IN REVIEW  

Introducing the New XL Charcoal and Graphite Blocks

Join PA Paul Knight as he demonstrates the versatility of the latest addition to Derwent’s range of art materials

I feel extremely privileged to have been invited to write an article on the new Derwent XL blocks. After using charcoal for numerous years on figure and portrait pieces these blocks were a revelation to me. Just taking the black charcoal block as an example, I could tint the background of the paper in seconds then apply fine details without changing the medium in hand.

The other massive advantage is the strength of the block, it doesn’t break like vine charcoal, doesn’t crumble like a small compressed stick and doesn’t need sharpening like a pencil.

Overall, in a nutshell, this is a versatile medium presented in such a way that it possesses all the positive properties of other charcoal mediums with none of the negative factors, whilst giving the added expression of colour tint. 

The Blocks come in two packs of six blocks in various tints, one pack is charcoal and the other graphite. 

Charcoal XL Blocks
Charcoal is probably the most established medium within figurative artwork, being used for centuries to capture the expression of human form.

Fig 1 ‘La Ballerine’

The sides of the block can be lightly drawn over the paper to create a toned background in seconds, allowing the edge and corners to be immediately used to apply line. Both side and edge give varying marks which are incredibly controlled and directed with ease.

The six varying colours/tints give far more expression to the work. In Fig 1 I have created three different figure gestures which are identifiable by three different colours/tints, which if all were done in the traditional non-tinted charcoal would be indistinguishable. This sample shows the three figures based around three gesture lines; the black gesture line is the most expressive and gives greater expression of form. 

Graphite XL Blocks
The first thing you will notice when handling these blocks is their strength; on application they leave a wonderful silky pigment that is fantastic for blending and building tonal value.

Fig 2 ‘Feeling Blue’ 

This portrait (Fig 2) shows the spread of pigment around the subject whilst highlighting the tonal values that can be achieved in the face. Greater staining of the paper can be achieved with the graphite and tiny fine detail can easily be attained with these apparently large blocks.

Charcoal and Graphite XL Blocks This still life (Fig 3) is a combination of both packs showing that both mediums and their qualities can be successfully applied together.

Although the availability of a dark earthy colour or tint could appear to be a limitation, both bright and colourful artwork can be created with the right application. As an example of this, the bright red pepper is actually brown.

The use of blue next to it complements the natural red tint of the brown and is accentuated by the use of strong highlights. 

Although coloured pencils are very popular, they tend to be used in a tighter, more technical manner than charcoal. For centuries artists and students have used charcoal to capture gesture in figurative poses and to line out subject matter on canvas prior to painting.

Fig 3 ‘Mediterranean Blue’ 

The development of this medium into these multi-purpose blocks gives the added understanding of colour value and composition and I believe that they are an invaluable medium to any artist or student. 

Although coloured pencils are very popular, they tend to be used in a tighter, more technical manner than charcoal. For centuries artists and students have used charcoal to capture gesture in figurative poses and to line out subject matter on canvas prior to painting.

The development of this medium into these multi-purpose blocks gives the added understanding of colour value and composition and I believe that they are an invaluable medium to any artist or student. 

Old Newlands Road, Clipstone

I decided to try a different subject to the example pieces and one which I rarely draw or paint. This en plein air landscape serves to do just this and at the same time demonstrates the versatility and robust nature of both types of blocks.

The beauty of painting en plein air is is that it gets you out and drawing from life - a photograph is adequate but what you truly observe is drastically reduced. I hope, through this simple exercise, to build your confidence with judgement of composition.

These blocks, with use of tint/colour help identify the main features far more easily than just using charcoal for a sketch.

Quiet local lane

1Squint your eyes so that all you can see are the white highlighted areas. Using the White charcoal block, roughly place those highlights on the paper. Next pick the tint/colour that best ‘represents’ the overall colours of an area that you are looking at.

No measured lines, just placing of highlighted areas

2Now loosely match abstract shapes that you acquire from a slightly squinted view. The importance here is to represent the overall landscape composition with loose shapes and lines. The aim of painting en plein air is to give a feel and impression of what you are looking at and not to give illustration and realism.

