We have a fire pit in the backyard and like most folks, with a fire pit, we utilize it to burn a marshmallow, bake bread on a stick (Really! It's quite good!) or roast a hotdog once in awhile.
I had ran out of acrylic pumice and I wanted something to mix with my paint, something with some character and oomph, then Tami said, "What about all the ashes and chunks of charcoal in the fire pit?" I scooped about about a gallon of ashes and cold embers. I mixed the ashes with a gray house paint, then I went to town on this 36 by 36 canvas. The paint was like a dense lava with small boulders in it. I loved it.
After it dried, I had this canvas with a very interesting field. But what to do with it? I kicked ideas around of how to use it -- portrait, landscape whatever. I made my mind up after I saw some work by Beauford Delaney at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.