Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Some progress

I've filled in a little more of the background. This area is the darkest in the whole portrait. I got stuck here for a while because I couldn't get the coverage I wanted with these dark colors.

It seemed no matter how much color I layered on or how much brushing I did, I could still see the grain of the paper. I was kind of at my wits end when I remembered something I had read once on Nicole Caulfield's blog.

I went searching for the blog post where she talked about how she did the black backgrounds. She uses Polychromos!

So I went back to try again with Polychromos and it worked! It's still not perfect, but it's much better.

In this second shot I've also darkened the colors in his face and hair and tried to blur that birdfeeder in the background some more.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Back to the Drawing Board

I had a nice long break, but I'm back at it. My main excuse for not spending time on the artwork lately was the garage remodel. But the garage is looking good now, at least on the outside, and I can concentrate on drawing again.

There were some other issues that had me dragging my feet with this piece. I didn't like how the red shade of the sweater was looking. I mean, it matched my reference, but on the art paper it looked dull. I had plenty of time to stew on this and a few other things during my little hiatus, but with a few ideas and a little inspiration I'm hitting the drawing board again.

Here I started working with a brighter red over my previous applications of Raspberry and Crimson Red, Scarlet Lake, to be exact. I also started adding shadows using Black Raspberry.

Because of uneven lighting from one progress shot to another, the colors look more different than they really were. Still they give an idea of the changes as I struggled to find shades of reds that I liked. I added Soft Pink (CS) for highlights on the shoulder area which toned down the bright red again. Unfortunately I didn't like it.

After a few more trials and errors I think I finally found a combination of reds that worked for me, from darkest to light; Black Cherry (P), Deep Red (CS), Scarlet Lake(P), Pale Vermilion (P), and Deco Orange (P). I never would have guessed that the orangey reds of Pale Vermilion and Deco Orange would work for highlights, but they seemed to do the trick.

Also, I liked the Black Cherry much better for the shadows, instead of the Black Raspberry. The Black Raspberry seemed to muddy the red color as it darkened, Tuscan Red, even worse. Finally I tried Black Cherry which worked much better. The difference seems to be that the other reds have a dark brown base in the color while the Black Cherry is more of a dark purple.

I had to remind myself to use my Prismacolor Palette Guide to choose the colors more carefully before even trying them on the paper. I acquired my palette guide in a Linda Lucas Hardy workshop a few years ago but had never really used it. I realize now that it is a wonderful resource to be able to carefully study the subtle color variations in similarly colored pencils by perusing little color swatches placed right next to each other. It's also great for refreshing your memory on the whole Prismacolor palette when choosing a color in general.

Fortunately I invested the time to fill out the guide when I first got it. :-)

This is very similar to the CPSA Lightfastness Test Result Workbook which actually includes colors from a large variety of popular colored pencil brands. I also have this workbook, but have only filled out a few color swatches here and there. It will be a great resource if I ever get around to filling out all the color cards.

Friday, August 27, 2010


I had the opportunity to attend the 20th Anniversary CPSA National Convention at Santa Clara, CA. with my husband last month. It was a quick trip. We drove up on Thursday and got there just in time to attend the membership meeting.

It was a treat to see some of the people who have helped to propel colored pencil medium into the limelight.

We were tired from the road trip but enjoyed the festive atmosphere and enthusiasm of the other attendees in the room. There were colorful balloons and lots of chatter, and along the back of the room, tables exhibiting all the beautiful artwork to be auctioned off that evening.

We also had door prizes and amazingly it seemed that every person in the room received something. I won a 2 color PanPastels sample kit with assorted sponge applicators. I guess if that isn't a nudge to try pastel painting again, nothing is :-)

We had previously made a quick stop at the hospitality room where I picked up my badge and goody bag. I wish that I had visited this room more than once or twice, if only to see and enjoy all the chapter projects on display. Unfortunately, I never did get a chance to explore it properly.

The silent auction was exciting. We put in a bid for one piece but were not quick enough to prevent someone else swooping in the last second to win it. Oh well.

The next day I spent in the Allan Servoss workshop while hubby explored Santa Clara a bit.

Later there was only a while before we had to get ready for the award dinner.

It was a thrill to hear Vera Curnow reminisce about the early days of the CPSA and some of challenges they faced. Later there was a parade of members being honored for signature status and assorted distinctions and of course the disclosure of all the art awards. It was a lovely and entertaining evening.

Saturday we headed home with the intention of stopping by the gallery at Los Gatos to see the artwork exhibition. To my everlasting disappointment we were much too early for the opening time at 12 noon. We couldn't afford to delay the start of the trip home, so reluctantly we left without seeing the any of the artwork.

Well, I got to see the outside of the gallery, nice adobe style architecture!

