Coastal Creativity at Cober Hill by Robert Dutton

Robert Dutton, a Nitram Charcoal ambassador shared this original article on his blog He had a fabulous week of teaching on the Coast of Yorkshire with 14 students on a successful residential art holiday. Keep reading to see some great shots of Nitram Charcoal in action on location in the United Kingdom!

I’ve just returned from a fabulous weeks teaching 14 enthusiastic students at the wonderful venue of Cober Hill, Cloughton near Scarborough recently on the Yorkshire East Coast.

p1170058Now that’s what I call charcoal! No other company creates charcoal this size and of this fine quality like Nitram Charcoal

A truly inspirational week sharing lots of quality time together getting to know one another and creating mixed media paintings together.

dsc_1393Fun in the studio at Cober Hill on our mixed media art holiday together

Being receptive to new ideas the work everyone created on a regular and daily basis was an absolute joy to guide everyone through each stage to create some wonderful paintings.

Not only did we have some great times in the bright conservatory studio at Cober Hill, but with glorious weather all week (especially on our two painting days we went out) being kind to us, our field trips paintings and sketching outdoors was a rewarding experience for all.

dsc_1425On the moors overlooking Whitby sketching and painting – a great mornings work ladies!

With an acrylic moor and coast painting theme for our art week, the wonderful North York Moors National park close to Cober Hill was a real inspiration.

Our field trips painting at Robin Hoods Bay in full sun with the tide out was fantastic. There was a painting view just about everywhere!

p1170036Crisp light and detail means using a sharp charcoal stick. Nothing better than using the Nitram sharpening bloc
to prepare everything the night before so no time is wasted out in the field

dsc_1386Demonstration mixed media painting at Robin Hoods Bay. A great morning for everyone sketching in this beautiful location close to Cober Hill

dsc_1366Explaining why and what I’m using to help create my expressive mixed media painting to include Nitram Charcoal drawing tools and charcoal

Again on another day during the week we took a trip to a vantage point overlooking the village of Sleights, the valley of Iburndale and the village of Ugglebarnby to distant Whitby to sketch and paint too.
I got the chance to demonstrate how working outdoors directly in front of the subject helps create paintings and studies full of energy, vigour and life. By choosing to work with different black and white media to include Nitram charcoal (a really superior high grade charcoal from Canada) on each occasion on Canson Moulin du roy 300gsm (140lb) not and rough 100% rag content watercolour papers, students could see the merits of choosing such versatile papers to work on for different approaches to mixed media landscape painting.

p1170056Mornings demonstration painting using mixed media to include Nitram Charcoal from Canada, Derwent XL Blocks charcoal (black and white),
pastels and inks. Drawing really is good for the soul, especially with a view like this!

The week flew by but we made every minute of it by packing lots into the week to include quality studio painting time, field trips, evening demonstrations and of course evening get togethers among friends.

I’m really looking forward to coming back next year to teach lots more exciting mixed media painting techniques on my two planned holidays at Cober Hill.

For further details of next years painting adventures at Cober Hill along the East Coast visit



Contemporary Charcoals:
Mary Jane Ward

The work of Mary Jane Ward embodies an inherent grace, and for good reason: trained in classical ballet, Ward enjoyed a career on the professional stage prior to devoting her energies full time the new creative outlet of visual art. Now based in Ohio, Ward still espouses the energy and fluidity of a dancer in many of her compositions, which adds to their compelling nature. Ward graciously shared her thoughts on her evolution as an artist for our latest installment of the “Contemporary Charcoals” Series. For more on Ward’s art, please visit her website.

mjward_amandaingrisailleAmanda in Grisaille, 14″ x 18″ oil on panel, painted while studying at Grand Central Atelier, 2013

What is your favorite collection to visit? What collection/museum in on your visit wish list?

I resist naming a favorite anything, but a collection that has made an impression on me is the Rodin collection at The Legion of Honor in San Francisco. I saw it last a few years ago, when I visited the museum to see the [Anders] Zorn retrospective. I loved that show- especially his etchings- and I made a point to spend some time with the Rodin collection while I was there. I remember seeing Rodin’s work for the first time when I was 14 in France with my 8th grade classmates. I of course took a photo with Le Penseur, posing in his position. Seeing Rodin’s work now, as an adult and as an artist, I loved the raw nature to some of his sculptures.

mjward_applestudyApple Study, 8″ x 10″ charcoal, chalk, ink wash on paper. 2016

My wish list includes the Met Breuer’s Unfinished- I would have loved to see that. I’d also love to visit more Land Art. Last summer I had the incredible experience of visiting [Robert Smithson’s] Spiral Jetty with my partner Amery Kessler. The necessity of a sort of pilgrimage to see these works attracts me. I found the experience of traveling out to Spiral Jetty transformative. Certainly, entering the doors of a museum or gallery changes your environment enough to place you in a slower, more contemplative, possibly more open state. But to travel for hours in open landscape, through uninhabited areas, feeling much more a part of that landscape than an observer of it, is incomparable.

mjward_christinayohoChristina Yoho Portrait Sketch, 12″ x 9″ charcoal, chalk on tan paper. 2016

In your opinion, what sets charcoal apart from other artistic media? What is the greatest challenge to working with charcoal?

