Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tulips on Pastelbord

I started working on a small drawing on gray 9x12 " Ampersand Pastelbord. I love the gray toned Pastelbord as a background, it is a cool almost blue-gray neutral in which warm colors on the surface contrast so well with. The reference photo is of three tulips lying on a silver dish, as for now all you can see are the tulips and some of the reflections.

I'm home from Florida and glad to be back although I am really going to miss the beautiful weather, we have snow predicted this afternoon. One good thing about New England weather is that I get more work accomplished when it is cold, rainy or snowy. In Florida, it is difficult to keep myself inside drawing when it is so beautiful outside. I missed my busy life also as well as my boys, my friends and colleagues. My husband says give me a week or so and I will be complaining again ......

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Beach Dunes

After finishing the candy apples, I was inspired to draw a simple scene of beach dunes and grasses. I worked on a Utrecht brand 10x10" cradled wood panel with colored pencil. I didn't prepare the surface, just worked directly onto the wood, leaving a 1/2 border of the wood showing around the drawing. The natural organic surface of the wood makes a nice background to frame this nature drawing.

I had to turn the word verification setting back on when leaving comments as I was receiving spam comments in emails as soon as I turned the setting off. Thankfully the comments weren't showing up on my blog. Hope commenters don't mind having to type those pesky characters.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Candy Apples, Pencil Sharpener & New Prismacolor Colors

I found this little battery operated pencil sharpener at the Office Max store. My previous battery operated sharpeners were both Panasonic and have worn out from lots of use by my students and me. I believe Panasonic isn't manufacturing pencil sharpeners anymore, so I've been searching for a new one to try. This brand is Westcott and the sharpener is called the iPoint. It cost less than $15 and seems to work well, I get a good point and it doesn't seem to eat up the pencil so I thought I'd write about it in case anyone else is looking for a new sharpener. Plus I like color ... red!

I have sold a few more of my candy apple pieces, so it's time to start another one. I'm working on my usual favorite surface for candy apples; cradled Ampersand Gessobord coated with Terra Cotta Colourfix pastel primer. In the first photo I've worked the apples and some of the shadows in just colored pencil, only one or two layers of color. If you look close, I think you can see the texture of the surface through the apples. It's not giving the shiny appearance of candy apples with the textured board showing through. Colourfix is meant for pastels so it is quite textured. In the second photo, I have added solvent (odorless mineral spirits) with a brush and more pencil on top to achieve a paint-like quality to the pencil applied so none of the texture shows through and the apples look shiny. It takes some manipulating of the pencil and solvent to create this effect. If I add too much solvent, the pencil runs and won't apply evenly. Or if I try to brush out the solvent and pencil, sometimes the brush lifts the pencil right off. One of the most effective ways of moving the pencil around while it is wet is with my fingers so I'm actually doing some fingerpainting to mix and blend colors on the surface.

I'm staying in Florida right now and took a drive to the local art store which is quite large compared to the stores in Rhode Island, for me it is like being a kid in a candy store. I realize the 18 new colors of Prismacolor Pencils have been out since last fall but I have just seen them for the first time in the store. For my apples, I purchased Permanent Red (replaces Poppy Red) and Pomegranate (which replaces the Lightfast Thio Violet) as well as the Neon Pink for some exciting hot-pink highlights where the light hits the apples. I'm also using Cobalt Blue Hue in the shadows and reflections and am happy that Prismacolor has come back with Indanthrone Blue to replace the Lightfast version as that is one of my standards I use for darks, it's not quite as harsh as the Indigo Blue.

I will post the finished piece in a few days I hope because I'm competing with beautiful Florida weather which keeps pulling me outside!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Learning from Mistakes

My finished piece measures 7x8" and looks lovely in the frame with a smooth, glossy coat of varnish over the artwork it doesn't even look like colored pencil.
My piece in progress, working on Ampersand Gessobord with Terra Cotta Colourfix primer applied, I began working the piece with a thin underpainting of Caran d'Arche Neocolors and water with colored pencil on top. Read below about all my mistakes and how to apply the varnish correctly.

