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.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Tips for artist talks

As part of my upcoming exhibition which opens on June 12th, I am giving an artist talk on the day after the opening (June 13th).  For me, public presentations are not usually something that make me nervous as when I was working in my day job, I did a lot of public speaking at a variety of levels.

 I believe that if you comfortable with your subject, talking about becomes easier.  And for an artist, talking about their art comes naturally, or should!

To keep audience attention in any talk the following points should be kept in mind:

  1. Know your subject inside out.  If you are not familiar with a section, practice it until you are.  If you don't know your subject, it will show as you "umm" and "errr" your way through it.
  2. Speak in layman terms about your art.   While "art speak" may be the norm in some presentations about art creation, it does confuse listeners, even if they are artists themselves.  Explain what you created and why in as plain language as possible.
  3. Inject a little humour into the talk.   Making people smile at the beginning of a talk sets the tone for the session.  Keep it general public appropriate, you don't know who will be in your audience and you do not want to offend anyone.
  4. Have a logical sequence, don't jump all over the place.  Have a start, middle and end so there is a flow to the talk.  Give an introduction at the beginning outlining what you'll be talking about before getting into the presentation itself.
  5. Use visuals.  You're an artist, of course you'll have visuals!  Visuals keep people interested where words don't, so sprinkle them liberally throughout the talk but make them relevant.
  6. Keep questions til the end of the talk.  Questions that randomly pop up make you lose your train of thought and interrupt the concentration of others who are present.
  7. Keep to the time allotted.  Stay within the time frame for the talk.  People have lives and places to go.  Anything over an hour and an audience becomes fidgety unless you are absolutely rivetting in your talk.
  8. Thank your hosts, sponsors and those attending.  These people are the reason you are here.  Thank them warmly and genuinely.
  9. Mingle after the talk for those back room questions.  Often after the talk, more questions arise.  With your coffee or glass of wine, talk informally with people.  Seek out quiet people and make a point of speaking with them.  Don't be monopolized by any one person.
  10. Have lots of business cards available.  Provide business cards on a side table before and after the talk as well as have some in a pocket to provide to individuals you speak with.