A few new pieces this week! I really should be outside working…
A few new pieces this week! I really should be outside working…
I’ve gotten a few folks asking about how I get such neat little sticks for my lead holders, so I’ve decided to post photos of the process I use. First, I grind up the broken bits of natural sanguine. I’ve found that the consistency is usually fine without adding any binders or chalk if I am using mostly the natural clay. If I add any iron oxide pigment to the mix, I will add some tragacanth gum and a bit of kaolin clay to give it a nice texture. After getting it all powdery, I sift it onto a piece of glass. Then I add distilled water and mix it with a knife until it is the consistency you see in the photos. I then load it into a children’s Tylenol syringe that I cut the tip of of with a razor blade. After loading and carefully squeezing out any trapped air, I extrude lines of the mixture onto a cardboard or other absorbent surface to dry. I prefer extruding to rolling because I am able to control the consistency better.
In this case, I decided to use a food dehydrator to speed up the drying a bit. It worked quite well, I think. I’ve done this before by cutting each into uniform segments that are cut at a 45 degree angle so that they are sharp and ready for drawing right away. That worked really well also. I hope this helps! All the best.
I thought I’d post a bit of my process for painting a portrait in oils. Or, at least, a step-by-step guide to my basic stages.
Stage 1ish: The drawing and toning.
I usually draw my composition directly on the panel or canvas. I tone the board with a careful brushing of matte medium , then matte medium toned with burnt umber. This time, because of all the hair, I scratched and rubbed out areas that would be highlights or heightened. I figured that would help me in the long run. I was sort of right…
Step 2ish: Block in render to umber/ultramarine shadows.
There is a step missing before this. I blocked in the color using glazes so that the umber lent it’s warm tone to everything. Then-Using one of those handy hair/grass brushes you see in the art supply store, I went to town on the hair.
Step 3: Fluffing up the hair/ more rendering.
Step 4: More shadows, more hair, and I’m seeing stars.
I went tighter on the face, deepened the shadows to obscure edges, and casually messed around.
Step 5: More shadows and more hair.
I wasn’t happy with the hair yet, so a combination of lights and darks as well as falling back into the original hair pattern helped get it back on track. No more messing about!
Face detail after loads or rendering.
Step 6: The final leg.
This is where I tool about; making sure my values are in balance. I found this board to be poorly prepared- the surface was too rough for finer details, but I did what I could.
I’ll keep it in the studio for another month, messing around with it as I see fit. More or less, I see it as finished. After all- My name is now on it! 😉
Every year, my wife and I create a Valentine for each other. It’s really all we do for Valentine’s Day. Here’s mine to her for this year!
After a few months of trying the Zecchi sanguine chunks, I am not really impressed with the quality of product I got- not in terms of quality of drawing stone, but more in terms of quality of intensity and shade of red. They’re simply too light for me. I understand that many artists may prefer a lighter line to build layering on, but for me- even on darker paper it lacks the quality I was expecting.
I purchased my lump sanguine at the Senellier art supply shop in Paris back in October of 2017. It really wasn’t easy to find in the shop among all of the other wonderful traditional tools and materials, but there it was, high upon a shelf near the pastels. They had, at the time, two varieties of Zecchi lumps, both packaged differently. After speaking with a salesman, I was convinced that both products were the same. I decided to go with the bagged product because I was travelling and it seemed to contain more viable material. The price for either product was about 13 Euro. After buying rolls of their Ingres pastel paper, I went back to the apartment to try out my stash. I immediately, I could tell these were not of the same quality as the no longer available Cenini lumps I bought years ago. I decided I would give them more of a shot when I got back home and had more time to experiment. They feel the same when drawing, but no matter how hard I press or how many layered lines I put down, the light orange is all they give me. after pulverizing a few and adding some iron oxide pigment, I was able to make drawing sticks that I could work with. The consistency is preferable when used this way and you can also make a variety of shades depending on your mixture ratio. If anyone can tell me where I can buy sanguine lumps of better quality , I would be grateful. I’ve spent loads of time scouring the web, coming up with broken links, or outrageous prices for an unfamiliar product. Also, if anyone has input about a possibility that the product I bought from Senellier is not typical, please let me know! I’m also hunting for a great traditional natural white chalk to use. Any info would be a great help!
The Zecchi brand and the marks it makes in comparison to the Cennini brand on the right.
A few drawings make with a combination of the mixed Zecchi and iron oxide.
I’ve never attempted metal point work before, but really enjoyed my experiment with copper point. It has all the aesthetic benefits of using a hard pencil lead, but makes the user more aware of their marks because it isn’t easily erasable. If you’ve ever enjoyed the challenge of working with pen and ink or love the look of pencil, but are wary of the possibility of smudging your work- I would give it a try.
Prime a board or paper with gesso, skin glue and bone dust, or zinc white pigment and matte medium and get to work. There are, of course commercial silver point grounds, but at $30 a bottle???! Make it.
For the points, I chose copper because I happened to have some lying about. You can also use silver, gold, lead, and I’ve heard even steel or iron wire to create your ‘leads’.
I also have read that the lines will develop a ‘patina’ over time, giving the work a beautiful and ethereal quality that isn’t really typical of pencil work. I would assume the type of patina will vary depending on the metal used for your point.
I’ve always been fascinated by traditional tools. Painting, woodworking, anything- there is something about seeing what creations and solutions people have come up with using these basic tools. I also love the accessibility of the original form, making it easier for me to customize tools or create my own. I started using the lumps of Italian red chalk for drawing and quickly realized that while it was fun to draw with a ‘rock’, it wasn’t the most practical way to create a drawing. After some research, and stumbling upon Matthew James Collins’ blog, I decided to try forming powdered red chalk into sticks. I was happy with the results, but noticed that they were fairly brittle without adding any gum tragacanth to the mixture. I decided to use some iron oxide pigment combined with kaolin clay and powdered chalk to see if I could create a sturdier stick. Instead of rolling, I put them into a small plunger syringe, and extruded the mixture through a hole cut open to roughly the size of a large pencil lead. I was happy with the result. They held a point longer, weren’t prone to snapping as easily, and fit handily into the clutches I made from bamboo. As a last test, I used a small coping saw to cut the natural clay into squarish sticks that fit well into the clutches. Despite a non-homogeneous texture, I actually preferred the variation of line the chiseled square points provided. I think I might try to find more lump sanguine in the art supply stores in Paris next month when I visit. Hopefully the quality will be as good as the Cennini Studio Products brand I bought over 15 years ago…
Here’s my representation of Huginn and Muninn. Huginn represents the careful and intricate weaving of our thoughts. Muninn, on the other hand, is a more deceitful raven. Memory can be a foggy place, making the past less vivid in substance- yet more colorful and direct in retrospect. Anyways- here ya go! Oil on canvas.