Tag Archives: color pencil

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!)

 

 

 

 

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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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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