Friday, November 18, 2011

Working in Yellow with Colored Pencil

Working on my drawing of the Meadowlark, I am going on to the focus of the drawing, and leaving the background.

Working in Yellow

For the singer, I treated the railing as more on the level with the bird itself. The background sky was done in cloud blue and slate blue, with tonings in white. Again, I did use a solvent to blend these colors together, creating that blue-gray sky I so vividly remember.

But on to the main event

The railing is very dark. It is an aged stained warped railing on one of those raised walkways over protected prairie land. So I started with a layer of white pencil. It might seem silly to put a layer of white on white paper, but it works. This creates a milky base for the darker colors I will work in on top. Then I started to grain it with light lavender. I am building color and texture here as carefully as I would in an oil painting. Maybe more carefully. Working back and forth between browns, I layer on Sienna, raw umber and more lavender. I use a paper stump to blend these together. I don’t want these melted together like the background, but to remain distinct colors as you would have naturally in aging wood.

Then I am ready to start on the bird. This is a western meadowlark. I had to post a photo on to make the identification; a very helpful site for nature artists.

As with the cardinal, building the correct colors and intensity of colors takes time and the use of several different colors.

Now this bird looks to be simply yellow, white and black. Again, there is nothing simple about it. The yellow is a complete yellow, very saturated, but also because of lighting and the fact that it is a real, living bird in a natural environment, there is variation is color value. The breast in the sun is bright, while that which is shaded or receding tends to be a bit cooler. So I started with lemon yellow, followed with sunburst, and slightly cooler, although not dark like an ochre. These were also blended into each other, so there are no hard edges between values.

As for the black banding, this also needs to vary from dark intense black, through raw umber and even some sienna. The black on the throat was built up with indigo blue and black, but this time without the Tuscan red underpainting. I needed to pick up other undertones on this one.

The shading on the belly presented another problem. Working on another sheet, I experimented with various ways of creating this shading. Simply using black or gray did not, of course work out well. Neither did using lavender. It just did not look real. A combination of raw umber and sage green gave the best results, after carefully blending it in. This layer was laid on very lightly and worked in as I went. By now, there were sufficient layers to allow me to do so.

As you build up colored pencil, you will tend to get a wax “bloom”. This is an almost chalky layer of wax that will separate a little when you use multiple layers of pigment. It is natural, and all artists learn to deal with it. Simply buffing it out does not harm to the artwork.

I actually used the wax bloom the next day to work in the shading, so I was able to make it look very natural, as if it is just the natural shading of a bird in the sun. You can often use what appears to be a drawback of a medium to your advantage.

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