Carbon Dust Drawings

The carbon dust technique was first used by Max Brodel in the late 19th century to create medical illustrations, and is a great medium to use for a drawing with very fine details.

I made the drawings below using the carbon dust technique (except for the last which is pencil). I love the range of grays I can get, but have never loved the dustiness of any charcoal or pastel medium.

To make a drawing in carbon dust, you start with a piece of multi-media vellum drafting film, like Denril. Somehow it holds the carbon dust better than regular drawing paper.

Using a razor blade, you scrape the tip of a carbon dust pencil into a dish to create the dust, and a paintbrush to apply it to the film. You build up the darks in this way, and use an eraser to add light.

Work from big shapes to little, and from large brush to small, until you capture the tiniest detail, like the glint of light in a beetle’s eye!

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Drawing on left was done with carbon dust, on right is pencil.

Drawing on left was done with carbon dust, on right is pencil.

Floral Still Lives

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The first is my favorite, painted with blue and white gouache. The second is a watercolor painting of the same bunch of flowers. The third is also blue gouache, I think. I like the contrast between the massive bulb and the skinny little roots.

Rhododendron Painting

Began with a charcoal sketch on the canvas, blocked in the background, and got as far as you see below, close to finished.

Recent Paintings

Nature Studies in Ink

Printing Leaves

I live in a small town where we're lucky enough to have our own arboretum. It's a peaceful, beautiful spot to take walks, go fishing, or have a picnic. There's rarely more than a handful of people there at a time, so it truly feels like a retreat, just minutes from the center of town.


Currently, the arboretum is attempting to raise enough funds to build an environmental education building. To show my support, I offered to make a print that can be given to people in exchange for a donation to the building fund. Although I normally make woodcut prints, I thought it would be neat to make a print from some of the plants that grow in the arboretum. Here are some photos I took while collecting and printing the clippings.


After making prints of the leaves and flowers, I scanned them and arranged them into this mandala design. Although nothing compares to the peaceful feeling gained from spending time in nature, this print can act as a reminder that nature awaits!

If you live locally (Northern NJ) and would like to make a donation to the arboretum's environmental education building fund, you can find this signed, limited edition print at The Curious Reader on Rock Road in Glen Rock, NJ.

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