Tag Archives: Art

Mounting my colour pencil drawings to a board

I love my colour pencils dearly, they are now easily my favorite medium to work with… but they have one glaring failure! No matter how good the work is, generally it is created on flimsy, easy to damage paper. I hate the thought of putting in hours of work, to then have to worry about the chance of creases or tears in my hard work! I also think this fragility really holds colour pencil artworks from being taken very seriously by potential collectors.

Over the past few months I have had many discussions with local art shops and framers about the best method of mounting my colour pencil pieces to board, to give my work stability and a much longer life expectancy!!

If you are interested in trying this out, the following is a run through of my method so far

Note: this method can be used to mount paper BEFORE creating the artwork!! you will just have to be extra careful not to accidentally get any of the gel on the working surface of the paper.


*** WARNING!!!!**** This is a fiddly process and it does have the potential to ruin the artwork you wish to mount!! I HIGHLY, HIGHLY!!! recommend practicing the process a few times on less valuable pieces before attempting to mount something precious!!


Equipment:

    • A sturdy archival board – I have been using picture matting board from a local framer, as it is sturdy but still lightweight. However, you could use a much firmer surface like Ampersand clayboard, ( https://amzn.to/2CyuQwb or for Aussies https://amzn.to/2Mac4L5  ) or wooden boards https://amzn.to/2QhqYmj or for Aussies  https://amzn.to/2M9TG55 ( please note, amazon associate links are for your visual reference, there are many other brands selling similar products and it’s always worth shopping around!). Whatever you choose should be archival as it would be a terrible shame to damage your piece instead of protecting it! It will help if the board you choose is slightly smaller than the artwork. You will get a better finish if you can  trim the artwork to be completely flush to the board
    • An Archival binder gel.  I use Atelier heavy gel (gloss) (https://amzn.to/2QfdffE  or for Aussies https://amzn.to/2wVD1N1)to attach my drawing to the board. It is an acrylic medium that creates an extremely strong bond when dry.
    • The artwork you wish to mount
    • A brush
    • A brayer (optional) https://amzn.to/2wT1OkQ or for Aussieshttps://amzn.to/2QeM1Wss  to roll your artwork down onto the board. A brayer will give you a nice smooth, even rolling action to press the artwork down onto the board. This would be very useful with larger artworks
    • A sharp blade to trim any excess
    • Wax paper 
    • A flat, heavy weight to press your work down overnight

Method

Step 1.  Clean your surfaces!

Ensure that your work surface, hands, brush, brayer, the board, and the artwork are free from dust and debris. The mounting process must be done quite quickly and can be a little nerve racking… Should you find a hair or crumb stuck somewhere it doesn’t belong during the process, you will find it difficult to keep the process flowing. And any particles that get trapped between your artwork and the board will be there forever!!! It is worth taking the time to clean and inspect everything so you don’t run into trouble later

Step 2. Protect your surface

I use a layer of wax paper under my board while I apply the gel. This stops excess gel from getting on my work surface, so I don’t accidentally “glue” my artwork to the table

Step 3. Apply the gel

Using a wide soft brush, apply the gel to the board. Ensure that the gel covers the board completely to the edges and is in a nice even layer. The Heavy gel is an impasto medium and will hold any peaks or clumps when it dries, so take the time to smooth it out so no clumps form under your artwork. When you are happy with your coverage, it is worth taking the time to clean up any excess gel from the side of your board, removing the protective wax paper and cleaning any gel off your hands. Taking the time to clean the excess off will ensure you accidentally get the gel on your work or stick your work to the work surface!

Step 4. Attach the artwork.

Take a deep breath! take a moment to visualise how you will place the artwork on the board and how you want things to line up. Bend your artwork slightly and allow the middle of the piece to make contact to the board first, then lay the piece down LIGHTLY onto the board. getting that middle section down first will prevent any air bubbles from forming underneath your piece. The gel grabs quickly, So only lay your piece down lightly, and quickly make any final adjustments to the position of your work. This is where having your artwork slightly larger than the board is incredibly helpful!!! It is better to have a slight overhang that you can cut off later than to have an exact fit that can be difficult to line up under time pressure!! (like I did in the video!)

Step 5. Smoothing the piece down!

