I just returned from a trip to Boston and Cape Cod and was lucky enough to get to see the Edward Hopper Retrospective at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Luckily the MFA is open seven days a week. For me it was the only time I've had the chance to see a collection of Hopper works all at one time. It was good to see the development of the theme that he is so known for, the night and evening compositions peering into and through interior spaces, with figures often presented as an isolated element, the secondary cool warms and warm cool colors, along with his landscapes and quite a few watercolors of complex compositions of converging diagonals, verticles, and horizontals, many of local Victorian houses. I also found interesting a journal with thumbnail sketches and photographs of paintings alongside notes and descriptions of the work. This online version is interactive.
I have been expecting a delivery of art supplies, so I was not surprised to find a small box from Dick Blick at the gate. I opened it to find a tube of oil paint inside, Torrit Grey, which I do not recall ordering. Then I saw that it is labeled "Always Complimentary Not for Sale". Thinking that my order must have been screwed up I checked the website and learned that the Gamblin company distributes this paint every year and that it is made up of the pigment that gets caught in their Torit filter system during the manufacturing process. Instead of throwing the pigment away they recycle it and make paint from it and give it away free to artists. The full explanation, including details on the Torrit Grey Painting Competition, can be found at the Gamblin website.
Materials: twigs, woody vines, or dowels-- untreated wood, at least 2 years of growth, at least 1/4 to 3/8 inch in diameter, extra heavy aluminum foil, fireplace, barbecue pit, ceramics kiln, or other means of heating.
Nearly any kind of wood will make charcoal. IMPORTANT: Do not use treated lumber because of toxic fumes emitted during the roasting process. Twigs may be of any diameter, but very thin twigs would be too weak for drawing. Lumber scraps may be ripped to one-fourth inch squares or larger. The wood will shrink as it turns into charcoal. Cut the twigs to the desired length (five to seven inches is good). Cut off forked joints, and peel away all the bark. If the twigs are cut from fresh, living tissue, they should be allowed to dry for a few days before going on to the next step.
Wrap several dry sticks tightly in extra heavy aluminum foil so that no air may infiltrate the package. Air entering the package would reduce the sticks to ash rather than charcoal. If the aluminum comes in contact with open flame a hole could be burnt through the foil, spoiling the charcoal; so you might wrap a second layer of foil tightly around the package for security. (But don't overdo it; each layer of foil reduces the amount of heat reaching the wood.) Experiment first with five or six sticks per bundle. If the bundle contains more sticks, higher heat and longer roasting time will be required to completely carbonize the wood. Soft wood species, such as pine and cedar, will require less roasting time than hardwood species (such as birch, ash, oak, walnut).
Place the package in the coals of a fireplace or a barbecue pit. It may take several hours (or overnight) in the coals for the sticks to carbonize and then cool down. Do not open the package until it has cooled enough to be handled comfortably. You must be willing to experiment beyond the first attempt. Too much heat will melt the foil. Insufficient heat will produce brands; you should get consistently good results after a few experiments. Charcoal can also be made in a ceramics kiln, which should be vented outdoors. If you use a ceramics kiln, experiment cautiously with temperatures above 300 degrees Celsius (572 degrees Fahrenheit). Hotter temperatures cause rapid carbonization and are hard to control.
This charcoal can be used as is for drawing implements, or you could grind it up in a mortar and pestle to make vine black pigment for ink or paint.
From San Diego to Vancouver, 100 Artists of the West Coast II covers 100 artists with over 400 full color photographs of their work. The collection includes art from private as well as public collections and installations, including the collections of LACMA, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Modern Art New York, and the New York Public Library to name just a few. I'm happy to be included.