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!