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Fixing Charcoal - VLOG

Selection of pencils and a bottle of matte medium on top of a sketch

At this year's Noosa Open Studios I think the most commonly asked questions were about incorporating pencil and charcoal into mixed media work. So I thought I'd share a quick summary and a demonstration video about how I set these types of marks so that they stay put and don't keep smudging as the work progresses!

I use lots of different types of pencils, most commonly charcoal in various grades; Soft, Medium and Hard. I also have woodless graphite/woodless charcoal and everyday HB pencils handy too.

I vary my choice of pencil depending on what I want to achieve. So for a really smudgy line, I'd use a soft charcoal or a 6B - 8B graphite pencil. For less smudging and more definition I'd use a Medium charcoal pencil or 2B graphite. And for a clear and distinct line or tiny hand-drawn details I'll often use a Hard charcoal or HB pencil.

Fixative spray will work for a time, but I find it tends to give way when I come to apply an isolation coat of matte varnish with a brush, once the piece is finished.

Enter a piece of Chux cloth and some matte medium or matte varnish! I use a matte version of these mediums so that I can continue to add paint and more pencil over the top once it's dry. I find gloss medium creates a finish that is too shiny and slippery to work on if I want to add more pencil work over the top.

This video takes you through a selection of my favourite pencils and how they smudge before setting them with the medium, how I apply the medium without disturbing the marks, applying the medium with a brush, a quick smudge test once the medium is dry and finally how I've applied medium to the pencil marks in my 'Sky Ripples' sketch.

If you have any questions or comments pop them in below!


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