Still, I'm so glad that we attended this year. I seem to have been re-inspired with my own artwork and have been drawing again! More progress posts to come soon.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Sometimes it feels...

...like I'm coloring my life away, in red,...well, Raspberry and Crimson Red to be exact. It took a few days of dragging myself back to my drawing board at odd moments to finish the unexciting job of filling in the base color for the shirt. After much sharpening of pencils, careful layering and wearing three brushes down to stubs, I have the shirt area covered.

Here is a shot with one half unbrushed.

A closer look.

And finally full coverage! Now the more interesting shading and modeling can begin.

I also took the opportunity at this point to redraw some of my guidelines since some of them had all but disappeared. I did the original tracing of my drawing onto the Uart 800 paper using a number of different pencils. I started with a very sharp light brown Prismacolor but somewhere along the way I decided to use some of my new Eno mechanical colored pencils.

I had ordered these not too long ago because I have a fascination for pens, pencils, and paper in general. I had no particular use in mind, I just thought the Eno pencils looked pretty in eight colors with nice thin leads. When I was transferring my drawing it occurred to me that maybe using them to draw the lines was the perfect application. I had different colors to choose for different parts of my drawing and the .5 lead was fine enough for the smallest detail without constant sharpening needed. Yay!!!

Well,no,...unfortunately they fade badly. The blue especially could be used like disappearing ink. Need to write a secret message, use the blue, in a few months not a trace will remain. Of course I did most of the lower half of my outline using the blue, so I had a very stimulating time reconstructing those lines.

Still like my Eno pencils, they're cute, but from now on I will only use them to write letters to annoying friends. ;-)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Continuing with the Shirt

I've finally started working on the shirt. At first I was laying a few strips of color at a time and working them to a more finished look, as can be seen as the area on his shoulder. But then I decided it would probably be better to lay a base color on all the shirt and then start to detail it. I wouldn't want to have the problem of the different sections looking slightly different because I couldn't remember exactly what colors I used and how I layered them.

I'm using Prismacolor Raspberry and Crimson Red as the base colors. I layered a couple of light coats of both colors and then used a bristle brush to spread the color into the paper. It blends quite nicely into a fair representation of my reference color.

In the close up you can see how the newly laid color differs from the shoulder area. There are a couple more colors on the shoulder, Tuscan Red for the shadows and I think it was CS Soft Pink for the lighter shades (Yikes, I'm glad I'm trying to remember this now!)

On the right side of the collar rib you can see some strokes of color that have not been blended yet with the brush. Without the brushing, it would be much more work to get the coverage I'm getting with only a few layers of color. And I'm sure it just wouldn't look the same either. I think even tons of layers applied with the sharpest of pencils would not give you the same look. The colors acquire a softness when the brush is applied, that I like very much.

I'm probably not applying enough layers to get a really saturated look with the brushing alone. I'm really not sure how far to take it, but I probably will know by the time I finish this.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Working on the Background

I've covered a bit more area in the background. I'm really trying not to get bogged down on one spot, just keep moving and putting down more color.

Here is a closer look.

I still haven't gotten into a good routine of working on this daily, which is why this is moving ahead so slowly. But I am ever hopeful that I'll get back into the groove soon.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Inching Along on the Background

I've made some small progress on the background. I think that once reality sank in that there was no way in heaven that I was going to get this done in time for any competitions this year, I kind of relaxed. Perhaps too much, since I hardly spent any time working on it this month. :-0

Another reason for my lack of progress is that the background really had me stumped. I made the mistake of staying in one small area and trying to layer, brush or stroke it into submission. I did get it closer to the effect I want but I also finally realized I should probably move along into other areas. Once I get more color down allover I can always come back to tweak a particular spot.

So I have started coloring in the birdfeeder in the background. It's hard to get the colors right and still keep it looking fuzzy and out of focus. I used Prismacolor's Henna, Greyed Lavender, Blush Pink, Brown, with touches terracotta and white to try to get the bronze metallic coloring of the feeder top. Some other colors in there are Colour Soft's, Persian Grey, Soft Pink and Brown Black and my favorite highlight bright, Luminance's Buff Titanium.

I will continue to just try to get color down on as much background area as possible and then go back to fine tune later.

Friday, February 12, 2010


Considering the time I spent yesterday layering in more color in the background, this does not look as different as I thought it would from the previous shot. Hmmmm...I think this is going to take much longer than I had hoped.

