The minute I saw the Nitram Baton advertisment featuring the Academy of Realist Art, Toronto, I knew I had to try this out for myself.
I sent out for the package right away.
I received it in the mail and the unboxing was super fun because it came in a really fancy looking box.
The Baton itself is rather long about 9 inches, but very light. The plastic is slightly textured so it enables a nice grip.
The charcoal is smooth and really dark. The baton came with 4 sticks of the new charcoal, square shaped in cross section, like all other Nitram charcoal, but skinnier and a bit longer.
The charcoal slides in from the bottom and I used another charcoal stick to push it all the way through.
The plastic tightening ring slides down to tighten.
I ran into a bit of an issue here, the charcoal was too skinny and no amount of tugging on the plastic ring would secure the charcoal securely. The charcoal remained "wobbly".
I emailed Nitram and they responded immediately saying they were sending me another package of the newer charcoal which was slightly thicker.
I received that within 2 days along with a nice T-shirt! Such amazing customer service!
The new charcoal fit just right and the tightening ring did not need much more than a gentle tug to get the charcoal stick nice and secure.
To sharpen, I used the Nitram sharpening block. It is important to grip the baton close to the tip while sharpening otherwise I found the charcoal is too soft and snaps off much too easily.
Very gentle side to side sharpening all the while rolling the charcoal baton gave me a very nice long and sharp tip to work with.
Once I had the paper taped up on the drawing board, I started with the block in. I found that the baton initially felt sort of clumsy in my hands. I have small hands and it felt like I was holding an overly fat pencil. I am used to the skinny smaller sticks of vine charcoal and this felt big, bulky and heavy. I was disappointed a bit, but I kept on with it.
Surprisingly, within an hour or so, it became very comfortable to hold, my strokes felt much smoother and easier to manipulate.
At lunch time I took a break and when I came back to my drawing I used the vine charcoal stick and immediately wondered how I had managed with this for so long!
I loved the smooth dark line that the soft charcoal provides. The stick being thinner is an advantage; it does not take much sharpening to achieve a smooth long and sharp tip. It is a pleasure to work with it.
I was able to work with the charcoal without breaking , which is an amazing feat for me and work until the last 3/4 inch of charcoal. I loved that the length of my drawing implement stayed constant no matter what the actual length of the charcoal was inside it.
Here are all the left over tips after 3 days of working of my figure drawing.
There a few minor things about the Nitram baton that took some getting used to but did not faze me too much. I am used to starting a drawing with a big stack of sharpened charcoal so I don't stop and sharpen often in between. With the baton, I did have to stop to sharpen, but it was a different rhythm of working and I got used to it quickly.
There is only one type of charcoal available for the baton, the soft. I use the blue H stick a lot towards the finishing stages of my drawing and it would be nice to have those available as well. Color coded like the original Nitram charcoal.
Overall, I am thrilled with my new acquisition and I know it will be one I will reach for over and over again.
I am planning to get my cast drawing students to try this out and am considering adding it to the material list for my atelier students.
Thanks for visiting!