|12/28/21 General Primo Bianco white charcoal pencil in Stillman & Birn Nova sketchbook|
Sketching all the nocturnes put my head back into using black paper again. Since snow on gray paper wasn’t cutting it for me, it was time to try black. It wasn’t night when I sketched the snow-covered fir boughs, but the branches were dark enough that the high contrast was ideal. One thing I always struggle with when drawing trees is showing the branches that are growing toward me (as opposed to all the branches growing sideways, which are easy to indicate). Looking at and drawing only the snow somehow made it so much easier to draw those branches. And I’m also happy that I captured the lightly falling snow.
I haven’t written a full review or otherwise said much about General Pencil Company’s Euro Blend Primo Bianco pencil, but it’s probably the most opaque white, dry material I’ve tried. I have used it occasionally at life drawing for highlights on tan paper, but I gave it the biggest workout during my pandemic hand series on red paper when I was drawing with my non-dominant hand. Since it’s made of “white charcoal,” it requires very little pressure to make a bright white mark. The comparison below with some of my more opaque white colored pencils shows one layer of each material using medium pressure. As you can see, white charcoal does smudge, but I love how easy it is to apply and show subtle variations in opacity.
|From left: Derwent Drawing Pencil, Prismacolor, Caran d'Ache Luminance, General Primo Bianco|
What exactly is “white charcoal” (which sounds like an oxymoron)? General’s website is not forthcoming. According to a Google search, it is “made by charring the wood at a relatively low temperature for some time, then, near the end of the process, raising the kiln temperature to about 1000ºC to make the wood red-hot. The charcoal is then pulled out and quickly smothered with a covering of powder to cool it.” Another source says it’s the same as chalk pastel, while another says it’s “calcium carbonate and a binder.”
I guess that means I still don’t know. I do know, however, that I love using it on black paper, and that’s good enough for me.