Forming the landscape and feeling together

3Whilst looking at the scene, try to create the feeling that you want and look for the colour/tint that best gives you that feeling.

Looks nothing like, but feels a lot like, the old road

4Now to start building up the initial washes. Paynes Grey dries much lighter than most watercolours and it is essential that the very darks are built up slowly in layers.

Using a No. 4 round brush I applied washes to the buildings, bridge and grassy banks. A second wash was applied to the shadow sides of the buildings and a strong dark wash to the arch underneath the bridge. I also painted washes to the base of the trees and bushes surrounding the white house softening the edge with a damp brush.

Finished painting

Materials
Graphite XL Block set
Charcoal XL Block set
Grey toned pastel paper 12” x 9”
Drawing board
Putty eraser
Kitchen roll

See page 47 of your Annual Home Shop catalogue 2013/14 for further details of these new XL Blocks and three ingenious accessories to help you make the most of them. 

Visit Paul’s saa webpages at www.saa.co.uk/art/astarvinartist to see a web clip of him demonstrating a basic portrait in charcoal and to enjoy more of his artwork and for information about his classes in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire.   


IN REVIEW  

Introducing the New XL Charcoal and Graphite Blocks

Join PA Paul Knight as he demonstrates the versatility of the latest addition to Derwent’s range of art materials

I feel extremely privileged to have been invited to write an article on the new Derwent XL blocks. After using charcoal for numerous years on figure and portrait pieces these blocks were a revelation to me. Just taking the black charcoal block as an example, I could tint the background of the paper in seconds then apply fine details without changing the medium in hand.

The other massive advantage is the strength of the block, it doesn’t break like vine charcoal, doesn’t crumble like a small compressed stick and doesn’t need sharpening like a pencil.

Overall, in a nutshell, this is a versatile medium presented in such a way that it possesses all the positive properties of other charcoal mediums with none of the negative factors, whilst giving the added expression of colour tint. 

The Blocks come in two packs of six blocks in various tints, one pack is charcoal and the other graphite. 

Charcoal XL Blocks
Charcoal is probably the most established medium within figurative artwork, being used for centuries to capture the expression of human form.

Fig 1 ‘La Ballerine’

The sides of the block can be lightly drawn over the paper to create a toned background in seconds, allowing the edge and corners to be immediately used to apply line. Both side and edge give varying marks which are incredibly controlled and directed with ease.

The six varying colours/tints give far more expression to the work. In Fig 1 I have created three different figure gestures which are identifiable by three different colours/tints, which if all were done in the traditional non-tinted charcoal would be indistinguishable. This sample shows the three figures based around three gesture lines; the black gesture line is the most expressive and gives greater expression of form. 

Graphite XL Blocks
The first thing you will notice when handling these blocks is their strength; on application they leave a wonderful silky pigment that is fantastic for blending and building tonal value.

Fig 2 ‘Feeling Blue’ 

This portrait (Fig 2) shows the spread of pigment around the subject whilst highlighting the tonal values that can be achieved in the face. Greater staining of the paper can be achieved with the graphite and tiny fine detail can easily be attained with these apparently large blocks.

Charcoal and Graphite XL Blocks This still life (Fig 3) is a combination of both packs showing that both mediums and their qualities can be successfully applied together.

Although the availability of a dark earthy colour or tint could appear to be a limitation, both bright and colourful artwork can be created with the right application. As an example of this, the bright red pepper is actually brown.

The use of blue next to it complements the natural red tint of the brown and is accentuated by the use of strong highlights. 

Although coloured pencils are very popular, they tend to be used in a tighter, more technical manner than charcoal. For centuries artists and students have used charcoal to capture gesture in figurative poses and to line out subject matter on canvas prior to painting.

Fig 3 ‘Mediterranean Blue’ 

The development of this medium into these multi-purpose blocks gives the added understanding of colour value and composition and I believe that they are an invaluable medium to any artist or student. 

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