Monday, November 21, 2011

Creating Depth with Colored Pencil

From now on there are no overall-even layers of color. To build believable images you need to add values to the colors, and this means being aware of light and shadow.

The body of a bird is basically a cylinder or column. It has depth, and you need to be aware of this. You also have to know where your light source is, and how this affects the color and shading of the bird. What parts of the bird are in full sun? which are in shadow, what is closest to the view and what is receding? All this affects color, changing its apparent value. Applying colors that remember this help to contour the birds.

At this point I am adding light fast Prismacolor pencils to my pallet. These pencils have high ASTM ratings and resist fading. I take hours, even days to weeks creating these, and go to a lot of trouble creating my drawings. I am concerned about their longevity. I want them to last—as in “am I dead yet?” I want them to be around when I am not.

There have been performance issues with these pencils, and I find their leads even more prone to crumble than with regular pencils. I never use an electric or battery powered sharpener with them. I use a hand held sharpener made for colored pencils, and I always turn the sharpener, never the pencil. You also need to be careful not to over sharpen them. Finish the point with a sandpaper pad or emery board. They are very rich in pigment.

Layers upon layers

To really get rich colors in colored pencil you have to be prepared to lay it on. This takes many layers of pigment. You also have to watch how you put the layers on. With birds, I switch back and forth between a small, circular stroke and short directional strokes. The directional strokes go in the direction that the feather lye, while the circular strokes are the between layers, where I need to build up variation in tones.

To help the body appear rounded, I put slightly darker layers at the outside of the figure, keeping the middle tones light and a bit orangeier. I also add a little indigo blue and nior black to the back where a cardinal is naturally darker. The indigo, applied lightly with the bloom takes on a more light grayish appearance, which is natural for a cardinal, with the Nior black lending itself to the receding areas of the back. This helps to shape the bird. These same techniques and principles apply to the singer.

Each bird took about 10 layers of pencil and blending to achieve this contouring.

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