I’m currently pushing through a series of works where I’m experimenting with charcoal and ink washes, something I’ve never done before. This is a self portrait series that deals primarily with cultural stereotypes that suppress the image of black hair. I first started with this study to have fun with the mediums and to also experiment with color. I wanted to simply observe and record any interesting findings I wanted to replicate in the final piece.

Satisfied at this point I decided to start the real drawing from photographic reference using charcoal. I really loved the results.

The preliminary drawing starts to take on a life and personality of it’s own. The charcoal glides easily across the surface making it easy for me to quickly implement values. So far the image begins to evoke the mood of the piece, one of longing and the weight of bearing a burden. It also has caricature look, with an exaggeration of my features to also convey the emotion.

The depiction of the hair is not meant to be representational here but convey the image of emotional weight and the struggle with strong emotions. The height of the hair is meant to overwhelm the viewer by appearing colossal and overbearing. The uplifting part of all this is that the depiction of hair hints to have spiritual origin as I draw the comparison to sheep’s wool through the title. The hair itself is the iconic reference to bearing one’s own cross.

The last phase is of course is to provide a textured back ground with more washes of ink which will conclude the final stage of the painting. I also will include a re-occurring motifs in my work that symbolizes the internal and external dialogue that occurs when dealing with struggle.

This work will be apart of an on going body of work that will continue to analyse aspects of cultural identity and it’s implication for the image as object. I will post the final image once complete. Thanks for following me on this journey. All feed back is welcomed.


I’ve now gotten through the long stretch, still fine tuning this piece. It was enjoyable doing this mixed media piece, something I haven’t dabbled in for a very long time. I used embossing techniques out of curiosity and loved the results. For the first time I wasn’t too preoccupied with the technical aspect of the work but more so on what it expressed emotionally. Since I enjoyed this quite a bit I might even turn it into a on going drawing series.

To be continued….

  1. raemansky

    I like how you adress this cultural suppression of showing typical black hair. I never really thought about it before, but I can completely imagine how this negativity one often encounters when people are adressing these typical black features, has lead to attempt hiding this. Strong work! And like PJ Harvey said don’t let them straighten your curls 😉

    1. Avatar photo
      Crystal Marshall

      Thank you for the great feedback, glad the work serves as an eye opener which is my intention. I also like that quote 🙂

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    Masha Gudyma

    Thank u so much Crystal for charing your art. It is really impressive – at each stage you can see the large-scale internal work was going on. Mixed media in this case helps to better reveal the depth of the psychological and emotional self-portrait. Which materials did you use for embossing? Gold and silver floral ornaments evoke associations with decorative mosaics by Klimt.
    And of course it would be great to see the sequel of this series, hope someday we will have such an opportunity!)

    1. Avatar photo
      Crystal Marshall

      I definitely agree. Mixed media has helped me to open up a bit more. I used gold and white emboss powder. Yes I absolutely love Gustavu Klimt one of my favorite artists, so his influence is definitely here. I will continue sharing more of the series. Thanks for the great feed back.

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