I'm trying to capture the soft, out of focus look of the background in my reference images. I find myself zooming in to try to dissect the look of the sparkly fuzzy light and then painstakingly. with tiny strokes try to translate it to my paper. Of course working in this sort of minute detail means that I would probably finish this piece sometime in 2015. So I have to keep reminding myself to back off and loosen up, just squint my eyes and try to draw in the colorful masses and shapes in broad strokes. I suspect the right approach lies somewhere between these two extremes, I'll just have to find it.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Moving Along

There's a big difference between the state of the drawing in the last post and this one. I added a lot more color to his face. Having filled in the background a bit, I felt I had a good enough backdrop to judge the effects of adding more layers and different colors to his face.

I continued to add in more layers of Deco Pink, even to most of the highlighted areas, as well as some other lighter colors like Light Peach, Seashell Pink and Soft Pink(CS). In the brightest highlights I only used Titanium Buff,Ivory Oxide and White with a pretty firm pressure. In other areas I layered in a mix of colors, Peach Mineral Orange, Clay Rose, Pink Rose, Goldenrod,Grayed Lavender, Terra Cotta,and even some Blue Violet Lake,all Prismacolor.

There is some Pale Brown(CS) and Dark Brown in the darkest shadow areas, along with Tuscan Red.

I did some more detail work on his eyes. I strengthened the whites and light grays in the whites of the eyes and added blues, grays and white highlights to the pupils. I also did some work on the shadows of the eyelid creases and carefully added his eyelashes. Last but not least I darkened his eyebrows.

There is still a lot of work to be done in darkening the shadow areas more, but I'm pleased with the progress so far.

I had to push myself to keep adding more color. It was hard to see initially that the face was too pale. The progress pictures certainly help me too in showing that there is a real difference from one work session to the next.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


In the first progress shot you can see that I started working on the hair. On his face I've applied more color, strengthening the highlights and deepening the shadows a bit. I feel like I will have to add much more color to his face in general, covering up the paper completely. But I don't want to go too far along on his face until I have a better idea of how the background and surrounding colors play off his skintone.

In this picture I have done much more work on his hair and have started filling in the background area around his head. I also added some more layers of color in his face. I did some detail work on his ear because I wanted to define the edges here and give myself a clear boundary to set it apart from the background. It's been much slower going delineating the background behind his hair. No clear cut boundaries here. I've had to switch back and forth between background and hair constantly trying to distinguish one from the other, at least on the lighter background area to the left of his head.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

First Strokes

I started with very light strokes of a few different colors. Seashell Pink and Deco Pink (Prismacolor) for a first hint of allover color. Since the paper has a lot of yellow, I don't think I will be adding as much yellow tones myself as I normally would. I think in this first shot the only other colors were Terracotta for the dark reds and Buff Titanium, a Luminance pencil that is one of my favorite skin highlight colors. Also Powder Blue and some Cool Greys for the eyes.

A lot more colors are in the mix in the next shot. I primarily use Prismacolor pencils, with a few Derwent Coloursoft and Caran d'ache Luminance pencils here and there. I'll note it when a color is a Colorsoft (CS) or Luminance (L) pencil.

Some of the additional colors in his face are Cream, Light Peach, Blush Pink and Henna; and Pale Brown (CS) and Pale Peach (CS). On the more shadowy side of his face I've used Clay Rose and Grayed Lavender. In his hair I've used, Ivory Oxide (which is pretty much the same as Cream), Ginger Root and Sandbar Brown, also some Pale Brown (CS) and Naples Ochre (L).

The bit of background has just the Cool Gray colors, 90, 70 and 50%.

Monday, January 25, 2010

New Year, New Artwork

How time flies! I've been caught up in the holiday spirit, having a wonderful time. But now that the dust has settled and I'm taking stock of what I accomplished in the past two months on the art front, I have to admit that it's not much.

And yikes, I feel a certain art competition deadline bearing down on me! So without dwelling on how much time I've wasted having a great holiday season, I've dropped all my other in-work projects for the moment and started on a new piece.

I'm using the uart 800 sanded art paper for the first time. I'm hoping that the experience of working on the Fisher400 paper will help to prepare me for the uart. It's also the largest colored pencil project I've ever attempted, a 24 x 36 inch sheet.

Some time ago I fell in love with a couple of the photographs that I took of my husband in our garden. We were checking out a new lens on one of our cameras and I took quite a few shots at different settings. Later looking at the pictures I was admiring one of the close up photos which captured a great expression on Marty's face and wishing that I had taken it in a more zoomed out composition. In some of the other poses he had a great relaxed stance that really conveyed the sense of quiet appreciation and enjoyment of a beautiful spring day.

I remember thinking that this face expression on this body pose would have made a great subject for a colored pencil piece. As I mentally tsk, tsk'd looking back and forth between the two photos, the lightbulb finally went on, ...doh! Photoshop....all things are possible with Photoshop!

So now all the preliminary work has been done. The photographs were composited in Photoshop, the contour line drawing traced out and then transferred to the paper. Now the real fun begins!