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.