Lately, I have been busy painting a bird series in encaustic wax.  Along the way I have been posting examples of my work in progress on Facebook. Quit a few of my followers have asked me how to make a charcoal transfer onto the encaustic wax.

How To Transfer A Charcoal Drawing in EncausticIt is very simple…

Here’s what you will need:

  • A photograph or drawing of the subject you wish to transfer.
  • A ‘primed’ encaustic board.
    • The board must be primed with a layer of wax medium applied to the surface. Make sure the wax has been fused and cooled to the touch before transferring the image.
  • A charcoal pencil, or vine charcoal.
  • Tracing paper.
  • A tool for rubbing/burnishing the image onto the board. Below I am using a bone folder. You can also try the backside of a spoon.

Here’s how I do it:

  1. Using the charcoal, I make the tracing of the subject to be transferred – in this case it is an owl.
  2. Next, I place the charcoal drawing face-down onto the primed encaustic wax surface. Face-down means that the charcoal drawing is touching the surface of the wax. Keep in mind, the image will now appear in the opposite direction than your original drawing.
  3. Once the drawing is in place I use the bone folder (or spoon) to gently rub over the lines of the drawing. Be mindful not to press too hard and damage the wax surface.
  4. Lastly, I carefully peel back the tracing paper to reveal the transferred charcoal drawing. At this point I am peeking at the transferred image without completely lifting up the tracing paper. If the image is too faint, I can easily replace the paper, match up the lines and repeat the above process.
  5. Once I am happy with the charcoal transfer, I gently fuse the drawing before adding encaustic pigment.

This charcoal transfer technique is quite useful and helps me with my realistic approach of painting with encaustics. I hope you experiment with charcoal transfers and let your imagination expand!

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