Nothing is Black and White: Using Charcoal and Gesso to Explore Justice

Hi, it’s Moriah again and today I want to show you a technique you can use to explore the concept of justice.


When I first found out about Ubuntu, I immediately thought about the idea of justice in communities, the Black Lives Matter movement and the #MeToo movement taking over the globe. As a woman and a survivor of sexual assault, these movements have resonated with me and inspired me to know I am not alone.


But  what does it mean to be just, to be part of a community that has been hurt and harmed by others? How do we reconcile those differences and learn to come together and heal as a community?


Merriam Webster defines something that is just as:

acting or being in conformity with what is morally upright or good


We are taught at a young age what is right and wrong; don’t steal, don’t hurt people, don’t lie. But as we grow older, other values are passed down to us or we experience that aren’t always pleasant, such as racism or sexism. If we are taught at such a young age to be good, to not steal, etcetera, can we also learn to be kind to each other and to address the issues impacting our communities, whatever they might be?


Nothing is Black and White: Using Charcoal and Gesso to Explore Justice


For this activity, I want you to think about what is a problem in your community or life that needs justice. I live in Spain, where the #MeToo movement has taken on a different angle. Women are often abused in homes and don’t have as many opportunities as men. In April the local government of Madrid passed out signs to all locals to hang on their door so that if a woman is being abused, she knows she can go to that home and get help. It’s this idea of the community stepping in to help those who are abused that I wanted to address.


Supply List

  • Charcoal (I am using willow charcoal but you can use any type)
  • White gesso
  • Your art journal

Now that you know how to use charcoal and gesso to create paintings, think about an issue impacting your community.  What images come to mind? Try to think of something that represents that idea. For example, you can use a heart to represent love or a hand for friendship. Are you or someone in your area doing something to help with that cause? If nothing is being done, think of what you could do.

Action Steps

  • Use gesso and charcoal to create a symbol of justice in your community
  • Research issues in your community and find out how you can help. For example, volunteer with the local shelter or donate supplies for impoverished school children.


Moriah is an American transplant living in Madrid, Spain. Her favourite part of art journaling is being able to experiment with different techniques and styles and not having to care about making mistakes or if it doesn’t look good.