Saturday, April 19, 2014

Colored Pencil on Dark Background

Working with colored pencil can be very rewarding. There is so much you can do with it, and so many supports you can use!

Of course you have plain white paper. Plain? There are so many shades of white that you are not limited to a single value. And there are other supports. And other colors.

Each has their advantages and problems.

Bee Balm on Dark Green Mat Board

Working on a dark support, you cannot simply save your whites, but have to "come back" to them. Also, to have intense colors, you need to give them support. Here is where we learn why canvases are traditionally painting white Gesso!

You can try and do your fine sketching with traditional pencil, but there is the danger of embossing the support trying to make out dark lines.

White makes a much better sketch. Always use a very sharp pencil and press lightly. If you are careful not to press down, you can erase, or use erasable pencils.

In a drawing like this I will do the entire main or focal point in an underpainting of white. This will allow the greatest contrast with the dark background. White is the most reflective color and will add vibrancy to the layers of reds and greens going over it.

It will take multiple layers to get to any real vibrancy in this painting. Starting with the lightest reds and building up to the darker reds, blending each layer in, first with pencils, blending pencil then with a stump. Layer after layer until the colored pencil more closely resembles an old painting. At times I do use mineral spirits. But more with stump and wax blending pencil.

Even though the background is not the focus of the artwork, it does not mean it is not important. You need to decide just how you are going to handle it, what emphasis it will have. The background not only sets the mood of the piece, but supports the main focus of the artwork. Do not neglect this. The tendency with a dark background is to simply let it go. But choose to allow your background to support the composition.

When all is said and done, taking the time to layer in color and to carefully blend the layers of color is worth all the effort.

Monday, April 7, 2014

My Dad’s Holly Hocks.

Finished. My Dad's Holly Hocks.


While working on this I broke out a tube of paint that was given to me. One I would never have bought.


it is called Indian Red, and it is the color of dirt, or rust. A very earthy pigment. And strong!!!!


It gets everywhere, like Prussian blue.


While I was not thrilled with it, it does tone things very well, Adding a tiny bit ( and I mean tiny, it is very strong!) it toned down the tube green in the stem to a more natural color.


I also added it to shade the strong red pigments used to create the pinks for shading and shaping. Like it much better than any other pigment.


While I think this is successful, I am not sure I am all together happy with the rather strong background blue. It was an experiment, but I think for myself, I would prefer a more natural, skyish blue.


So often we think of backgrounds as an after thought, so I was trying to see how to ramp it up. Now, I did not want that smooth, glass finish you sometimes see, but was trying for something more bold. I don’t think bold is me, thought. Although this painting does work, the really strong background demanded a stronger hand with what to me are rather delicate flowers. But it did not work with the intense background of the cobalt blue background. Actually, I would like them better in a natural setting.


I might do this one over, with a more natural sky and more delicate shading for the blooms. I will use the Indian Red, though.


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Yes, I do Paint Once in a While!

It seems that all my recent posts have been about drawings, mostly with colored pencil, but basically, drawings.

I personally, don't see anything wrong with this. For me, drawing is a perfectly acceptable art form, and as valid for a finished work of art as any other medium. Not just means to an end.

Because so many art works beginning with a drawing, sometimes it seems like it is only a preliminary medium.

And I have noticed that some other artists tend to look down on drawing the same way. It is a way of working through a problem in composition. Of writing down mental notes.

Thumbnail sketches on napkins, pencil lines on watercolor paper, just notes, right? No. Art is art, whatever the medium. Drawings are as valid as any other art form.

So for all the pencil artists out there, keep your lead sharp and draw on.

But I do paint once in a while!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Drawing with Colored pencil-mixed media

A Tale Of Two Paintings


Started a third colored pencil painting to complement the magnolia paintings. Some format for a different flower. While the magnolias are huge, the third was a much small bloom, but still dramatic. I wanted to do a bee balm, a flower many people react to more as a weed than as a valuable plant. However, it was to be on the same dramatic scale as the magnolias.

sketch in WC Pencil drawing 1
But unlike the magnolia flowers I started with white board not dark green. I thought I would work more with the watercolor back ground than with the other two.

