Mixed media painting with charcoal and watercolor

Hi everyone,
Here we are on the cusp of spring. I know the rest of the country is basking in spring flowers and light clothing but here in PEI we take things as they come. Snow banks do exist but are dwindling.
My new art excitement  is combining watercolor with charcoal. Yes charcoal. This is an old idea which was used by the illustrators in the early 20th century. Jessie Wilcox Smith used it in her amazing illustrations for Ladies Home Journal. That was when the magazine was about 11×16 inches. I have one and it was delivered by mail to the subscriber!
Anyway, back to the charcoal and watercolor. One of the important aspects about charcoal is that it helps me find value and tone and imparts a wonderful grainy texture to the surface. This is very useful for still life or landscape. So far I have used it only for experimenting and free expression but I think it could be used in more serious and finished pieces. Try it some time. I know you will like it. I did use a light fixative over the charcoal which didn’t seem to resist the watercolor but I will try it next with no fixative. After all it’s not likely that Jessie Willcox Smith had a can of spray fixitive?
I am so looking forward to painting Spring in PEI.



About artisanpei

Handmade on PEI. For you. Jewellery, pottery, body care products, fibre and textiles, glass, folk art, metal arts, basketry, sculpture, visual arts, woodwork… The artisans of Prince Edward Island handcraft exclusive creations forged from a lifetime of experience and Island inspiration.
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4 Responses to Mixed media painting with charcoal and watercolor

  1. joe mcaskill says:

    Hi Julia,
    I agree, it is great to see spring coming. I have used charcoal in my furniture sketches and it does impart a sense of depth different from my pencil sketches. on a different note, my new work space is almost finished, the drywall was going in today. I might get in with the machines by May!

    • artisanpei says:

      Hi Joe, that is so interesting to learn that the furniture maker also likes charcoal. It makes sense that visual thinkers should employ drawing. I have just started reading a new to me book called Experiences in Visual thinking by Robert H McKim. In the introduction he explains how visual thinking is the interaction between seeing, imagining and idea-sketching, which must be exactly what you are doing!

      Your new work space is going to be outstanding. Will you have a big opening?


  2. UnitedMMCArt says:

    This is new to me.. I have to give it a try. I have to check out Jessie Wilcox Smith

    • artisanpei says:

      Yes it’s a surprizing combination using charcoal with watercolor. Please try it and let me know how you like it.

      I have gone back to charcoal sketching with my oils too. I had been taking a short cut and drawing with paint but I was missing out on the sense of depth that a charcoal study creates naturally.


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