Introduction from Rebecca Crowell:
Recently I introduced a number of artists (students in classes organized by Vancouver Island Workshops) to an intriguing technique I have developed for making abstract images using powdered charcoal, cold wax medium andthe rock paper from Heart Stone – TerraSkin® paper. Most of the artists were trying the stone TerraSkin® for the first time. I asked them to explore the use of dark, light and medium values as they worked a mixture of cold wax medium and charcoal over the surface of the TerraSkin® with various tools. Their comments about the paper and process, and some of their pieces are included below, as well as photos of my demo of the process.
First, I tape a piece of 16 pt stone paper TerraSkin® to my table, covering the edges, in order to create a clean white border when the piece is done. I use blue tape that is made for easy removal. Then I spread a thin layer of cold wax medium onto the paper with a squeegee. This clear layer captures the grains of powdered charcoal when I sprinkle them on.
Using the flexible squeegee (mine is actually a silicone bowl scraper) I begin working the charcoal powder into the cold wax medium, spreading it here and there on the rock paper TerraSkin® and enjoying the interesting marks already emerging on the paper.
TerraSkin is very smooth and slick, while also somewhat absorbent—a unique surface that allows the wax and charcoal mixture to be easily moved around and wiped clean in some areas, yet also leaves beautiful, subtle traces of mark-making behind.
I continue to move the dark mixture around, adding more powdered charcoal when I want more richness, I explore making marks with various kinds of implements. Below, working with a brayer, a whisk broom, a small wad of cheesecloth, and a serrated kitchen tool.
One of the artists watching the demo suggests that I add some alkyd gel (I had Gambin Solvent-Free Gel on hand) to make the mixture even more liquid and easy to manipulate. (Any additives such as gel need to be intended for oil media; a water-based gel would not be compatible with cold wax medium.) This leads quickly to the idea of making a monoprint from the wet drawing, using a second sheet of Terraskin for the print. I love the experimental attitudes of the artists watching the demo!
Below, I use some of the lighter weight paper that I have on hand to try the monoprinting idea. The resulting print is rather light but provides a good surface to be developed as a second piece. (By the way, I have used TerraSkin® formonoprinting using a plexi plate and an etching press in my own studio, with excellent results.)
With the addition of the gel, the mixture remains fluid, and easy to manipulate further, and I continue to work it for a while. Below is the finished piece.
by Rebecca Crowell
To experiment further with this technique, you could also try adding other types of powdered pigments, alone or in combination with the powdered charcoal. (Safety note: for any extensive use of powdered pigments, you should wear a mask to screen out airborne particles.) There are also a myriad of tools and ways to manipulate the mixture around on the surface of the Terraskin.
Here are some of the works the artists did in class after my demo, along with their comments about working on Terraskin (artist comments below their artwork.)
by Eva MacLowry
Eva MacLowry eva-maclowry.com appreciated the spontaneous expression possible with this technique. “I like it best when I just put it down quickly and leave it alone.”
by Aryana Londir
Aryana Londir aryanalondir.com had a similar response, commenting that the technique led to quick decision making.
by Nicola Morgan
Nicola Morgan above www.nicolamorgan.ca commented that she’d started with a mixture that was too thick to move around easily, but adding more wax fixed the problem. “Fabulous,” she said, once she found the right consistency. “I could play with it all day.”
by Michael Roberson
Michael Roberson michaelrobersonart.com enjoyed the fluidity of the mixture on the smooth Terraskin surface when he added the alkyd gel. Using a small metal-tipped inscribing tool, he allowed his drawing line to flow across the dark base layer in a kind of “automatic drawing.”
by Kathleen Schildmeyer
Kathleen Schildmeyer www.kschildmeyer.com found the technique “engaging and responsive.” She appreciated its “immediacy” and said working with these materials “demands spontaneity” because they seems to have their own way of interacting with the artist’s hand.
by Jill M. Singleton
Jill M. Singleton, an artist with considerable experience in printmaking, treated the TerraSkin® like an etching plate, scratching into it with various tools to create grooves that held the charcoal/wax mixture like ink. She also experimented with sprinkling charcoal powder onto a bed of cold wax and allowing the spatters of powder to remain as they fell, then making monoprints from these images onto the lighter weight TerraSkin®.
by Janet C.Hickok
Janet C. Hickok above (Janet-C-Hickok-Artist) loved working with these materials and found it easy to enjoy. She began to play around with an image she is drawn to, the murmuration in flocks of birds and these marks later fed into some of the other painting she did in the workshop.
Rebecca has continued to experiment with the stone paper and promises to keep us updated!* to connect with one of her upcoming international workshops click here.