Featured Artist: Dean Fox

Dean Fox is a light artist with a unique twist on the neon medium, coupled with fine art and spiritual meaning within his work. The use of neon in the art world has boomed over the last few years with an increasing number of artists tackling the medium and high demand. However stumbling across Dean’s work, it was obvious that here was a unique approach we had not seen before. Coming from a commercial art and fine art background, Dean combines the medium of light subtly in and amongst very classical painting styles, often with figures that interact with the neon or alongside to create a story or message with the work. These large oil paintings are extremely fresh and impactful to see and the combination of oil painting and neon gives a contemporary twist to his art while he still honours traditional elements of draftsmanship and painting in these works.



Featured Artist: Blake Blanco

My name is Blake Blanco, I’m a self taught artist based out of Seattle. I started painting in oils and drawing four years ago focusing primarily on painting.

“Birds in Flight”

“Bird in Flight”

Recently, I have been exploring setting myself up for failure within my work by placing obstructions upon myself in order to develop my problem solving skills and stumble into new ways of working. Having adopted this way of working, I decided to create a body of work that targeted my biggest weakness – drawing.

“Bison in Motion”

“Tiger in Motion”

My obstructions were to create work with my weakest medium (charcoal), only use charcoal blocks, and to destroy the image after it was rendered.  I grabbed the pack of Nitram Charcoal that I hadn’t used in a year out of frustration and started drawing. I immediately realized that drawing with Nitram is extremely similar to oil painting and fell in love with how forgiving the charcoal is. Nitram Charcoal offers the finest, most even distribution of particles and can be effortlessly lifted when necessary. These drawings are the product of Eadweard Muybridge photography, my bad habits, and quality that only Nitram can offer.


“Hip Toss”

My goal is to continue making work in an oblivious almost childlike manner and utilize accidental techniques I learn in all other mediums in my practice. This project was the most barrier breaking experience I’ve had with creation and destruction and it wouldn’t have occurred without Nitram.

See more of Blake’s work by following him on Instagram. CLICK HERE.

“Woman in dress”




Figure Drawing vs. Social Media

Posted On: January 10, 2017 — Written By:
Category Artists, Artwork, General, Life Drawing, Nitram

Recently, we have had images reported on Facebook for Nudity, which results in the image being removed completely. To set something straight, Facebook and Instagram strictly prohibit pornographic or sexually explicit images – NOT drawings that were created for educational or artistic purposes. ⠀

Figure Drawing has played an important role in the artistic community for thousands of years and will continue to make an impact in ateliers and academies around the world.

If you are offended by the work that is being posted to Nitram Charcoal’s Facebook or Instagram page, please do not report it. Simply unfollow the page.

⠀Figure Drawing by John Asimacopoulos at the Academy of Art Boston. Charcoal on Roma paper.⠀

Contemporary Charcoals:
Nina Mae Fowler

Masterful British artist Nina Mae Fowler has captivated international audiences with her striking graphite and charcoal compositions (as well as sculptural works) that channel the golden age brilliance of the silver screen. At Nitram Charcoal, we are ecstatic that Fowler was willing to participate in our “Contemporary Charcoals” Interview Series, so we are kicking off the 2017 series with her reflections. From her love for the “forgiving” nature of charcoal to her personal definition of creativity, Fowler’s answers convey her true passion for art and on-going contemplation of the role of celebrity. For more on Fowler’s work, please visit her website.

It’s Just My Funny Way of Dancing: Part VIII
Black chalk on paper + eyelets – 216 x 185 cm
Nina Fowler, 2011

Nitram Charcoal (NC): What is the last art show that you saw? What did you take from it?
Nina Mae Fowler (NF): I saw ‘Picasso Portraits’ at the National Portrait Gallery in London. It reminded me not only how incredibly prolific Picasso was but how he touched upon almost every creative style imaginable, from caricatures, to ceramics, to collage to realism. I often wonder if this was the mark of a ‘true’ artist or a creative genius unlike any other. I also learned that his father was an Art teacher, which made me wonder about my relationship with my son. I taught Art for many years and his father is also an artist, I look forward to seeing how/whether these creative genes take hold of him!


Joan (Knockers I)
Black chalk on paper, wood + brass – 136 x 94 cm
Nina Fowler, 2013

NC: What is your favourite collection to visit? What collection/museum is on your visit wish list?
NF: That is a tough question as there are so many I love to visit! I have to ask myself which do I most look forward to taking my son to see and the answer is the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. It is home to so many of my favourite paintings – from there I can take him to the Musée Rodin, another firm favourite. The collection I would most like to see is the Philadelphia Museum of Art as it is home to Duchamp’s ‘Étant donnés’ – a piece I would love to experience.


Not Even In My Dreams ( Lucia II)
Black chalk on paper –  35.5 x 44 cm
Nina Fowler, 2014

NC: In your opinion, what sets charcoal apart from other artistic media?

NF: It is the most forgiving of mediums. There is room for error and happy accidents. You can also use a rubber in equal measure to the charcoal itself which allows even more flexibility in the drawing process. I also love that it absorbs light like no other medium. You can achieve absolute blackness next to perfect whites; therefore depicting practically any sort of contrast in light is achievable.wide-ride-ii

Wild Ride II
Black chalk on paper – 150 x 190 cm
Nina Fowler, 2014

NC: What is the greatest challenge to working with charcoal?

NF: The mess! There is a lot of dust created which makes it challenging to keep areas of the drawing completely clean. It is also fairly transient – meaning sometimes a mark made can disappear if accidentally brushed or rubbed.wild-ride

Wild Ride
Black chalk on paper – 150 x 190 cm
Nina Fowler, 2014

NC: What is the strangest response you’ve ever received for a work?