Once you are completely satisfied with the position of your piece on the board. Add another layer of wax paper on top of your artwork. This will protect your piece from accidental smudging. Use the brayer or a flat hand, to smooth the artwork down onto the board, working from the middle out towards the edges and ensuring you get a good bond on the edges. keep smoothing it out until you are satisfied that the piece is completely bonded to the board. Now is a good time to clean up the edges of any excess gel that may have been squeezed out in the smoothing process. and cleaning excess gel off your work surface.

Step 6. Weighting down and drying.

The gel forms a bond very quickly, and the piece should already be firmly attached to the board. But as the gel is wet, the paper and thinner matting boards can bend as the gel dries. So at this point, using wax paper to protect your work, lay some flat, heavy weights down to ensure the artwork remains flat as it dries. Allow to dry overnight.

Step 7. Trimming the excess

When everything is completely dry you may take a very sharp blade and trim off any paper hanging over the side of the board. This will give a nice flush finish to the mounting process. I recommend doing this with the artwork facing down on a smooth clean surface, and using the edge of the board to guide the blade.

And you’re done!!!

Your gorgeous colour pencil work is now firmly supported by a solid surface, and worrying about creases and tears is no longer a major problem! With a nice solid board you can now take this a step further and varnish your piece for another layer of protection and to even out the sheen of the image. ( I will explain how I do this in my next blog!)

 

 

 

 

Making hundreds of colours from only 12 pencils

When you start using colour pencils as a medium, those giant, rainbow coloured packs of 120 pencils can seem like a must-have item…

until you see the price tag!!

I don’t know about you, but it sure is hard to justify spending such a huge amount of money on a medium you are not yet familiar with. Colour pencils can be a tricky medium to master, they take a lot of time and practice and at first you don’t even know if you will enjoy the process!

We can start practicing with colour pencils without destroying our bank balance though. The first option is to start off with student grade pencils. These can be a great introduction to the medium, and I started my own collection of pencils with a $17 set of Monte Marte colour pencils. Unfortunately, Student grade pencils are just not as pigmented, can blend unevenly or unpredictably,  and are not as lightfast as the artist grade pencils. Most serious art students will find they “grow out” of these sets very quickly.

The second beginners option can be to go whole hog and start off with the artist grade pencils… just not the whole collection! Most brands offer sets starting with as few as 12 pencils, which is a much more affordable option, especially if you can get a good sale price or manage to wrangle them as a gift!! *wink wink santa claus!!* 

To a beginner artist, it may seem that 12 pencils could not possibly be enough, but I assure you it can be. Colour pencils are just like paint, they can be mixed and blended to create endless combinations, the only difference is with the pencils we mix our colours directly on the paper instead of on the palette. Let me show you how many combinations we can create with just a basic 12 pencil set.

Here are some links to purchase the packs I have used for these charts.

polychromos 12 pack: https://amzn.to/2wUXkuT or for Aussies https://amzn.to/2NUjBiJ
prismacolor 12 pack: https://amzn.to/2wWheoi or for the  Aussies  https://amzn.to/2wWTGjc

Polychromos 12 pack

In this grid I have blended each of the Polychromos pencils. Each square is a 50-50 mix of each pencil.

  • White
  • Cadmium Yellow
  • Dark Cadmium Orange
  • Deep Scarlet Red
  • Magenta
  • Light Ultramarine
  • Pthalo Blue
  • Emerald Green
  • Light Green
  • Burnt Ochre
  • Walnut brown
  • Black

 

 

 

Prismacolor 12 pack

This grid shows the same 50-50 blend of the 12 pack Prismacolor premier pencils

  • White
  • Canary Yellow
  • Orange
  • Crimson Red
  • Violet
  • Violet Blue
  • True blue
  • Emerald Green
  • Apple Green
  • Sienna Brown
  • Dark Brown
  • Black

 

 

The colours in these charts are just the very tip of the iceberg! These are the colours than can be achieved by simple 50-50 blending of each colour, and doesn’t even start to take into account all the blends than can be created in different ratios or by adding a 3rd or 4th pencil to each blend. The possibilities are endless… which can be a little bit daunting.

Generally when I am mixing my pencils I choose the colour closest to my goal as possible, then use the colours I have available to warm up, or cool down, Lift or desaturate the colour as necessary. A lot of this is done through trial and error, so I find it is always best to have a piece of scrap paper on hand as I work, to test out how the colours will mix together before I use them together on the final product. Luckily the more experience you have, the easier it becomes to predict how the colours will react together. Unfortunately for the beginner there is no “recipe” book I can give you to create the colours you wish to achieve. The list of possible hues is endless, and most colours can be achieved by combining pencils in more than one way! Learning to mix your own colours Is best achieved through experimentation and practice, lots and lots of practice.

