Use What You Have
Freshman year of college my Drawing I teacher told our class to go to Home Depot/Lowe's and buy some pre-rolled linoleum flooring. Our assignment was to draw a portrait of a famous figure. At the time I was into the Godfather movies and I wanted to do a big portrait piece of Don Corleone. So I went a purchased a 9x12 piece of flooring and we nailed them up against the walls in our studio. The back surface is similar to a paper texture and it reacts pretty well with the charcoal we were using. Below are some images of the process of my first piece and how my work has evolved over the past six years.
Yes.... I was a goober in college.
We didn't prep the canvas at all and the gray tone of the texture worked well with the strong blacks. Once you started putting down a lot of the charcoal the gray looks white because of the contrast.
As time went by I fell more and more in love with this process of drawing large scale charcoal portraits. I didn't have money to buy many supplies, but doing these pieces allowed me to use only a big block of charcoal and the flooring. I used what I had.
That's how it all began. A gallery owner in Little Rock asked me if I was an artist. I somehow managed to have a basic portfolio online of the classwork that I was doing. The only piece that stood out to him was this piece. I walk away signing a contract and have my first art show that year. My first series of work I had to use a simple framing system because I couldn't afford to have professional moulding. I would clamp the top of the piece with two aluminum bars and build a back frame with L brackets of aluminum pieces. I would then attach heavy duty velcro to the back of the piece to the frame. It was simple, light, and could easily be taken apart. I owe most of the credit to my Dad who has been an amazing help with figuring out how to use the most cost effective way. I ended up selling every piece from my first art show. It was a humbling experience. I had no clue what I was doing, but I was doing it.
By the time of my third solo show. I had developed different methods of making my own frames. My father and I came up with a way to order some floating moulding from a company in Dallas and build the frames ourselves. We would drill masonite to the inside of the moulding and would still velcro the pieces into the frames. A big change I started doing a few years into doing these pieces was to start gessoing the surface to create a more contrasted feel and the charcoal would move around better with the smoother surface.
Whatever is around you or in your budget, use it. Make the most of those things. You never know when someone will take notice of what you are already doing. Some of what I used six years ago I still use today. My process is still evolving and I am still learning new ways to express myself. Let me know if this encouraged you at all, I would love to hear from you!