I think I should have titled this post "What Not To Do" because it's what just I've learned. As I've written about in past blog entries, I have been experimenting with different ways of presenting my colored pencil work so that it is varnished and not under glass. I have been admiring Ester Roi's work and her process of glassless framing explained on her blog. Ester uses Golden Polymer varnish with UVLS - Gloss to finish and present her work and I decided to try her method. I read Ester's blog entry a little too quickly and then read the label on the jar of Golden Polymer a little too quickly also, I mixed up the proportions. You mix 2 or 3 parts of the Golden Polymer with 1 part water and I did just the opposite, puzzled by the water-thin varnish and why it was taking 10+ coats to get a nice varnish. My second problem was puddling in areas and my third problem was lots of air bubbles.

In the photo above of my pears which began as an 8x8" piece, I laid the artwork sideways in order to show the problem spot right at the top and center. As I applied the varnish incorrectly, it puddled and left an uneven area which I attempted brush smooth after it had partially dried. However, I hadn't properly sealed the drawing so the pencil smeared when I tried to re-brush the area. Later when it was dry, I attempted to sand the area with a fine sandpaper which only left scratches that I couldn't get rid of (I think you can see them). Frustrated, I called Golden and explained to the representative everything I had done wrong. He sounded mortified and flustered and referred me to the Golden website and the technical information for the product and how to use it correctly.

I learned quite a bit from my flustered Golden rep! First of all, the artwork should be completely sealed with several coats of a non-removable clear, oil based varnish before the Golden Polymer varnish is applied. Part of the reasoning for this is because the Golden varnish is water based and can be completely removed if need be. He also suggested colored pencil use gloss varnish as opposed to matte varnish because matte varnish is porous and provides less UV protection. The rep recommended thinning the varnish with 25% water but I am still experimenting with the percentages as I find if the varnish is too thick, it can be streaky. All in all, I cut off an inch of the pear drawing containing the damaged part and I ended up with a nice, glossy finish on the piece (above).

I'm still having a little trouble getting rid of tiny air bubbles, if anyone has any suggestions please comment. I find varnishing small work is easier to learn on than large work. I recently took one of my older colored pencil drawings on paper, mounted it to Ampersand Clayboard and varnished it in this manner. However, I wasn't careful enough and found a brush hair and some air bubbles on the surface after it had dried. So I took this experimental piece to the sink and was able to wash off the entire layer of Golden Polymer Varnish, let it dry and begin again. Because I had the good coating of oil-based varnish on the drawing, the drawing itself wasn't harmed. I will post it at a later date.

The conclusion: take time to varnish correctly, read all directions, don't rush and be careful!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Sailboat on Gessoed Board & Ann Kullberg's New Book

I found this 11x14" cradled gessoed board at our local Michael's Craft store and liked it because the sides were gessoed as well as the surface. I decided I could try to "wrap" my colored pencil drawing on all four edges as oil painters often do when painting canvases. I applied a layer of Art Spectrum Colourfix Primer to the surface of the gessoed board including all four edges with colored pencil and mineral spirits to dissolve the pencil in areas so it will apply as paint. For the sky and cloud area I often used my finger to blend the colored pencil and mineral spirits to create a smooth surface. After I completed my drawing on the surface, I continued the picture on the sides. This was a bit of a challenge because I had to hold the board sideways or in my lap to work on each edge. I kept the edges simple, just a continuation of the water, sky and landscape. I think it looks really cool and I'm going to hang it in the gallery today, I'm wondering what kind of a response it will receive. I like to listen to the viewers' comments.

I am also excited to be one of 70 artists selected for Ann Kullberg's new book "CP Treasures". You can view a preview of the book here. Click on "view partial image" and you can browse through the pages and see a small thumbnail of each of the illustrations. My piece "Splendor" is on page 53. The illustrations in the book are fabulous, drawn by some fabulous artists! I can't want to see the book when it's published.