I finished the charcoal value pass for our arctic fox Christmas card. This one was a challenge due to the fact that I decided to work fairly small and didn’t take the time to sand down my gesso as much as I could have. The gesso application on the canvas was a little thick and the horizontal brush texture posed some issues achieving a finer level of detail in a few spots. Next time I’ll have to make sure my smaller canvases are sanded down more. There are times when I really appreciate the added texture but not so much on the smaller works. It took a little more time but I was able to get the base values refined to a point where I was comfortable moving forward. Once I spray-fixed the charcoal, I did go in after with a white and black colored pencil to push in a little more refinement.
I decided to go with the arctic fox for the Christmas painting this year. I did an exhaustive search of winter animals and the fox jumped out at me. I’m currently rolling around a bit of flash fiction in my head to accompany the piece. I’m thinking of her likening the snow on the ground with fresh linens covering the furniture of the summer home, protecting it until the spring. I’m not sure if I will include her in my final novel dealing with the animals but you never know. I generally complete the paintings and then let them speak to me, telling me about who the character is. If it fits in the story, I’ll work it in.
You might be wondering why, if I end working in colored pencil now, why not just work in colored pencil or graphite instead of charcoal. I have found that charcoal has some really excellent properties, particularly in showcasing lighting effects and gradual shifts in value. I also like how easy it is to tone a large canvas with a compressed charcoal stick. The work I do in colored pencil is pretty minimal at the end anyway. I expect that, for me, it will always be charcoal.