 

 

 

Beginners color pencil tutorial. Blending colors on a Mango

Here is another tutorial for beginner colour pencil artists. I have chosen this mango, as the shape is very easy to draw and the different colours will give us a chance to practice blending our pencils together to get a smooth gradient.

Reference Picture 

I used Polychromos pencils:

  • White
  • Cadmium yellow
  • Pompeian red
  • Indian red
  • May green
  • Green gold
  • Cinnamon
  • Payne’s grey
  • Cold grey III

Equivalent Prismacolor pencils,  (I find them to be a little more difficult to control with the solvent, they will spread VERY easily…  but will give a slightly more vibrant result.)

  • White
  • Canary yellow
  • Carmine red ( makes the blush a little more pink, but quite pretty)
  • Henna
  • Lime peel
  • Artichoke
  • Nectar
  • Warm grey 90%
  • Cool grey 30%

I used Arches Hot pressed watercolour paper for this example, however this is quite extravagant. My favorite budget-friendly paper is Fabriano accademia paper. I like a sturdy paper with a medium tooth for colour pencil work.

Step 1. Transfer the image to your paper.  If you feel confident, you can use a light graphite pencil to draw out the outline directly onto your paper, but be careful not to erase too heavily! We need to take care of the paper surface and excessive erasing can damage the tooth of the paper, or leave unsightly marks. Extra care needs to be taken to keep the graphite outline very light along the top of the mango, as it will show through the yellow in the final product.

This is quite a simple shape to draw out. I have provided a line drawing to trace if you wish, but there are many varieties and shapes in fruit and perfection is not required!

Step 2. Use the white pencil to lightly colour the area of highlight. While I am not looking for a brilliant white highlight this time, it can be helpful to protect this area a little, and this layer of white will mean we will be able to lift any colour that we may decide is too dark later on.

Step 3. Very lightly plot your lines for where you wish the colours to blend. You can change the size and shape of this area if you wish, but I recommend using the reference photo and trying to get as close as possible for practice. Once you have a clear idea where you wish you colours to be,  lightly start colouring the yellow area of the mango with the cadmium yellow pencil. When you get to the boundaries where the colours are to blend together, allow the yellow to drift slightly into the next colour area, this will be where our pencils will mix together.

Step 4. Next we will add our first layers of the Pompeian red to the blushed area. Start by working at the edge of the fruit and work towards the yellow. As you reach the transition, lightly colour the red pencil over the top of the existing yellow pencil. Remember to keep your hand very light; if you are pressing to hard it will be difficult to get a nice soft blend. Small light circular movements are best to allow you to fade one colour into another effectively.  When you are happy with coverage of the red pencil, you can go back over the blended are again with the cadmium yellow to blend even further.

Step 5. With the blushed end of the mango coloured, you can now move on to the greenish tip of the mango. Use the may green pencil in the same manner as you did with the red, blending the green slightly into the yellow and bring some of that yellow back over the green to let the pencils blend seamlessly together

Step 6. At this point you can add more areas of reds or greens if you wish, however I caution you not to allow the red and the green to touch or blend at any point on the mango. The red and the green are complimentary colours , which means that blending between these hues will create a darker, muddy color, which is not the goal for this brightly coloured piece!

Step 7. You should now have a reasonably solid coverage of pencil on your paper. While you will still be able to see small areas of white showing through, the overall coverage of the mango should be fairly even. Now it is time to use the Odorless mineral spirits. Use a soft brush, and blot most of the thinners off your brush before starting to blend, make small circular motions to push the pigment into the pits of the paper. **Warning!!** The yellow will be very easy to accidentally stain with red or green at this point, so be careful to clean off your brush before blending each area! Move slowly and soon you should have a nice solid base for your piece. Allow the thinners to dry completely before moving on the next layer.

Step 8. With the base colours established we can start applying some shadows to the fruit. Using the green gold pencil, add a light layer across the bottom of the mango. It is important to look closely at the reference image at this point as changes to the shape of this shadow can drastically change the overall form of the fruit. When you are happy with the placement of this main shadow, you can move on to adding the Indian red to the blushed area of the fruit. This will be darkest along the base and along the crease in the fruit.

Step 9. At this point, add a little bit of the cinnamon pencil along the inside crease of the fruit. This is a small step, but it makes a big difference to the overall look of the piece. This little touch of reflected light really helps to bring the shape to life!

