Charcoal handling problem
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  1. #1
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    Charcoal handling problem

    I wasn't sure whether to post this in Fine Arts sub forum or here. I have an issue with how I am handling my charcoal and drawing. I am doing a great 42x60" drawing in charcoal and the big scale has gotten to the point where I am using much greater arm strokes and detail than ever in charcoal. The issue is I notice a disturbing set of dark lines that mark on the paper when rubbing/stroking the charcoal sticks accross the surface, where the edges of the stick touch the paper. It's as if the tips of the stick are touching the paper and not the rest of the stick, and showing more darker value than the rest of the stroke, if that makes sense.
    I have tried rounding the stick tips (rubbing the tips on paper till edged, sandpaper etc) and still get that annoying dark set of lines from each end instead of the value of charcoal I need. I am using a set of round/cylindral sticks bought from the art store, not square sticks.

    What could I do to fix this? Is it my handling of the charcoal? (I tend to keep the stick flat on its side when doing longer strokes to cover an area.)

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    It sounds like its not a problem with the charcoal but its caused by whatever you're using to support your paper isn't strong enough and is slightly bending inwards when you're doing your strokes. What do you have behind that sheet of paper?

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    JeffX99 is offline Registered User Level 17 Gladiator: Spartacus' Dimachaeri
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    I think Amber has it right - maybe too soft with your support/backing. For large areas you might try using powdered charcoal (or make your own) applied with a chamois - you can lay in large, solid passages quickly this way.
    Good luck!

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    You could brush those in if you don't need said areas to be really, really dark.

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    Sorry for the late reply! At the moment I am using just the wall, taping the sheet of paper to it. The paper came from a roll and had to measure and cut it so it originally has a slight curve even after a day or two of being up on the wall. I left the side pushing foward (curving out) towards myself and the arched inside facing the wall if that makes sense. It isn't muct of a curve now that I have it taped to the wall, but I wish I had a large masonite board or something instead and use bull clips and tape together.
    For some reason, ONLY very used charcoal sticks seem to not cause the edge lines when applying strokes from the side.

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    TASmith is offline Registered User Level 16 Gladiator: Spartacus' Retiarii
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    if you want to draw softer lines, keep several papers up behind that first sheet. I only draw on a stack of at least 6 sheets.

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    Alright I am going to go to the hardware store and look into getting a couple pieces of large masonite hardwood, 40x60". Maybe Lowes; the home depot here sucks horribly in service, sadly. Don't have anything around to support the paper this large on and getting tired of trying to draw charcoal with paper taped to the wall. This should help fix my issue. We use masonite board at school for our drawings, and I don't remember having so much problem. We'll see!

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    Well I found the masonite but unfortunately it turned out to be more flimsy than I expected. The board's too flexible and doesn't have that sturdy support as we've used in class, even the 40x60" board held up without bending inward against the wall. I'm kinda new to the hardboard/masonite thing so I'm now guessing there are varying types, some more sturdier than others where mine is very flexable. I might go and return this one if I can find a better replacement hardboard/masonite with a smooth finish surface for drawing.
    Anyone have any suggestions please, let me know! This is important to my charcoal project.

    Much thanks!

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    Forgot to mention that I got the one with the 1-sided smooth finish and other side rough or whatever that is called, used for tabletops. Some I have seen at class with both sides smooth finish; but maybe they're not all masonite. They're very thin, lightweight and very sturdy hardwood boards, brown and go upto I don't know as big as they make them.

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    Maybe you will like a sheet of plywood better. It'll probably be about 25 or 30 bucks for a 48" x 96" piece.

    The surface of plywood might be rougher than you want behind your drawing, so if money is no object then maybe keep your masonite sheet and glue the rough side of it against the plywood with some liquid nails. At that point the smooth side will be out, but there will not be much wobble or bendiness. The apparatus will probably end up a little heavy and might be best for two people to carry.

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    How about foam core? You could laminate two pieces together for rigidity and the card stock outer layers should provide the consistent give you need.

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    Have you tried a different brand/style of charcoal yet? Experiment a bit with other ones on some scrap paper, the brand you use now could be too hard or soft.
    In terms of backers, 1/2 or 3/4 MDF is rigid and smooth. And cheap. Personally I use 1/4" tempered masonite, but my panel is only 2'x4' and is supported by wood. Plywood is OK, but cheaper types, CD grades, have a tendency to warp- you would probably consider a 7 or 9 ply cabinet grade then, but it would be bigger $$$. I would try different charcoal first, personally I think your wall, if you like working like that, is stiff enough.

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