The first thing that comes to mind that sets charcoal apart is it’s tonal range. Having worked a lot in graphite, and only recently beginning my experimentation with charcoal, I am excited about the rich dense darks that charcoal can achieve in a short amount of time. I’ve been using it more and more for portrait sketching, and it allows me to create a 3-dimensional feeling space very quickly.

mjward_chuckChuck, portrait sketch, 12″ x 9″ charcoal, chalk on grey paper. 2016

A fun challenge to a quick portrait sketch is to find an efficiency to the line. When I’m teaching, my time for a demonstration sketch is often very limited. With charcoal I can get my observations down on paper very quickly, and it stays easy to adjust or erase. Another challenge comes in the light areas of the sketch, as I have to teach my hand a new, lighter touch – to express the details that interest me without exaggerating them with heavy marks. It’s a learning process!

What is one thing you cannot live without in the studio?

Ample time and good light. Those might seem like obvious answers, but they are so important. I get distracted easily, and it’s only when I know I have a good amount of unrestricted time in the studio that I can really settle into something. Otherwise I try to multitask- I can always think of all these little things I should get to, mostly organizing or cleaning, and I’ll get set up for one project but get drawn into another. And good light makes everything in the studio more inviting.

mjward_nacimientofogAbove the fog on Nacimiento Fergusson Road, 6″ x 6″ oil on panel, painted en plein air in Big Sur, California. 2015

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

I can’t say that I’ve been able to collect art yet, I’ve been too nomadic for that. At the moment I have the pleasure of renting a house from friends in Columbus, Ohio. They are both artists and they raised their family here, and the house is filled with their paintings and drawings, paintings by their son, and photographs of their daughter who is an incredibly accomplished modern dancer. It’s a lot of fun. I do tend to keep a few pieces of art around me- some small prints of my mom’s botanical watercolor paintings and a mug with a sculpted face that my brother made, pottery that my dad and my mom made.

mjward_pine-tree-study-new-hampshirePine tree study, New Hampshire, 12″ x 8″ charcoal, chalk, ink wash on paper. Drawn while participating in the Hudson River Fellowship, 2015

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

I don’t know exactly what, but at the moment it would come down between two artists, Andrew Wyeth and Arthur Matthews. I love the combination of sensitivity and grit in Wyeth’s paintings. They are so beautiful; I’m in awe of his work. And Arthur Matthews’ paintings of California are high up there for me. I love his paintings of the Monterey landscape and his dancing figures. Both my parents grew up in Northern California, so although I’m from Oregon, I also feel a strong sense of home in the landscape of California.

mjward_roadsideflowersMaking a graphite study of roadside flowers in Big Sur, California, 2015. Photo by Amery Kessler.

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

I come from a family of artists- my parents’ ceramics studio was in the basement of our house, my immediate and extended family were all creative, nearly all in the arts in some way. Drawing and painting have been a constant interest for me for as long as I can remember, but my first career was as a ballet dancer. I went to one year of college for ballet, did not do well, but went on to dance professionally for 9 years. I moved all over the country in order to take jobs and keep dancing. I would sketch my friends in my free time, drew lots of self portraits and experimented with painting. I always planned to transition at some point into being primarily a visual artist.

mjward_selfportraitmay2016Self Portrait, May 2016, 12.5″ x 7″ oil on panel

That transition happened while I was living in New York City. I was still dancing, but finding myself more and more interested in honing my painting skills. I was struggling to get what was in my head translated into paint. I was working at a restaurant and a friend there told me about the atelier where he was studying classical drawing and painting. I went for a little tour, and signed up for night classes. I ended up spending 3 years there at Jacob Collins’ Grand Central Atelier, joining the Core Program, studying with incredible artists. I learned so much in that intense period.

mjward_selfportraitincharcoalSelf Portrait in Charcoal, 12″ x 10″ charcoal on paper. 2016

I don’t know if I would call it an accomplishment exactly, but I am proud of my journey so far through my identity as an artist. I’ve embraced the possibility of connecting with powerful work outside my own specialty. I’ve been honored to assist my partner with some of his work. One huge accomplishment was touring his work Drum Casket to 26 US states in August and September of 2013. We drove the piece around the country in a 1968 Cadillac Hearse and shared it through small interactive sessions in galleries, museums, living rooms, backyards and parks. It was a lot for two people to take on.

mjward_vansbeachMary Jane painting at Van’s Beach, Michigan. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park, August 2016. Photo by Amery Kessler.

