Frye Art Museum

Really late night tonight due to work running very late into the night. I was super tired so I didn’t get much done at all, and the drawing I did was very bad. But I did go to the Frye Art Museum.

Thursday nights are release nights and some time they do not go smoothly and we end up working super late. I usually do my painting or drawing right after work just in case the release doesn’t go well, but this time I went to the Frye art museum instead and it was well worth the late night.

Frye art museum

I learned about the Frye art museum during my weekly life drawing classes with Jamie Bollenbach. It is actually a really great museum, with free admission and free parking.  I wasn’t expecting to be so influenced by the work in this museum but I was. The first pieces that I saw were from Nicolai Fechin and everything he did was amazing. I’ve never seen paintings with such energy. From far away these works look like a well rendered portrait, still life or landscape, but upon getting up close and personal with the paintings the subject dissolves into a torrent of frantic and energetic abstraction of paint. I have heard tons of contemporary artist today who are at the height of their ability and they struggle to keep “life” in their paintings. Compared to Fechin every contemporary realist artist I have seen to date seems flat, dead and overly modeled in comparison.


His drawings were equally amazing. Seeing these a day after my life drawing class, I have a deep urge to devote everything to my art.

I was going to post more images of his work but every image I look at online pales in comparison to viewing the real painting. And there was one painting in particular which I cannot find anywhere on line. I will have to return to the museum soon and purchase their book of the show.

I was so influenced by the Nicoloai Fechin show that I went straight to Blick art materials and purchased some better materials for charcoal drawing and even did some comparison testing of the materials.

The Drawing


Not sure what was going on here, but this drawing turned out terrible. I think I really wanted to capture an energetic life in this drawing only a master like Fechin can do and all I ended up doing was making a mess. I always have this urge to speed up and blast out a gorgeous piece but all that ends up is me realizing that I need to slow down and wait for the speed to come with experience.

Materials Comparison

The trouble I’m having with vine charcoal is that its adherence to the paper is so fragile. I’m looking for a good charcoal that can adhere well to the paper yet be removed or moved around easily. So I purchased a couple of conte compressed charcoal sticks, I was hoping it would give me what I wanted. So I did a bunch of tests of all the current materials that I have upon a sheet of Arches hot pressed 90lb watercolor paper. At some point when my drawing becomes strong enough I will spend the money and get the ultimate 300lb paper by Arches.


These are marks from various materials. Indicated left to right we have, a very cheap extra soft vine charcoal, Winsor Newton hard vine charcoal, Conte compressed charcoal HB, Conte compressed charcoal 2B. Then I did a single swipe with my finger to each one and below that a single swipe with a needed eraser.

As you can see the vine charcoal is easily moved and erased, while the conte crayon does nothing but smear… badly. Its like it has a bunch of wax in it, in terms of work ability the conte is terrible. But it does make a very exact dark line and building it up can achieve some really dark blacks, but if you put it on the page it will stay there no matter what.


Here is another test with the same sheet. I took a white magic eraser and tried to see how much I could get off the page for each material. I almost get back to bare paper with the vine charcoal, but again the conte just smears around and is terrible. If I ever use this it will be with finishing detail black strokes.


Another test, this time I added Generals extra soft charcoal pencil and a 6b graphite pencil. I tried to make similar marks with each, then on the top of the marks I did a single swipe with my finger, below that several swipes with a kneaded eraser and below that more furious erasing with a white magic eraser.

Again I turn my nose up at the conte compressed charcoal, and I find that a better alternative is the Generals charcoal pencil. It goes on with some really dark lines and can be built up in dark areas but its nice and dry and doesn’t smear like the conte. The more I think about it, more I like the vine charcoal, if I could only get it to stay on the page a little bit better it would be absolutely perfect. This is why I purchased online last night what may be the best charcoal you can buy, and its not that expensive. Nitram Academie Fusains Charcoal, I will be getting these in on Tuesday, right before my Wednesday class, I can’t  wait to try them out, and I hope they live up to the ability shown in this great post by Luca Indraccolo.

Session Details