Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Painting without a net


I'm just about finished with my current project, so I thought I'd pop in for a quick blog.

There is a technique that bodybuilders use when they feel they've hit a plateau and wish to break through to the next level. It's called shocking the muscles, and it involves completely changing their workout routine and forcing the muscles to adapt to new conditions. I believe this same technique holds true for artists as well. So, from time to time I like to throw myself a new medium and see what it does.

I'd heard about a charcoal wash technique for years, but I've not been able to find anything explaining the procedure. So naturally I thought I'd give it a go. After acquiring some sandpaper, a set of compressed charcoal, and a black lung, I made a tin of powdered charcoal. Note: if you wish to try this technique I suggest buying powdered charcoal instead of making it… cough, hack, cough. I thought I'd go for it during one of the 20 minute poses for our Tuesday night classes.

Denise was our model that night, and she was weightless and dynamic as usual. She collaborated with the lighting and struck a pose that yielded a great balance of hard and soft shadows.
I felt the lack of a comfort zone on my first brushstroke. This was literally making up a technique as I painted. I used a 1 1/2 inch flat brush for the entire piece, and a disposable paper plate for my palate. I eventually settled into a method of blocking in light masses, and building towards a darker linear form. It was a fairly unforgiving procedure, and subtlety was the first sacrifice.
As what happens all too often, I really thought I had things figured out right when we ran out of time.

This is definitely something I will revisit, and it felt good spending most of my time learning rather than doing.

There is also a technique involving powdered graphite and denatured alcohol, but I think the smell of that concoction would get me chased out of the session.

8 comments:

ColbyZ said...

Thanks for sharing. It reminds me of inkwashing, which I am trying to learn. Nice contrast, I love the freedom and looseness of your strokes.

rico said...

Charcoal is scary enough without adding moisture! I love those broad brushstrokes!

Patman said...

Now I'm wondering if I need to bring a gas mask to the next figure drawing session...

Tony Shasteen said...

"Now I'm wondering if I need to bring a gas mask to the next figure drawing session..."

Only if Cully is attending.

BRIAN DELANDRO said...

Whoa sweet! Should been there ta check it out. Using charcoal dry is "muscle shock" enough for me right now though. If I ever feel the urge for wet, I'll give ink wash another try sometime.

That sort of style would look real nice on a comic page. Require some massive size paper tho!

davejohnsonart said...

I used to do something similar in college; I would draw with a charcoal pencil and then wash over it to create a base grey. After that, I would go back over it again and spray fix. I would also use white color pencil for my lights.

Cheeks said...

Gorgeous blog, Brian.

brian said...

ColbyZ,
dude, I love the ink wash. I almost never get a chance to do it, due to fear and lack of convenience, but I love it as well.

rico,
thanks man. I'll take any excuse to get sloppy.

Patman,
live in fear my man.

BRIAN D,
I don't think they even make paper that big. You would also have to make sure it was printed large enough so it wouldn't feel like you wasted your time.

davej,
Shasteen uses a similar technique and gets amazing results. See if you can shame him into posting some of it.

Cheeks,
dude, Townsend and I were just talking about your stuff earlier today.
Thanks for the compliment, and your blog was one of the things that inspired me into gear.
Keep bringing the noise, cause I'm watching you.