You’re in for a treat today! Guest blogger Karen Knutson has a wonderful lesson on the Charcoal Pour.

Follow along as she explains this cool process step by step. But first, a bit about herself in her own words:


Kathie asked me to write a little bit about myself. (Rolling my eyes 🙂 ) I believe that we all are made up of all the collection of our friends and our family. By surrounding myself with positive, creative, fun friends…I myself, become a better person. So, the first time that I met Kathie George was at Karlyn Holman’s Paint-in. (Karlyn is another “win/win” friendship!) Kathie was painting across the table from me, and I just marveled at how she was able to carry on a conversation with me, text her daughter on her laptop, AND paint a winning painting all at the same time. Plus, she cracked me up with her quick wit! So, that was probably 7 or 8 years ago, and we’ve kept in touch ever since. I come from a very basic background, raised on a ranch in Montana, so I’m a country girl! I moved to Minneapolis in 1974, when I married my husband. (That was 41 years ago!) My training is basically from all the watercolor and acrylic workshops that I have taken from internationally known artists, starting out with Karlyn Holman (started with the best). I went to college at Concordia College in Moorhead, MN but only went there for 2 years, before becoming a hairdresser. I started teaching through Community Education programs, then taught at local art centers, and now, teach workshops all over the USA! I LOVE my life! These teaching jobs come about from word of mouth and by people seeing my paintings in books or in National Exhibitions. My biggest suggestion to students who want to get better is to paint almost every day AND to never throw a painting away! Keep working on it, until it’s completely wrecked, OR maybe you’ll have a lightbulb moment halfway through the disaster. My BEST paintings are the ones that I struggle with the most! I have challenged myself for the past 3 years to do “30 paintings in 30 days” during the month of January. I always take a big jump with my art talents that month. I learn so much and each painting keeps getting better than the last one! Practice does make Perfect! Well, almost perfect. 🙂 My blog is  and my website is

(She forgot to tell you that she is a Signature Member of the Transparent Watercolor Society of America, very well deserved). If you check out her blog, you’ll find many, many demos and tips about how she works.

Painting a Bird on a Charcoal Surface

This has been my most popular workshop of the past 2 years. Students love the free beginnings of these paintings! I learned how to do these charcoal washes from reading the book, Discovering the Inner Eye: Experiments in Water Media by Virgina Cobb. This is one of my all-time FAVORITE books, and is out of print now. I would highly recommend you looking for it on or other sites. In this book, you’ll see many ideas of how to expand your knowledge of doing paintings with charcoal washes.

  1. Using a really stiff (barn brush), apply water streaks on the paper. Flick a few drops on there too. Tip the paper to get some runs. These wet strokes will save the whites. Charcoal won’t appear wherever you have the water.
  2. Using a spice jar with holes in the lid, sprinkle charcoal powder lightly on the surface.
  3. Outside, pour a big bucket of water over the paper. Do it with force! No wimpy water throwing! The splash of the water forces the charcoal to move across the paper and leave a great impression. Notice where I put the water first, it is completely white.
  4. Spray a workable fixative on the paper, and let that dry, before beginning the painting.
  5. Pick a place for your bird so that the eyes will be in a quiet area. I like to draw a shape (in this case, it was a circle) and negative paint behind part of it, and positive paint in other parts of it. Paint the whole bird a light color, except for the bill.
  6. Choose fun, busy collage pieces for the feathers on the back of the bird. These are not “real” birds, but funky birds. Glue the collage pieces by brushing matte medium in the place where you want the collage, and then placing the collage piece down, and then painting another layer of mat medium on top of the collage piece. I like to make an L format for the background collage papers. This brings the viewer’s eye down to the bird.
  7. Negative paint within the shape that is behind the bird. Detail on head and eyes.
  8. Add blacks lacing the viewer’s eyes to your center of interest. I like to add some permanent fine marker lines in the background too.

I’ve painted many paintings with the charcoal pour beginning. It also works fantastic for landscapes.  Hope you have a ball doing this process!


THANK YOU, KAREN for writing a post for me and sharing this fantastic technique. You are one of the most organized, tall and talented artists/teachers I know. He, he. It has been such a pleasure to get to know you.


I’ll be going for my third treatment later this week. I will be half done with them at that point! I never know from one day to the next how I will feel it seems, so I thank all of you for your patience with any questions or emails you’ve wanted answered. I eventually get them done, although I’m been dragging my feet a bit. And there’s a draft in the room! My neck hasn’t felt a breeze for many, many years and it’s surprisingly chillin’. Come on Spring!

I hope you enjoyed this week’s Guest Blog post. Thanks so much for reading!

Kathie xo

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