Harry, Invictus, charcoal and oil on board, 56 x 74 cm
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
from Invictus, William Ernest Henley, 1875
Manel asked me how i combine charcoal with oil paint. So i thought i'd give an explanation here. (If anyone is really interested i can always make a short demo clip, post on Youtube and link it here).
an important discovery i made was to use a fine-grain foam roller for applying the white gesso, not a brush. This leaves a keyed surface (like the texture of shark-skin) that takes charcoal really well.
i first completed a tonal drawing in charcoal, lots of charcoal, leaving the surface dusty. I coulld take my time over this to get it just as i wanted it (well, as good as i could get it - am only really happy with eyelids in this one).
i then gave it all a light spray with turpentine to dampen it without disturbing the surface prior to actually painting into it. Then, using a soft watercolor brush and oil paint thinned with plenty of turps, i deftly work into it, not worrying too much about the runs but conscious i can quickly have the whole image oozing down the surface if not judiciously pacing myself.
One can't brush vigorously or revisit the same place too often or else it quickly turns into black cement. Frequent rinsing of the brush in clean turps, esp before starting on a new area, helps prevent turning everything into a grey monotone.
Once almost as i want it, i touch in some commercial medium, otherwise the turps will simply evaporate and leave the charcoal as raw dust again. The oil in the medium embeds the charcoal.
To finish, i sprayed the whole thing with workable fixative to stabalize any charcoal not touched by the medium. And i deliberately leave quite a bit of that for delicacy and variety of marks because the medium intensifies but deadens tonal marks (after all, this blog is about my explorations in expressive mark-making).
Along the way I used a little titanium white to imply some form in totally dark areas like the throat, and some mere touches purple and green (complimentary colors for hidden internal pop) for skin and around hair.
I guess most visitors will just glance at the above image without clicking on it to enlarge, thinking that they have seen and understood the work. But this color aspect is not really visible unless one does see the enlarged version.
So there you have it. Work fast, work with a light touch, and watch the magic happen.