Plein-air materials: natural wood charcoal and red chalk

Plein-air materials: natural wood charcoal and red chalk
by Joseph Weinzettle
My drawing materials include natural wood charcoals and natural red chalk. My charcoals are hand-made from local woods. This painting, “Swamp Space in Late Afternoon” (2018) was completed en plein air in a cypress dome in Tarpon Springs. The composition follows the arc of a fallen cypress tree.

Swamp Space in Late Afternoon, 2018, oil, silverpoint, natural red chalk and natural wood charcoal on two panels, 24″ x 36″

The following image shows the underdrawing stage of “Swamp Space”. Lines in natural red chalk and natural wood charcoal are visible on the layer of oil primer.
Underdrawing, Swamp Space, Late Afternoon, 2018

I find fallen twigs of various woods, such as cypress, shave off the bark with a utility knife, wrap in foil and carbonize in an oven. Carbonized charcoal as a drawing material was described by Cennino Cennini in Il Libro Dell’Arte, a book of Italian Renaissance art formulae. Its usage for art is prehistoric, practiced by ancient cultures all around the world. Below is a sample of my drawing instruments for the work in progress.
Swamp Space drawing instruments: natural wood charcoal and silverpoint, 2018

Below is one of my hand-made natural red chalk holders with red chalk pieces. Chalk pieces are chiseled to fit the bamboo holder.
Natural red chalk inserted in bamboo holder; chalk pieces, 2020

The most reliable natural red chalk that I’ve worked with is from a European source. So far, I have not found an American source of natural red chalk equal to European. I have also used natural grey chalk from Nigeria, which has a slight grey-green cast.
Below is a sample of my drawing instruments from 2012.
Artist’s drawing tools display, Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art, 2012-2013

The display case was part of a Leepa Rattner Museum of Art Focus Gallery Exhibition, “En Plein Air: Landscapes and Streetscapes by Joseph Weinzettle”, October 28, 2012 – January 6, 2013. The exhibition was curated by R. Lynn Whitelaw and prepared by Larry Fineout.

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