Vine Charcoal

Does anyone still use vine charcoal?

I purchased vine charcoal, as the local art store (Michaels) didn't have the charcoal pencils recommended on DMP website, to use for my underdrawing on my next painting. (Not confident enough to paint my underdrawing.)

And, my "real" art supply store is 20 minutes away.

So, I sketched my subject in vine charcoal. In the past I just painted over the vine charcoal without too much discoloration, as I didn't lay in too much detail. However, for some reason (therapeutically, I suppose) I became carried away this the drawing.. so I know I'll need to fix the charcoal before I paint.

I'm familiar with the charcoal, it's easily erased, wipe away with a dry paper towel, but I need advice on how to proceed.

Should I use a fixative? How is the oil paint film affected, if I do fix? Or, I don't?

Any suggestions?

(I haven't photographed it yet, out of laziness, I need to charge camera battery. Cheesy camera.)

Thanks in advance for all suggestions. ;-)


  • I have used vine charcoal as an underdrawing transfer and it was just fine. It was lighter than I wanted so I use regular charcoal now. Paint is quite compatible with charcoal. There is no bleed through, and darkening of color that I can see.

    Depending on how much of it you have on the canvas would be my deciding factor. I have not used fixative before. I have been too afraid to do so. I personally like the texture that the oil ground gives and would rather not compromise that.

    Can you lift some of it off with some q-tips? Maybe blot with a soft towel? Is the painting mostly light?
  • MeganS said:

    Can you lift some of it off with some q-tips? Maybe blot with a soft towel? Is the painting mostly light?

    Yes, Megan. It is quite fluid, and wipes away very easily - leaving a light film.

    From what I perceived reading here, however, and if I understand correctly - having any dust particles (whatever they may be) is not the best for the final cured oil paint film.

    I'm confused, as I was taught to use vine charcoal but that was decades ago.

    In this particular case/painting, I became carried away with value and form. Shrug.

    I thought about painting in a grisaille layer first, before adding color; which might help distribute the charcoal values.

    I did not stain my canvas, either. Strictly, a small 11x14 store bought cotton duck, white gesso ground.

    Thanks again, for your insights. ;-)

  • Eliza

    Charcoal is beautiful stuff for drawing and shading and I regularly use vine, willow, powdered and compressed forms. However, for a drawing that is intended for painting a pastel pencil, in your preferred color, to contrast with the ground is all that is needed.

    Alternately, a waterproof black Copic or Sakura pen is just dandy. No smudge or bleed through and wipe off errant paint to reveal the drawing again. What more could a gal ask for?

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