21 August 2013

Vine Charcoal vs. Charcoal Pencil...and a Scott Burdick drawing video

I learned to draw at Watts Atelier here in San Diego using Conte charcoal pencils on smooth newsprint.  The cool things about charcoal pencils...not too messy, easy to sharpen to a nice point, and the charcoal stays on the paper. In fact with any pressure at all, the marks are indelible.  It takes practice to wield a charcoal pencil, but the manual dexterity you develop leads to better paint brush handling.  It's all connected.

Now that I'm out of school, I'm playing around with vine charcoal.  I like it...it's a classic medium.  Messier than charcoal pencil and the marks can be very delicate.  If laid down lightly, vine charcoal can almost be blown off a newsprint surface.  Some people don't like that, but I think it's an advantage.  Easier to correct a bad stroke.  Just a quick swipe with your finger.  And with a bit more pressure, your marks stay put.

If you want to see how a master handles vine charcoal, see Scott Burdick's video "Secrets of Drawing".  This video is for everyone, beginners to advanced.  I learned a huge amount about the expressive potential of the medium.

The first drawing below was created a few days ago...after I viewed Scott's video.  I used a jumbo Grumbacher medium charcoal stick for the lay-in and modeling of the forms, then detailed the features with a 2B charcoal pencil.  In contrast, the second drawing (below) was created a few weeks earlier with charcoal pencils only.  I see big differences.  I was able to make more expressive and more varied marks with the vine charcoal.  I stabilized the vine drawing towards the end with workable spray fixative.  Vine charcoal tears up newsprint, so I will use a different support next drawing.

Amanda, vine charcoal on newsprint, 18x24" (3 hours from life)

Amanda, charcoal pencil on newsprint, 18x24" (3 hours from life)

Here is a YouTube preview for the "Secrets of Drawing" video

If you don't know Scott Burdick's drawings, here are a few examples.  Hopefully he won't mind.

07 August 2013

Cut Costs by Painting on Unstretched Canvas

As I said last post, I'm painting from life as often as I can.  Since I'm mostly figurative, that means painting people.  My daughter Amanda models for me, and I also go to weekly open studios. To reduce costs, I started painting on unstretched canvas.  It's about 1/3 the price of same-size commercial linen board. The panel for Amanda (below) cost $2.50.  Tape it to a board, paint on it...once it's dry, stack it with the others.  If I want to keep a painting around, I can always mount it to a board.

Of course, buying your canvas in bulk is key.   Amanda (below) was painted on Claessen's 15DP linen, which is actually one of the less expensive of the quality linens.  If you're in the States, Utrecht seems to have some of the best sale prices.   And if you aren't sure which support type you want, order the linen swatchbook from Blick and try painting on the samples.

Aesthetic note:  15DP is rougher than portrait linen, like Claessen's 13, which is what Ginger (at bottom) was painted on.  Note the textural differences between the 2 sketches.  The 15DP adds character to the brush strokes, as you can see from the close-up, but you can still pull a clean hard edge, if you wish.

Amanda, 11x14" oil on Claessens 15DP linen

Amanda (detail), 3x4"...pebbly surface; notice the red hair strokes.

Ginger 8x10", oil on Claessen's 13 linen