powdered graphite

Inside-Outside Nature Art

We combined the elements of fire and water in Monday’s Muse lesson of powdered charcoal. For fire we had the charcoal residues of fire and the scorching solar heat. The water was washed streaming over the charcoal to make it move beautifully across the paper. In previous years when I taught this lesson 2014 and 2016 it was similarly in hot-hot weather, the better to quickly dry the sopping wet papers!

Here’s my finished demo:


acrylic and collage on powdered graphite texture, 10 X 11″

The world is divided by borders; mountains and rivers and oceans and lines to keep people separate. Would we know who we are without all the borders or would we stand in confusion looking up at the sky in hopes of getting directives there?

I vote for color that streams across borders and makes a rainbow sky, a rainbow country, and a rainbow world. 


Sprinkle some powdered charcoal on the dry paper. Here I added some iridescent pigment powder as well. Pour water over the surface and watch the spontaneous dispersion. When dry you can come back in with an eraser, which I did in this, erasing through a stencil.


I love the way the charcoal granules pattern the paper surface. When this stage is dry and before adding paint, spray workable fixative or mat medium diluted with water and let that dry to seal the charcoal.


We went outside in the shade to do the charcoal sprinkling and water pouring.


The charcoal is in the salt shaker in front.  The stencils and iridescent pigments were particularly popular and now my garden sparkles in the light a bit more than usual!

MuseGraphite-03_edited-1The splatter screen served as a kind of sifter for the charcoal.


I always love to see nature art in the context of the nature that inspires it. Here it is just leaves and mulch.


. . .and tree trunks and garden green and the beginning of fall leaves, and the golden glow of light spreads across the painting making it a part of it all.MuseGraphite-05

. . .and here, in anticipation of what this fall season will bring!

Thanks to the Muse students for once again taking a lesson beyond its previous borders. These beautiful beginnings made their way back into the studio to be developed with more color and some collage.



Announcing: New Workshops and Newsletter!

The Imagine With Art Newsletter is now in its 65th issue and I’m happy to offer it to you here. This issue features new workshops for the fall, some Urban Sketcher Symposium news and an Art Play lesson: Powdered Graphite. Hope you’ll take a look!

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And join me for the latest in a series of on location sketching workshops!

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For more information and to register, please email me.

Zoom In


Powdered charcoal, inks, gesso, collage on w/c paper, 10 X 11″

An aerial view of the geology of life, Google cams trained on all of us, taking pictures of moments in the lives. . .we live.. .always caught in a particular focal point we call “reality”.

ZOOM out and get the LARGE perspective. You may never be the same again (hopefully).

Last Monday was the warmest day so far this year. A perfect time to play with this technique of powdered charcoal and graphite textures, best done outside.

Start by wetting shapes on the paper (sponging water through stencils is fun!)  The wet areas form a kind of resist so that the paper stays white (as in the white grid on the right side above).

Then sprinkle some powdered charcoal on the paper and pour water over it.  This causes the charcoal (or graphite, which is more of a silver than black) to move in spontaneous ways. Let it dry. (In the 90+ degree heat this was very fast!) At this point you can erase areas or spray with fixative. Then add acrylic to develop the idea and show off the texture. I like to mix my acrylic inks with gesso to get a more opaque coverage in certain areas.

Workshop Schedule for this Fall


“Ready to Go”, powdered graphite and acrylic

I hope you’ll join me for a workshop this Fall.  Here’s what’s coming up for the next semester of Artful Muse classes!

Monday Afternoon Muses:  9 week session

Oct 19, 26, Nov 2, 9, 16, 23, 30, Dec 7, 14, 2015

Time:  1:30-4:30pm

Cost:  $315 for 9 weeks, $45/drop-in class (as space allows)

Saturday Mini-Workshops:  6 month session

Oct. 17, Nov 14, Dec 12, 2015,  Jan 9, Feb 13, Mar 12, 2016

Time:  10am-2:30pm

Cost:  $330 for 6 months, $65/drop-in class (as space allows)

For more information and to register, please visit my website.



Acrylic inks, powdered graphite, collage on w/c paper, 10 X 11″

Last week my mother-in-law passed peacefully from this world after giving us her big hearted benediction (def: an utterance of good wishes) I often like to translate favorite English words into Latin, and was delighted to find that the Latin translation is also “benediction”.

In Monday Muses the lesson was to pick a word and use it to inform the image.  I demonstrated some ways to get interesting calligraphic effects with sticks, droppers, etc. In the above image I wrote the word over a painting with my favorite – a 1/4″metal brush pen nib. The Bible pages in the right corner are a tribute to Marie, who read the Bible for hours every day, deriving great comfort, which she seemed to bear with her to the end.

Art Loves Transitions


powdered graphite, black india ink, fluid acrylic, gesso on w/c paper, 11 x 10″

Wound up and ready to go. A massive journey or short walk. It’s all the same. One must simply go. It feels like it’s time.  A plane ride, a new place to set a hat or a computer. Does it really matter where in this wired world? Only that it is a new adventure/venture, a place for talents to unfurl and lessons to be learned. . .about this life. . .until the next arrives. . .

As it has for a dear one.  We watch as slowly she crosses over life’s threshold. And for a while we share her steps.

Art loves times of transition. It leaps forward to express that which cannot be spoken or yet understood. You may have your own story to weave about this image and the words that came with it. My own involves the immanent launching of a son into his world, and bearing witness to the passing of his grandmother, whose every word is a blessing to those who will carry on after her.

It’s the stuff that fills up the heart. So yesterday in that great-hearted Monday Afternoon Muse group, I got to play my way into the art. The lesson was to use powdered graphite (powdered pencil “stuff”), sprinkling it on wet and dry paper and then spritzing it with water, mixing with acrylic mediums, etc. to get an interesting textured surface to develop. I hadn’t meant to see a figure, but after I’d finger-painted for a while, there it was, unmistakably.

Powdered Charcoal + Sun


powdered graphite, acrylic, pencil, stamping on w/c paper, 10 X 11″

Andrew traipsing off to Europe this week, and Ben soon to fly the academic coop and fledge into parts unknown . . . while I flitter and light, staying close  to this world of ripening plums and lavender. . .making footprints in this garden under the hot California sun.

charcoalclassIt was so hot on Monday that it was the perfect day for the powdered charcoal wash lesson!  Sprinkle some powdered charcoal and a bit of pigment powder on the paper and pour water over it to move it around.  Put it out in the sun until it dries (about 1 minute in the fierce 95 degree sun).  Then spray with fixative and you’re ready to put paint on and take advantage of some fascinating textures!  And if you wet patterns on the the paper before sprinkling the charcoal on,the water acts as a resist, for even more interesting effects!