Last Friday evening, I was pleased to show some of my work in a local First Friday festivity. One of the most popular pieces which was quickly purchased by one of my most faithful patrons was a work in charcoal. I had created the piece with a technique I’ve loved since college which involves taping off the paper or canvas, filling the entire area with as much charcoal as you can manage and then working with a trusty kneaded eraser to pull away the charcoal and reveal an image. In the end, you have an image created by an eager eraser finding the light. There is something about this process that feels like sculpting to me, like the carving away of stone to find a figure inside. How beautifully metaphoric as well, to pull away the dark to reveal light. I’m a sucker for inspiring metaphor and so this process is one of the most enjoyable techniques for me.
I had only recently completed this work but was reminded of the technique by a piece I came across in the emptying of my old school portfolio. The assignment was to choose one painting and recreate it based on movement and light and shape. Though I was in school in Boston, I chose a painter local to my home and so I ended up studying The Swimming Hole by Thomas Eakins. A master of light and composition, Eakins provided a perfect subject which pleased my husband, then boyfriend, as he was and still is a huge fan of the painter. This study was completed in the same fashion, the filling in of an entire space with charcoal and the releasing of that darkness with an eraser only. I love the result and plan to frame this piece for myself now that I’ve found it amongst my piles of forgotten works.
I wish I had more time this morning to spend on the subject but it’s a complicated day in the middle of a complicated week and so I must wrap up. However, I’ve put a print up for sale in the shop of my lovely lady with charcoal hair. Thanks for reading.