Step 10. When you are satisfied with the form and coverage of the shadows, add another layer of each of the base colours (cad yellow, Pompeian red and may green)  to the whole piece, and blend out, using only a very small amount of thinners on your brush.

Step 11. While waiting for the thinners to dry, you can move on to the stem and shadow on the table. The stem is very simply completed by drawing a few darker lines using the Payne’s grey pencil and colouring over the top with the green gold. The stem takes surprisingly little work, needing only just a hint of detail to come together. Before drawing in the main shadow take time again to study the reference photo. Carefully add a strong area of Payne’s grey just underneath the fruit where it touches the table. Then use the cold grey III and with a feather light touch, add the rest of the shadow as it fades out to the white. Blend this area carefully with Odorless thinners on a dry brush.

Step 12. Now is a good time to step back and asses how your piece looks to you. Are there any areas of shadow that need darkening? Is there any area colour you would like to see stronger or more blended? Go over the whole piece again, adding your base and shadow colours, making any adjustments you feel necessary. These last layers should make your piece completely solid and bring the whole thing together.

Step 13. Before blending out these last layers, take the time to add a few marks or blemishes with your Payne’s grey pencil.  Only tiny dots of the pencil are necessary here, but they add just an extra element of realism to the drawing. Try to keep these blemishes as random as you can; it can be easy to accidental create unintentional patterns, so pay attention as you work.

Step 14. The last step is to take your brush and lightly blend the blemishes into the top layers of colour, just knocking them back slightly so they are not too stark against the bright fruit. I cannot stress enough how little thinner needs to be on your brush to achieve this, just the softest touch will be enough to do the job.

Finally! Assess your piece. Check shadows and sharpen a few  blemishes. Now is the time to step back a little and look for ways in which you think your piece can be improved. When you feel you have done all you can, you’re all done!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking back and what’s next?

Sometimes it can feel like you’re not making any progress as an artist. Practice is slow and improvements can seem to take forever, if at all. So it can nice to look back occasionally and see just how far you have come. So this New Year, I  am taking a few moments to look back on my progress and achievements and putting some thought into what I would like to see happen in the year to come.

"All the blues"" colour pencil on paper 41x29cm

“All the blues”” colour pencil on paper 41x29cm


My year started in chaos. We moved house and my precious pencils were packed away and left untouched for a month! I felt incredibly anxious to get back to the drawing table. I suppose some part of me was afraid I would lose momentum and neglect my art for another 10 years! But I shouldn’t have worried. “All the blues” was my first full piece for 2016, and I loved it! This piece went on to become my profile picture for my burgeoning social media pages and was the first piece I uploaded to my Redbubble page to be made available as prints.

 


I picked up a paintbrush! After many failed attempts in the past, I took just one more shot. I hurt my wallet and bought some quality oil paints and started painting fruit on cheap canvas pads. For the first time in my life the paint did what I wanted. Each painting has been a bit better than the last and I am keen to paint more.


In March, I saw one of my pieces published in the gallery section of Colour pencil magazine. This was huge for me! I made sure I bought a paper copy of that month’s issue, you can’t just download something like that!


spilled bouquet 29x41 colour pencil

spilled bouquet 29×41 colour pencil

In November, I saw one of my drawings voted to be the banner for the Colored Pencils, Graphite & Pastels Facebook group. I see so many amazing works of art posted to that page, I was humbled to see my piece gracing the top of their page for a month!

 

 


In May, I took a massive leap of faith, strapped my iPhone to a plank of wood and uploaded my first YouTube video. I have since upgraded to adding voice overs and I am constantly learning new editing techniques. With 15 videos now created, I have managed to consistently upload videos fortnightly and I am really enjoying the process.


And finally, in March I opened up my own little corner of the internet and started this humble blog. Although it is a little neglected, I have thoroughly enjoyed taking the time to write about my journey.

Looking back, this year has seen some HUGE leaps for me. I am quite proud of many of the colour pencil pieces I produced and never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined how much progress would be made. It would seem that all the time and efforts have made quite an impact and this is very reassuring for the future.

So whats next?

Well, I am very excited to keep working on that YouTube channel. Recording my work is hard work and time-consuming, but it is so much fun and I really hope that I can inspire others to create through it.

