"There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion" Francis Bacon 1561-1626


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Sunday, 19 October 2008

Leaf of the Day: Charcoal Soapberry

The weather now is cool in the mornings, fresh and beautiful and today we cycled for miles from Winter Park to Baldwin Park. We continued along the newly discovered (to us) Cady Trail, which then becomes something else and we cycled along that too until my cycle gears disintegrated and we had to return to a repair shop.
Cycling can be a joy here or a complete and utter nightmare. My jaundiced blog post Cycling in Orlando is almost ready for publication. But today was lovely and there were different lakes and different views. However Chris did, irritatingly, point out that due to lack of rain this week the damn plantains have all moved back to the shore line..sigh...

Back in the "studio" the nature table is overflowing with bits and pieces I have picked up to draw and paint but I had decided to do a series about the soapberry tree which I started here in Bugs in the Paint #2. It will be a sort of extended study so there will be lots of them this coming week. Today I decided to do just one charcoal and work on a bigger sheet than normal this time 14 x 17 inches. It's a messy medium but allows for some lovely marks and velvety blacks.
Charcoal was one of the very first artist's mediums. The finest is usually willow, whose beautiful thin sticks still show the shape of the twigs.

Some 7 years ago now and lacking inspiration, I set myself the task of producing 60 large drawing in a week. The theme was roughly bugs and plants ( no change there then) the drawings were on 30 x 20 inch sheets so lots of room for big marks. It was a great exercise for ideas, as the first 10 are easy then as those first ideas run out, you have to get more experimental and hopefully, more creative. Many of them were in charcoal. Here are just three which perhaps show the versatility of this lovely medium.

The slightest touch of your finger can change the subtlety of the surface and tone, or you can make big sweeping linear marks.
What happened to them? Well they are in a folder somewhere, awaiting the time when having big bugs on the wall becomes very fashionable. I could be waiting some time.

I have included these details of the soapberry as I like to crop in and see something different. It also shows the marks that you can achieve with charcoal.

The soft white smudgy marks are made with a putty rubber, harder edged marks with a plastic eraser, and general smudging with fingers or anything else you might have to hand.

It's a gorgeous, sensitive and underrated medium.


Charcoal Soapberry

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