Another accomplishment I’d like to share concerns my identity as a dancer. I have a vivid memory of a conversation with OSU Professor Emeritus Vicki (Vera) Blaine a couple years ago, I told her that I used to be a dancer. She corrected me, “Once a dancer, always a dancer.” That really moved me- there is so much self-imposed judgement and discipline to being a dancer that it can incredibly difficult to stop pursuing that career. On the surface, the statement may even seem cliché. But her words sank in, and I feel strengthened by the idea. Even if you’re not dancing that’s not something you can leave, and neither can it leave you. In fact, it seems obvious now that every part of one’s journey affects and informs what follows. So my past life as a dancer is now present in my pursuit of drawing and painting.

Featured Artist: Milixa Morón

Posted On: October 7, 2016 — Written By:
Category Artists, Artwork, Charcoal Inspiration, Featured Art, General, Nitram

Milixa is a fine artist and realist painter, devoted to the resurgence and preservation of representational painting in art.


She has a wide range of sources of inspiration, including symbolism, mythology of different cults, religions or cultures, universal symbols, universal beliefs, psychological behavior, and stories or people from history that left an important reflection or thought. Milixa drives to paint these kind of themes not only because she likes them but also because she loves the feeling they transmit – their knowledge, their pain or agony, their power, their mystery.


Milixa strives to create an unforgettable iconic image whose narrative and gaze transcend time, location, gender, culture, ethnicity, predisposition and the like.


Being inspired everyday, she loves painting different forms, colors and textures in her still life and representing the figure and portraits doing her best to capture the personality of the sitter.


Along with her husband, Milixa founded the Chiaroscuro Studio of Art. You can view student work HERE.

If you would like to see more work from Milixa, please visit her website:






Big Announcement:
Nitram is Gluten Free

Posted On: October 7, 2016 — Written By:
Category General, News, Nitram

When I travel coffee is my rite of passage into every day.
At the Art Materials trade show in Denver, every morning,
I made the pilgrimage down to the coffee shop for the Lattes.

Back in my room I noticed the “product positioning”
on my cup – HAND HARVESTED.


How do they know that the coffee was harvested by hand? Can they prove it? Do they have their own coffee plantation?This is just a thinly disguised product feature or as I like to call it “spin the feature”.

My everyday job is marketing so I understand this need
to differentiate. Finding those unique product features and benefits to help consumers make “buying decisions”.

Pat and I decided to try and “spin” Nitram to new heights.


Free Range
Fair Trade
100% Natural
0% Fat
No Artificial Ingredients
Fragrance Free
Artisan Roasted
BPA Free
Small Batch
Made without Hormones or Antibiotics.

And yes, Gluten Free 😉

Got any more?


PS – construction has started on the new Nitram facility.


Just foundations – no animals were harmed though…





Museum Mix: Perusing London’s National Portrait Gallery

The National Portrait Gallery in London offers its visitors the history of England through the likenesses of its people. Celebrating its 160th anniversary this year, the National Portrait Gallery presents an impressive compendium of portraits unrivaled by the capital city’s other world-renowned art institutions.

The National Portrait Gallery was the brainchild of the 5th Earl of Stanhope, Phillip Henry, who wanted to assist in the creation of an art institution that honored both the art and heritage of the English population. After prolonged efforts, Stanhope finally received Queen Victoria’s blessing in 1856 along with £2000 of seed money (roughly $250,000 in today’s dollars). As both its popularity and its collection grew, the National Portrait Gallery eventually moved into a more permanent home in 1896 very near to another art landmark of London, the National Gallery.

chandos_portrait_shakespeareAttributed to John Taylor, William Shakespeare (Chandos Portrait), c. 1600s

Featured among their holdings are the visages of some of England’s most notable figures. For example, the celebrated (and often contested) oil-on-canvas portrait of William Shakespeare, also known as the “Chandos Portrait,” (above) hangs on its walls. Charcoal works also get their due. Intermixed with these paintings is a remarkable array of charcoal portraits of some of England’s most cherished figures, from writer Herbert George (HG) Wells to Austrian-turned-Englishman and prominent art historian Ernst Gombrich. As a result, visitors to the National Portrait Gallery can both walk through British history while admiring the finessed technique of exquisite charcoal works.

william_hogarthWilliam Hogarth, 1758

angelica_kauffmanAngelica Kauffman, 1770-1775

Today, the National Portrait Gallery boasts a collection of hundreds of thousands of works, rivaling its National Gallery neighbor for prominence near London’s bustling Trafalgar Square. It also boasts three auxiliary exhibitions locations across the United Kingdom. What keeps the institution thriving is a passion for the carefully conjured portrait, which we at Nitram Charcoal couldn’t support more.

rbkitaj_sir_ernst_hans_josef_gombrichR.B. Kitaj, Sir Ernst HaWillins Josef Gombrich, 1986. Pastel and charcoal. 676 mm by 578 mm.

anonymous_primrose_hill_schoolAnonymous, Primrose Hill School, 1893. Charcoal and white chalk on paper. 551 mm by 699 mm.

For more on the National Portrait Gallery, please visit their website. Have you had a chance to take in their collection? What portrait was your favorite?


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