I started with a lot of enthusiasm, but as I went on, I began to think I had made a mistake.

Especially when I got to the watercolor background I was not very happy with it.

 I worked and worked and worked, but still felt dissatisfied.

So I started over on the green board with a white colored pencil drawing. This is much more like the first magnolia drawing and gave the more dramatic effect, I thought, that I wanted. But I still worked on both drawings, and as it went along, the first one developed independently from the first two.

Second start.
While it does not necessarily relate to the magnolia drawings, it is beginning to stand on its own. Each piece has its own merits. Neither is perfect. Art does not need to be perfect.

That is not the point. But does it convey what you are going for?

Each of these starts with the same premise, and both break the "don't center it" rule.

This is intentional. It does make for a little discomfort in viewing which I think creates the "look at me" look. These drawings focus on bee balm just after peak. When the flower is starting to fall apart, and the seeds are just starting to form at the base of the blooms' tubes. While they appear very detailed, they are not, with only suggestions of the future seeds. The heads are darkening and the leaves are beginning to loose the green color, revealing the actual pigmentation of the plant. Now the second, with the darker background was more what I envisioned, but after both were done and matted and framed. I think the 1st one, mistakes and all is the better picture.  What do you think?

Green background, finished

1st drawing with washed in background.


Monday, March 10, 2014

Second Magnolia Drawn and Polished

Finally finished my last magnolia drawing.

I thought I had finished it last week, but the more I looked at it, the more I was dissatisfied with it.

It was not bad, just not finished the way I thought it should.

Still did not have that bright contrast between the white blossom and the dark green leaves.

Even the "final" polish did not give it the strong look I wanted, so I sat and stared at it.

Evaluating your own work is one of the hardest things you will ever do.

Looking critically at it, I saw the shadows just were not strong enough. Now, this is a white flower, and my left brain kept telling me, "its white, what do you want?" But it was not 100%.

I did work on intensifying the white, but it just did not come together. So I decided to attack the shadow.

Using 70% cool gray on the bright sunny white was one of the hardest things I ever did. But it was necessary. Without the darker shadows, the white just did not look white enough.

So something to remember, White is never white! It is the most reflective color and will always pick up its surrounding color and will totally change with contour and shadows.

Now, with an additional 5 layers of blended color, the work more closely resembles what I saw in my head.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Working With Powdered Graphite

New purchase:  a jar of    powdered graphite.

For me a new idea.

Now what to do with it?

Start with a simple sketch, but soon that jar of graphite powder was calling me. A small round watercolor brush and a large rough boor flat and I was starting to experiment.

Starting with a face with powdered graphite.

I did use more than powered graphite, I used a 6B pencil to find the placement of the eyes and chin, and lightly sketched with a 2H pencil.

I have a stump of a 4B woodless pencil. I find this useful when I am thinking a lot and sketching. As well as my supply of graphite sticks. These are squares of graphite. These when used on their side give uneven marks, which I used for the foliage. When you use these, you cannot use them like conventional pencils, you need to change the way you hold them and this often changes the way you approach your work. This can lead to both a looser composition and surprisingly greater control.

Finished Sketch
A fat stump was used to pull some of the graphite around where I wanted it. This is very much a combination of drawing and painting.

While nothing I would considered "done" it is not bad for a first try. I can see the possibilities in this looser form of graphite.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Colored Pencil, Blending, Burnishing and Polishing

Finishing up a colored pencil painting is more than simply putting down the pencils.

Tools needed to finish,
Sandpaper pad,
 erasing shield,
 burnishing pencil,
 blending pencil,
 pencil eraser,
 paper towels,

Using a paper blender

smoothing the color out

polished picture

Detail of flower