Saturday, November 05, 2011

Charcoal



From time to time, a few grapevine or willow trimmings are collected and made into charcoal.  Its a bit of a hit and miss affair, as there are so many variables involved in the process.  In a nutshell, it involves securing the woody pieces in an airtight container and placing them in the embers of a fire (in my case this is usually the remains of a fire used to burn off old boughs.

The process of heating the wood until it becomes carbon, but without flame actually touching it, produces the familiar carbon pieces that artists draw with. Its likely the original drawing medium going back to pre-historic times.  Of course, the size of the woody pieces, type of wood or vine, heat of the fire, external environmental factors (think wind, rain, etc.. that controls the heat of the fire) and you see the problems that arise in getting a suitable product.


However, the planets were in alignment this time and my batch of grapevine trimmings turned out well.  Dark, soft, smooth to draw with.  This homemade charcoal was what I used for this drawing of a stone lion fountain.  There's still more detail to add with this drawing which is 19 x 22 on a grey/brown Canson paper.

I've been so busy painting these last few months, I forget how much I love drawing.  So it was a pleasure to get my hands dirty with charcoal again.

9 comments:

jane minter said...

what an incredible face ... beautiful jeanette ... i'd like to try this we have vines .. you mentioned the planets alignments ... they say here when the "luna cresente" moon waxing don't cut timber as it doesn't burn well ... cut timber when there is "luna calante" when the moon is waning .. maybe it could effect the quality of the carbon ... what type of container do you use ?

Jeanette said...

The lion does have quite the expressive face Jane. Interesting about the waxing/waning moon. It may affect how much sap is in the wood, making it harder to dry when the moon is waxing.

I used a long tin, perhaps 10 inches long. I believe it originally contained rolled tubes of wafers with chocolate in the middle. I let the trimmed pieces dry in air a few days, then put them in the tin and wrap it will with heavy duty foil, then into the embers. After that, its cross my fingers and hope.

I usually leave it in the embers until they naturally cool then pull it out and wait for the container to get cool enough to touch. Voila!

Hedera said...

I do like your drawings Jeanette. The process you describe is fascinating - a reminder of how much more we might appreciate our art materials if we had to make them ourselves.

Jeanette said...

Thanks Hedera. Drawing is always my comfort zone, my big comfy chair. I forget how much I miss it when I am away from it for long.

Yes, the convenience of having art materials easily available is taken for granted. Drawing and painting would become more precious if everything were found and made resources.

Jennifer Rose said...

would love to try this, but somehow don't think the neighbours would like a bonfire in the backyard :p

Very lifelike water, looks very 3D

Jeanette said...

Jennifer, you could try it in a fireplace in the house, if you have one. I haven't done so, but it might work.

Gary Keimig said...

nice blog. great work

Jeanette said...

Thank you Gary, welcome to the blog.

Khanna. said...

I've never been very good with the charcoal, I give props to people who can. Great job!
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