I have purchased Scott Christensens Paint the ocean course. I live so close to the water, but I have had no success in painting it. I cant wait to use some of those scenic photos on my phone for reference, and apply some of his techniques to create my own water filled landscapes

I hope to learn to be a better salesperson. The more art I can sell, the more time I can dedicate to my passion ( instead of dedicating time to that dreary retail job!) While I have that redbubble site, I feel very self conscious in letting people know it is there. I need to learn how to feel comfortable in marketing myself.

On the topic of sales, I will soon be setting up shop for original artwork. While I do occasionally sell pieces through Facebook, I have not set up a dedicated platform for sales. I have no idea how to do this…. but like so many things this past year,  I will learn.

I am so excited to see what opprtunites 2017 will bring. I hope I to create even better art and more and more of it. Bring it on!

img_4063

what will be the first piece of 2017

 

 

 

Getting my own reference pictures

So, I admit… I have been somewhat lazy in the past when it comes to reference images for my artwork. I am a huge fan of photo sharing sites like Paint my photo. com  and I certainly don’t mind paying for the super high quality of the photos found on wildlife reference photos.com. I often turn to sites like these when I’m looking for inspiration.. or when I have a “Great idea” which i need to research further.

However, relying on outside sources for reference photos can be very limiting. When I have a great composition in mind, and no one has taken a photo that fits what is in my mind…  ugh!! well it can be extremely frustrating, and I can waste hours searching for the right image.

I recently purchased a DSLR camera, which I intended to use mostly as a video camera for YouTube. Although the camera is doing a fabulous job so far, it does seem like a waste of a rather nice (and reasonably expensive!) camera to relegate it solely to this task.

Small problem… the last SLR camera I used took film, and I only used it for a few months with  black and white film for a photography class. This new camera came with a thick booklet, and WAY too many buttons; and once again I leave myself in a position of having no idea what I’m doing.

So I have been watching videos and reading magazines and trying to get my head around this thing so I can get out and document some of the things that inspire me. My daughter and I went for an early morning trip to my local beach to see what we could do. A local bushfire gave the morning light a strange red cast, but we both got some great shots to add to my big book (file)  of reference photos.

That afternoon I set up a still life with a wine bottle, glass and some fairy lights and fired away. It took some efforts to get the look I wanted. My black glass table stared again, and with the help of a stereo speaker, my iPhone torch and a bottle of ajax to prop things up, I had some great successes (and many, many, many failures) getting the right reference for my next colour pencil piece.

Ooooh, the opportunities this opens up for me! I can’t wait to get out and take as many photos as I can!

But, what does it mean???

Ugh, the big questions!!

So many great pieces of art come with considerable meaning attached to them. The teachers and historians explain with great detail the significance of each element of the piece and how the artist was trying to tell some great story, highlight a social issue, or depict their own personal struggles.

And so many artists have impressive stories to tell!  They have seen something in the world and they wish to show their vision through their art. These artists are story tellers. Sometimes it is the good and sometimes it is the bad, but these artists hold a mirror up the world and demand that we LOOK!

I always quietly wished I was one of these artists. I wanted to have some huge, important story to tell as I handed over my pieces for assessment at school.  I wanted to be able to stand up and hold my art to the world and say  “This means something!!” However I have never found it to be in my personality to intentionally create art for this purpose, and at times this has made me feel like “less” of an artist.

I certainly have my own share of personal demons, and I see so many things in the world which I think demand a closer look. But I am not as bold as those story tellers. While I see plenty of stories to tell, my personal approach to life is quieter and much more optimistic. While the storms of life rage on, I take time to look for the little things, the pretty things, the millions of tiny wonders that surround me every single day. While the daily news jabbers in the background telling me to be afraid, and the thousand pressures of modern life try to grind me into submission, I try to shift my focus to studying a bee working on a flower or breathing in the colours of the afternoon light.

Now I am older, I understand that my outlook on the world IS the meaning behind my art! The two concepts are inseparable.  I want the people who see my art to stop for a moment and appreciate the little things; for example, the way the light shines through an onion skin like a stained glass window, or the moment a frog is balanced precariously amongst the flowers.  I want to hold up that artists mirror and show you magnificent things and uplifting moments! If I don’t achieve this lofty goal, I hope that my art gifts the viewer  a brief moment in their day to let go of the stresses of the world and rest their mind upon something beautiful. That is more than enough meaning for me.

Love, hate and every feeling in between

 

Every single piece of art I create sends me on an emotional roller coaster.

