet:)

  29. Beautifully atmospheric and such a fine use of the medium. Great stuff, Mary. Enjoy a lovely week….Janet. 🙂

    • Mary says:

      Thank you so much Janet for your continued support and encouragement. It was my goal to work the atmosphere, a little easier in graphite for me than charcoal perhaps a smooth paper would have given me a little less texture in the sky. I really love working with charcoal, very exciting medium.

  30. dsaquarelles says:

    So beautiful contrasts!

  31. Rebecca says:

    Perfect delicacy, Mary. Quite lovely! 🙂

  32. Painting for Joy says:

    Beautiful work Mary. I do see the animal sneaking in!

  33. Very nice, as always, Mary, and yes, I did spot the visitors! I’ve never been to Africa; those trees are not familiar to me, what are they called?

    • Mary says:

      Hi Cynthia, thanks so much. Great question, these trees (I believe) are called Umbrella Thorn Acacia. From what I understand the inside branches are soft and green, while the outer branches are thorny which prevents Giraffes from eating them. They are so graceful looking – beautiful shapes that can be seen both near and from a distance.

  34. neihtn2012 says:

    Beautiful! I have a photo of a sunrise on my blog which looks somewhat similar to your drawing:

    • Mary says:

      So wonderful – thank you for sharing your sunrise, it’s fantastic. The reference image was from Ian Quigley (pmp) who took some amazing shots while in Africa – this one held so much appeal that I had to see if I could work the charcoal to give the impression of a sunset. Thanks so much for your comment!

  35. That’s beautiful….with just a few sweeps you have created wonderful depth

    • Mary says:

      Thank you – charcoal is a fascinating medium that lends itself to those wonderful sweeps, especially with portraits. I really enjoyed your comment!!

  36. ladyfi says:

    This is lovely – and I see a couple of visitors.

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