Cole Johnson large graphitesI talked to Cole Johnson the other day about his new work. He's getting ready for the Plantation Wildlife Arts Festival, but took the time to chat with me about his new graphites.

The latest include some very large pieces done for the Astoria Gallery in Jackson Hole. Cole said he never calculated beforehand that he'd do such large work - they just came about because of a creative impluse. The image size for these large graphites is somewhere around 9 feet high!

Cole creates these works by purchasing high-grade watercolor paper in rolls. He'll take a piece of the roll, wet it, lay it on the cement floor in the basement, and then let it air dry so that the curl is taken out of the paper. Then it's hung in a special method Cole has devised so he can stand and work on the project.

Cole uses a combination of graphite and charcoal to get the look he wants. The deep blacks are a result of the fact that charcoal tends to absorb light rather than reflect it, the way graphite does. Because graphite reflects, he uses graphite for areas to convey wetness on the animal for example.

Also used are powders and other techniques Cole has perfected over the years, making him one of the nation's premier graphite/charcoal wildlife artists.

Once the piece is finished, he carefully rolls it and ships it to the gallery, where it has to be inspected to make sure no damage was done in shipping. Then the gallery takes careful pains to frame such a large piece, using high-grade pexiglass because it is so large.

Prints of Cole Johnson's work can be purchased at Sporting Artisans. You may also commission an original work from him.