It starts with the inspiration! The adrenaline rush and excitement that comes with the new idea! Yes!! this is a great idea!! This is the most amazing reference photo! This will be the BEST thing I will ever make! Yayyyyy!! I write these ideas down, make a sketch, or find and file reference images. This is the top of the hill at the start of the ride.

Sometimes the idea stops right here at the planning stage… The excitement builds up, I get on with my daily chores, go to work, head to bed full of enthusiasm for my next project… Then by the time I wake up and look at what I have planned… It suddenly doesn’t inspire anymore. Sometimes the ride just stops and everyone gets off.

For the pieces that retain my interest, I am held at the top of the ride. Before I set to work, I need to prepare. I need to get on top of my housework, because I know my art will hold my attention for the next few days and the washing pile will be left ignored. I need to prepare my space, make sure I have the tools, I may need to purchase some supplies. I take the time to draw out my image; measuring, comparing, laying down the skeleton of the piece…I am at the top of the ride, anticipating the moment I can start.

When I finally set to work, I immediately plunge right down to the bottom of the ride. “Oh no, what have I started? I can’t do this! I don’t have the skills… this is too hard?”  the first layers of any drawing always look like crayon or scribble. My colour choices seem ridiculous. I doubt that I can ever build it up into something that passes for art. My hand tightens up and the self-doubt is crushing. This is the biggest dip in the ride. When I was younger many pieces ended at this point, but experience has taught me to hang on tight.

The first  rise comes when the initial section starts to look complete… I usually start with the eyes so I can reach this hill faster. A well drawn eye breathes  the first life into the piece.. and I can start to see how it just might turn out right. “Yes!! I can do this”

And so it goes over the whole drawing,  as I finish and start each section…

I can do this,

No I can’t

I Iove it, this is turning out GREAT!!

I hate it, It’s all going wrong!!

love it,

hate it,

love,

hate.

Up and down around the roller coaster. Until the finish is in sight. And I can settle on my  feelings toward the piece as a whole, good, bad or indifferent..

I have had a good run of late, many of my drawings have turned out better than I expected. They truly are the BEST THING I HAVE EVER DONE!! and the ride leaves me on a glowing high point.  But I don’t feel that way this week. I like my giraffes, they have pretty faces they are fairly accurately drawn …but it is not the BEST thing I have ever done… and it leaves me feeling a little in between.

I wish I had chosen a different paper. I wish I had spent more time planning the composition. I wish I was able to put down more layers of colour before the paper would take no more. To be brutally honest, this ride has left me a little disappointed.

However this ride is not over, and it never really will be over. Now the drawing is complete I will put it away in its folder, post the images and the video. I will see this drawing many times, and each glance will bring me back to the ride. Today I feel deflated, however in a month, or a year I could feel very differently.Time and distance from the project sometimes allows the love to come back into it. I will see the things I did right, and I will probably judge the flaws less harshly or at least appreciate the lessons I have learned from those mistakes.

Why do I do this to myself?

This battle between expectation and ability is one of the things I love most from practicing art…  I suppose I must like roller coasters

 

The effort starts to show.

Art has always been a part of my life in one form or another… it is only recently that have I intentionally made time to practice and improve my results.

It has become a borderline obsession. Some part every single day of the past 2 years, is spent studying my craft. If I am not working on a larger, complete piece, I am scrawling away in my sketchbook,  watching other artists on YouTube, reading books on the old masters, or just spending the time to take in my surroundings and mentally decide which colours I would use and how I would depict the scene.

I have noticed a change in the way I see the world, yes I mean an actual change in my visual perception of the world. Colours are brighter and shadows are deeper and the highlights are brilliant.  I see the way light bounces around objects, light bouncing inside shadows, the reflexion and refraction of light through a body of water… Of course my eyesight hasn’t improved (If anything, it’s getting worse as I age!!) but with practice I have learned to notice more of these little things that build up our visual world. I suppose it’s a bit like physical excercise, constant flexing of my perceptual muscles has made them stronger!

To test out these new muscles, this week I intentionally chose a subject that has been very difficult for me in the past. I have never before drawn a tiger I was happy with. All those stripes and the changing colours of the fur has always left me stumped, but having noticed a great improvement in my work lately, I thought I would “tackle the beast”again.

This time I can say I am truly happy with the results… There are a few areas I would have liked to do differently (but there always are) but overall I am proud to say this is one of mine. The image for this post shows the result of 19 months of solid, dedicated and deliberate practice. Judging by the difference, I can say that I cant wait to see what I can do 19 months from now!!

