Friday, 16 September 2011

I have a secret!

My secret is that I love books ... I have a whole library of them and have been buying books since I was a teenager - I learn really well from books (I even did my degree by way of Distance Education with lots of books).  I have to tell you that the Book Depositry has become my best friend!  My books cover a lot of different subjects that have caught my attention over the years ... but one book I have been waiting for ... and it arrived this week. "Masterful Color" by Arlene Steinberg ... it is all about coloured pencil painting (I have a few books on the subject - grin!).   This book talks about how to use complimentary colours as underpainting.  I mainly use graphite as my drawing medium and while I have done a few coloured pencil drawings and even some paintings, and had heard of the concept (especially in the old masters paintings) I had never used complimentary colour underpainting before.   Do you want to follow along?

 This is Arlene's book ... just released.  She has a website here ...  go check it out later!

These will be my friend over the course of this journey ... I am using Sanford Prismacolor pencils and Prismacolor Verithin pencils.  You could use any good quality coloured pencils though - there are pros and cons for each different brand.  Hmmm I have a few of those too ... Prismacolor, Derwent Artists, Derwent Watercolour, Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils (one of my favourites) and I would love a set of Faber-Castell Abrecht Durer watercolour pencils - another year perhaps.  Pencils last a long time ... I have some still from when I was 15.  I used to buy one pencil at a time, $2.00 a pencil which was  a lot of money way back when I was 15 - OMG 30 years ago now - funny how you don't really feel different on the inside - it's all about gravity you know ;)

In this instance I will be using the Prismacolors.  I also use an Electric Pencil Sharpener to keep a nice fine point on my pencils ... sharpening your pencils become second habit and colouring feels wrong if the pencil is not sharp.

 This is my subject ... a beautiful Macaw.  This photo was taken by "Tambako", a fellow in Switzerland who is a wonderful photographer.  He has graciously given me permission to use his photo for my drawing. Thankyou :)

I have to tell you something ... when I print out my reference photos ... I use a gloss photo paper ... you get so much more depth than using just plain old printing paper.

 So I start by drawing my outlines and main features in with a 2B pencil very lightly.    Sorry the photos are not the best here ... I will try and take better ones as I progress.   You could use a lightbox and trace the outline if you like, or there are other methods of transferring a drawing onto your paper.

I am using Fabriano Artistico Extra White Hot Pressed Watercolour Paper in 300gsm.

I start the Underpainting ... I have used Indigo blue on the beak and have started a little on the eyes .. but back to them after.

In this photo you can see (just) that i have finished the underpainting of the beak and darker chest feather area with the Indigo Blue.  I have also underpainted the head - both the green and blue feather area with Clay Rose, as this colour is a complimentary colour for both of these main colours.
(am I making sense?)  I have also underpainted the orange feather area with Muted Turquoise.

I have used a very light touch with a very very sharp pencil, making very small circular overlapping movements - this helps to fill colour into all the paper and gives a nice smooth look. I leave white space where there are white areas in the picture.   I have also started to do the top of the beak where I was testing out using Black Cherry to give the Black beak some depth. (note to self .... use a piece of scrap paper the same as you are using for the portrait, to do the colour testing)   I will be adding more and more layers though.

So that is the start of my Macaw ... I will be spending more time during the weekend and hopefully will be able to show you something reasonably on its way by Sunday night.   Goodness now I had better put the computer and the pencils away and get off to work ... there is quilting to be done!

Cheers and have a good weekend everyone.   PS ... if there are any coloured pencil artists out there who wish to comment or add something more to my explanation, please feel free - the more the merrier!


  1. Oh I do hope you'll post your progress throughout this process. :D

  2. You are off to a good start, Jane...look forward to seeing this little beauty finished..I used to approach my painting on china in this way, especially birds and animals....such a clever chickie...xx