NF: I’m not sure it is exactly ‘ strange’, but I will always remember one collector who was so overwhelmed when he first saw a particular drawing of mine in person, that he hugged my parents (who were in attendance at the exhibition opening also) and thanked them for giving birth to me and therefore the artwork!

NC: Do you collect art? Whose works hang on your walls?

NF: I think anyone who loves art naturally collects it – on whatever level that may be. I am fortunate enough to own an Antony Gormley drawing and my friend, the artist and film director, John Maybury gave me one of his Brian Jones screen-prints which I treasure. I also have artworks from friends who I studied with and of course we live with my husband, Craig Wylie’s artworks hanging on the walls.

NC: If you could buy any one work of art, what would it be, and why?

NF: I would buy Manet’s ‘Dejeuner Sur L’Herbe’ because when I studied Art History at school, this painting opened my eyes to how people can react to an artwork, the controversy it caused and therefore the impact an artist can have with very simple means. This was the beginning of my endeavors to make meaningful work.


They Took Away My Veil: Part III
Black chalk + eyelets on paper – 128 x 168 cm
Nina Fowler, 2012

NC: Tell us a bit about your background. What do you consider your greatest artistic accomplishment?

NF: I graduated from Brighton University in 2003 with a degree in Sculpture.  In 2008, I was nominated for the BP Portrait Prize with a painting of the Royal Ballet dancer, Carlos Acosta. Shorty afterwards I began working with Galerie Dukan Hourdequin who gave me my first solo exhibition at an art fair in Lyon. The installation was bought in its entirety by a public foundation in Richmond, Virginia, USA. From that point I decided not to look back and forged ahead making work day in and day out. I have been lucky enough to exhibit internationally and my work is included in private and public collections throughout Europe, the USA and Asia.

In 2015 The Cob Gallery, London, published a monograph of my work to date titled ‘Nina Mae Fowler: Measuring Elvis’. The book includes the most wonderful texts about my works by incredible contributors and it is now stocked in the Tate Modern – I would say this is my one of my proudest moments. However, artistically I would have to say, being invited to take part in my first museum show by Neuer Kunstverein Aschaffenburg, in Germany, felt like my biggest achievement. The group show brought together 3 female artists and was called “Starke Frauen” (Strong Women). For the exhibition I created my ‘Knockers’ series which technically and conceptually I felt brought together much of my learning and thought processes so far.

NC: What do you define as “being creative”? How to seek that creativity in your work?

NF: I think ‘being creative’ is giving oneself outlets, which are beyond the usual realms of convention. For example, choosing to make a heart shape when you squeeze the honey onto your porridge.



Drawing Insights: The Renderings of Peter Paul Rubens

Dutch artist Peter Paul Rubens is renowned for many aspects of his career, but when we at Nitram Charcoal hear his name, we think of his draftsmanship. Beyond his unique approach to the figure – most of us have heard reference to his “Rubenseque” forms – Ruben’s drawings reveal the remarkable skill of the artist, his absorption of classical ideals, and his passion for Baroque intensity.

Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish, Siegen 1577–1640 Antwerp) Bust of Pseudo-Seneca, 1600–1626 Pen and brown ink over black chalk heightened with white, with brush and gray ink; 10 7/16 x 6 15/16 in. (26.5 x 17.7 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Robert Lehman Collection, 1975 (1975.1.843) http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/459195

Bust of Pseudo-Seneca, 1600-1626. Pen and brown ink over black chalk
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Born outside Cologne, Germany, in 1577, Rubens moved with his family to Antwerp early in his second decade. It was there that Rubens’ artistic training began, and his inherent talent allowed him to excel quickly. Near the turn of the century, Rubens traveled to Rome to envelope himself in the artistic energy of the classical world, a visit that would transform his style from earlier Northern Renaissance rigidity to Baroque intensity and fluidity. By 1610, Rubens had returned to Antwerp and established his own workshop, which would grow over the subsequent decades to become one of the most popular and prolific in all of Europe.

The Elevation of the Cross

A Study for Christ for “The Elevation of the Cross,” 1610-1611. Black and white chalk and charcoal on light gay antique paper
Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Underpinning this extensive practice, though, was the spirit of design that is visible in the substantial compendium of Rubens’ surviving drawings. Channeling a remarkably varied range of themes and narratives, Rubens nevertheless expressed through them all an unyielding emphasis on the drawn image. Figural studies and preparatory compositions were lavished with the same level of detail as one would expect from a finished composition, revealing Rubens’ immense talent in rendering complex and compelling works. This level of finesse was also a means by which Rubens could relay his concepts to his bevy of workshop assistants. By working in step with his rising recruits, Rubens could effectively train his workshop members while also encouraging their pursuit of their own technical genius.

rubens_st-francis_431882b6ff22ee5e7930913f1474bf26Study of a Man, c. 1617-1618. Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

What is perhaps most fascinating with Rubens’ drawings is that they give the viewer a snapshot into the artist’s mind. In many of his drawings, highly finished portions, replete with subtle shading and delicate contours, are paired with more roughly sketched parts and gestural outlines. These juxtaposed zones offer the viewer an intimate insight into Rubens’ design process, as if we can sense what aspects of the composition were most captivating – or perhaps most challenging – for him. From this perspective, Rubens’ drawings offer a documentary history of his design abilities, and it is perhaps for this reason that his works on paper are as equally cherished as his larger oil compositions.

The Assumption of the Virgin

The Assumption of the Virgin, c. 1624 (rendered with the assistance of Paulus Pontius)
Black Chalk/Mixed Media. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.

Are you a fan of Rubens? Enjoyed a recent exhibition of his works? What is your favorite Rubens work? Tell us about it!





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