(here is the video I made of the recent tiger drawing. Learning to video as i work… now thats a whole new ball game!! more to come )

 

 

“Midnight Crow” Tutorial

My goal for this piece was to draw a black bird, using as little black pencil as possible. I wanted to find all the gloss and shimmer in the feathers and draw those brighter colours and leave the black just for the very deepest shadows. 

Materials used:

  • Fabriano Academia 200gsm paper 29x41cm
  • Faber-castell polychromos pencils: Black, Indigo, Prussian blue, Smalt (sky) blue, red-violet, burnt carmine, walnut, cool grey VI, cool grey II and my trusty white Prismacolor.
  • Odourless mineral spirits and a small, soft synthetic brush
  • tiny touch of white gel pen (optional)

My reference photo was from Steve Lyddon at PaintMyPhoto.com . http://pmp-art.com/steve-lyddon/gallery/104842/crow you do need to be a member to view the photograph as you are required to agree to some terms and conditions of use, however I highly recommend the site.

The process

I never start my drawing directly on my paper, especially where I intend to leave the background naked white. Every little eraser mark and smudge damages the surface of the paper. So I draw out my pieces into a cheap sketchbook first, then when I am happy I will use graphite transfer paper to get the outlines onto my watercolour paper without any mess or mistakes.

The Eye

I always start with the eye. It is the one place in a drawing that I absolutely do not want to make a mistake. If I mess this up I will ditch the whole piece and start again!

crow eye

eye, close up

I picked up my black pencil first and drew in the areas I knew would be the darkest, which in this piece is the lining around the eyes, the join between feathers and beak and the iris of the eye.I then drew in the “sparkle”of the eye with my white to protect the paper from my darker colours.

I chose the walnut pencil as the eye colour as I knew the rest of the piece was going to be in mainly cool colours and a wanted there to be a hint of warmth in the eye. I blended the area between the walnut and blue with my prussian blue to reflect the birds overall colour. As this is a very small area (about 1.5cm²), I do this with a sharp pencil and a steady hand

The Head and Neck

Next I move on to the fine feathers on the head and upper neck. With a very light hand, and with strokes that follow the form and size of the feathers,  I start with the sky blue pencil and lightly layout the area of highlight on the top of the head. I then do the same thing with my darkest shade of blue (indigo) to establish the areas in shadow. Once I have plotted the structures of the head with the darks and lights, I use my prussian blue pencil as a mid tone to bring the areas together. bringing the prussian blue down into the indigo to blend.

At this point I use my odourless mineral spirits (OMS) to blend the tones onto the paper. I want to use a fair amount of the spirits at this stage, as i am looking to stain the colours deeper into the paper, and i have not yet established any details that could be lost with too much blending. As I blend, I am conscious to keep blending in the direction of the feathers. This first layer establishes the foundation of the whole piece, so it is worth taking the time to get it right. You can see the difference the OMS makes between pictures 1 and 2 on the image below.

**WARNING!** I found that the prussian blue pencil was very easily soluble in the OMS! A little bit of pencil went a long way and it was very easy to spread the pigment too far into areas i did not want, and my dish containing the OMS was very quickly tinted blue by the pigment.

When the OMS is completely dried. I place another layer of colour using the same technique as the first. Light strokes on the direction and size of the feathers to build up the depth of the colour. When I am satisfied,  I repeat again with the OMS. However this time I blot most of the OMS out of my brush on a piece of paper before touching it to my paper. A saturated brush at this point will start to lift colour off my piece and start to push it into undesired places.

I keep repeating this process of pencil and OMS. When I am happy with the colour saturation, i move onto the last layers , where  I start to add my red-violet pencil in areas where I want to show a glossy colour shift to feathers. I also start to introduce some flecks of my sky blue down into the darker areas to suggest more individuality to the feathers.

