In conjunction with my three 5x7's of maple, purpleheart and bloodwood, my 10x20 maple and 5x7 copper panel came in today from Duho Studios along with sample panels of all kinds! They were nice enough to add it to fool around with at my leisure. Awesomeness! I am so happy Audrey Kawasaki recommended them to me ^.^
BTW! Quick tip before I forget. When I was using the purple heart, the varnish I used to seal my charcoal drawing (Ochun's Pregnant) was Krylon's UV Archival Varnish Gloss. It made the blacks and whites pop and the purpleheart deeper. I sprayed 3 coats waiting 15-20mins in between to dry. The wood is very dry so it absorb the first coat fast. It left a very nice shiny finish and best part - I don't have to worry about the drawing budging. You can run your hand over it all day and it be fine.
Duho recommended any UV or fixative sprays will work if you want to keep a matte finish instead of polished. This is the one they tested for me:
Sennelier's Fixatif Delacroix Fixative Spray - "It worked great. The purpleheart did darken when we sprayed it on but then it dried to the normal appearance and sealed the charcoal so that it does not smear...good stuff." -Brian Duhovich
Brian also recommends:
"No, you do not need to gesso the wood before starting, but we do recommend a UV varnish when you're done. Just do not over saturate the wood with solvents and such. Some artists like to put a clear gesso on before they paint (for tooth), but it is personal preference. I think this is done mainly because the wood will darken a little when a liquid is applied, changing the tone a bit. To give an idea of what the wood will look like when the varnish is applied, get dab of water and rub it on the wood. Don't worry the wood will dry back to normal, but it will give you an idea of what the wood will look like after the varnish is applied."