Friday, June 05, 2015

Handmade charcoal

Vine charcoal sticks

I've dabbled at making artist charcoal in the past, but over the last couple of months I've gotten more serious about it.  With several grape vines in the greenhouse and lots of early spring cuttings before the sap rose, I thought I'd put them to good use.

Mark making with vine charcoal sticks

With a fair bit of hand work in cutting, seasoning and removing the bark, some experimentation was done on burn times to come up with a product that worked well.  Charcoal is produced by subjecting wood/vines to intense heat but eliminating oxygen so that it doesn't burn. Resins and water are eliminated and it becomes carbonized instead of turning to ash as it would in an open fire.  Prep time is tempered with patience and waiting.  Nothing about making charcoal is quick.

Peeled vine sticks, ready for a burn

The test burns have exceeded my expectations and are still ongoing.  The vine charcoal that has been produced so far is what I would class as a "soft" grade, meaning it gives a very dark mark on paper.  I'll be working with other woods available locally to see what grades of charcoal I can produce.

Test charcoal sketch

I've done a few quick sketches with the vine charcoal that I have produced and will create a full drawing on an appropriate paper to really give them a test drive. The wave above was a 10 minute sketch on the bottom of a letter that came in the mail, copy paper.  The streaks are marks on the paper itself, not the charcoal.

Erased lines in charcoal - newsprint

I'll do a pilot test with some charcoals later in the year through artists who are familiar with using charcoal as a medium and who are willing to answer questions about its quality and usability.  If charcoal is one of your primary mediums for drawing and you would be interested in testing some handmade charcoal, please let me know and your name will be added to a list of potential testers.


Jennifer Rose said...

wish I used charcoal more, but I always make such a huge mess with it lol even tho it was my fav medium to use in life drawing class

very neat to see your results, makes me want to look into making my own

Jeanette Jobson said...

The mess is part of the fun :) Its so expressive I think that's why I love it.

Its interesting to create it and I'm looking forward to trying different woods and see what they produce.

Gary L. Everest said...

Hi Jeanette,
What a fascinating post! I learn something every day and charcoal was the subject today.
Best of luck with the project and I'm looking forward to the results in your art.
Have a nice Sunday.

Jennifer Rose said...

would different woods give you different hardness grades??

Jeanette Jobson said...

My mind is an ever whirring machine Gary. I just need enough time to fit it all in.

Jen, yes, that is what I'm thinking. That and perhaps burn times.

RH Carpenter said...

I end up a blackened mess when I use charcoal but love the look it gives - and I am so impressed that you are making your own charcoal!!

Jeanette Jobson said...

The mess is part of the creative process Rhonda ;) and worth pursuing to get thst lovely range of greys.