Looking for a little inspiration for your charcoal practice? Our new series, Charcoal Inspiration, offers up artists and works that have taken the art of charcoal drawing to new heights, pushed it towards new horizons, and inspired us.
As one of the earliest mediums of artistic expression, charcoal drawing can carry with it a whiff of the ancient, an air redolent with classicism, when expressed in even the most contemporary, or even experimental, of contexts. In this installment of Charcoal Inspiration, we take a look at Hugo Crosthwaite, an artist whose work over the last fifteen years has shown a true devotion to charcoal and graphite, and whose work, while vividly influenced by and referential of the great masters, infuses the medium with a fresh energy and a nod to the canon of 20th century modern abstraction – wholly new and exciting, while classic in spirit and demeanor.
Crosthwaite references Goya, Delacroix, Theodore Gericault and Arnold Bocklin when speaking of his influences, and approaches his work without compositional intention. “I let the act of drawing dictate my compositions,” Crosthwaite has said. The narratives of these compositions frequently reference the “chaos and spontaneity” of border town life in his native Tijuana, Mexico, and explore the “complexities of human expression - everything from alienation to acceptance and even celebration.”
“In the creative process, I feel more akin to writers than painters because my work is very immediate and improvised,” Crosthwaite recently told interviewer Mark Murphy. “I have to progress to the drawing. Because of this, there is not usually a direct message, not a cut and dry story because the visual interpretation is a result of my process. It is open enough for anybody to reflect, to insert their own narrative.”
You can read Mark Murphy’s full interview with the artist here, and view a video of Crosthwaite at work here.
And Crosthwaite’s dedication to charcoal and graphite as the medium through which he conjures his unique classical-abstract tableaux is specific in both technique as well as effect. “My works are completed using graphite and charcoal. This medium allows me to seamlessly combine classical figurative representation with modern abstraction,” says Crosthwaite in an introduction to his work. “In my depiction of figures, I am dedicated to using classical technique, minute in detail. The absence of color allows each work to be viewed as an objective documentation of events from which the spectator's involvement is forbidden. It is not my objective to create compositions to which viewers can relate. It is my intent to create works that maintain their mysteriousness in spite of their classical figurative representation.”
Born in Tijuana, Mexico, Hugo Crosthwaite now divides his time between his home in Brooklyn, New York, Los Angeles, California and his hometown. He is a graduate of San Diego State University and is represented by the Luis De Jesus Gallery in Los Angeles.
Interested in exploring your own version of the meld of the classical-abstract? You can listen to Crosthwaite speak about his process and view more images of his work for inspiration.