Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Adventures in Charcoal - Prologue

Minotaur quickie sketch
powdered charcoal, charcoal pencil

Let me start by saying I love the internet. Social Media, while still massively flawed in many ways, does make it so easy to share information instantly and start a conversation with a ton of people.  A few weeks ago I put out a call on Facebook for input on charcoal brands. I've been loving the charcoal lately and  now that I am getting more comfortable with it, decided I needed to do some serious testing of the different options to up my game. Namely I wanted to find a charcoal with a smoother and more consistent application than what I have been using.   I got some great suggestions and immediately took advantage of all the Dick Blick back to school sales and free shipping to fill out my burnt wood collection. Charcoal is a very tricky mistress. She's messy and flexible which is what makes her fun but a little hard to control sometimes. 

So in the spirit of art and the scientific method: I bring you Adventures in Charcoal! (feel free to hum some dramatic music)

Here are a bunch of my new (and some old)  toys I will be playing with :

It's like Christmas! I must have been very, very naughty to get all this coal. 

 The new players: 

Alphacolor charkoles recommended by Bill Carman

Coates recommended by Scott  and Teresa Fischer

Pan Pastels recommended by Eric Braddock and Dale Stephanos
Eric used these on his amazing Lord of the Rings drawings.

Nitram recommended by Robert Hunt

I really wanted to play with some of those big sticks, so tried out a quick experiment with the Nitram charcoals right away with this self portrait below.

Self Portrait
18 x 24
nitram charcoal on 300 series Strathmore charcoal paper
Right off the bat I noticed that the Nitram holds onto the paper better than a typical vine charcoal.  Often I prefer the 300 series charcoal pad from Strathmore because it has slightly less tooth and so I can float the charcoal on top a little easier, move it around with a brush or chamois and erase to white. The flipside to that is building up darks gets tricky. But with the Nitram I can build it up a bit thicker, get some darker colors and still erase. It doesn't go on quite as smooth as a soft vine charcoal but is still pretty consistent. Plus the larger. firmer sticks really lend themselves to filing into useful shapes which I will discuss more in a later post.

Over the next several weeks I will be experimenting with all of these more and posting my results. So please stay tuned and let me know if you have your own tips and tricks!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Figurative Friday 6 - Self Portrait

It's been a while since I did a proper self portrait from life and it was about time I captured the crazy hair anyways. Plus, I just got a huge supply of new charcoal toys to play with and couldn't wait to try some out . I will talk more in depth about the different brands and how they are to use in a later post but so far  the Nitram is quite lovely.
Nitram Charcoal on Strathmore 300 series pad

Friday, September 5, 2014

Figurative Friday 5 - Sam

Sam modeled for my Frog Queen piece last year. She was a great model  but I knew I was going to end up changing her likeness a bunch for the piece, so grabbed some normal shots of her as well for myself.  A while back I wanted to test out some new oil colors and some palette ideas so grabbed one of the photos for inspiration and did this little study.

Oil on Panel
8 x 12