The area under the beak is completed in the same manner, but in this area i also use my black pencil to create areas of the deepest shadows.

head feather collage

Showing how I build up layers of colour. Using light strokes, carefully following the direction and size of the feathers in the reference

Back feathers

With the neck area complete I move onto the tiny triangular feathers above the wings. The reference photo  showed a very defined pattern and central ridge on these feathers. I Followed the reference very closely on the placement and direction of these feathers, as the direction changes as they follow the form of the bird. I used my Sky blue pencil to draw the central lines in first. I press quite hard and go over the line with my white prismacolor. This established the pattern of the feathers and also protected that line of paper from my darker colours.  I was then able to build up the colour in those feathers with alternating layers of pencil and OMS. In some shadow areas I add some of the red-violet and burnt carmine to bring in some more shimmer colour. On my final pass on each feather, I draw in a line of shadow along the ridge a and go over the ridge once again with my white to make it pop!

neck feather collage

showing the general form of the back feathers

Wing and Tail Feathers 

The wing and tail feathers of this bird are very well-defined. There are very strong highlights and shadows on the reference pic which made his one of the easier, but most time consuming areas to complete. I study my reference picture  very closely to understand which areas are in shadow and which are reflecting the light. I use my sky blue pencil in the same manner as above to draw in and protect the exposed feather ridges.  I also use my sky blue to plan out the highlighted areas on the left side of the birds and the small highlight on the right above the leg. The lighting on the left hand side of the bird is very bright, so in this area I also put a layer of white and a hint burnt carmine before I set to work with my darker colours.

I go through the wings feathers in sections. Using the same technique of alternating pencil and OMS to build up depth. I am mindful to keep my pencil strokes following the general pattern of the individual strands in the feathers. In the final layers I am using my indigo pencil to strengthen the chevron like pattern in the wing feathers and to create a shadow along the ridge of the feather.

When I am satisfied with the wing feathers, I use my black pencil to draw in the shadows underneath the feathers. These shadows are strongest in the centre of the bird, where the two wings meet, and where the wing feathers overlap the tail feathers. I do this last, as I do not wish to  accidentally spread the black beyond the very darkest shadows with the OMS.

wing feather collage

Showing to progression of the wing feathers, including black shadow.

Leg and foot.

I used my prussian blue pencil to draw in the highlights on the right side of the leg, I then used my indigo and my black pencil to draw in the leg feathers. This was done using short downwards strokes and blended with the OMS.

I use my white  to draw in the highlights on the foot and claws, I then lightly used the black pencil to draw in the shadows. Once I had these landmarked, I used cool grey II and cool grey VI in a somewhat random manner to create the gnarled effect to the skin. instead of using the OMS in this area, I used my White prismacolor as a blender. I strengthened the shadow that I liked with the black pencil, and finished it off sky blue as a highlight on the top of the toes and back claw.

crow foot

leg and foot detail

To complete the piece I use a very light layer cool grey II and VI, sky blue and red-violet to create the shadow under the bird. I decided I wanted a little more brightness to the little white feathers beneath the eye, so I hit them with a few strokes of my white gel pen as a finishing touch.

 

 

What’s my “style”?

I am struggling!!!

It’s been over a month since I claimed this little corner of the internet, and I still have not found a way to describe my artwork for the “about” page of this site.

I’ve never had to describe my art before. I just think something that might make a pretty picture,  pick up a pencil and dive straight in!  I have spent hours looking over pictures of my pieces, looking for points of similarity or something that would be described as “my style” but for the life of me, I just can’t see it!!

I spend a lot of time looking at other people’s artwork, and so many of them have a distinctive style. I find that I know who did the piece before I even see the name. I know I shouldn’t, but I can’t help but find myself feeling a little jealous of people who have found themselves a unique and recognisable approach to their artwork.

Me, I just can’t sit still enough to create such a body of work.  I love to draw using my colour pencils, and they are my favorite medium. However I quickly become bored of doing the same thing, day in day out. I tire of doing similar subjects. I love to draw portraits, but doing them everyday would become a mindless chore. I love drawing animals and birds, but they can only hold my attention for so long. I enjoy the challenge of realism, but it can be tedious and time consuming to analyse and render the details. Sometimes I just want to draw for fun, without reference or with consideration of accuracy.

For example, after last week’s experiments with oil paints,  this week I have found myself playing with my copic markers in my sketchbook. While my colour pencils sit lonely in their box upon the shelf. Of course all these different mediums result in a different style of artwork! I never try to be anything more than cartoonish with my markers! attempting realism with these wild and free creatures would send me into an uncontrollable tail spin of frustration and tears.

All this chopping and changing means my artwork always looks different to me than the piece I did yesterday. Maybe it is a case of being unable to see the forest for the trees, but from where I stand, I couldn’t tell you what my style actually is! I am going to keep working on a description for the sake of this page.. but for all my searching, so far the only thing I could tell you, is that I really seem to like the colour blue.