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Finding my pencils

Note these are not my drawings, but come from a great book called The Trouble with Chickens by Doreen Cronin and illustrated by Kevin Cornwell.

For a long time I have struggled to find an art medium I love. Watercolour I find restricting with the layers and colour build up of washes and control. I just get mud. Acrylic I really dislike. This plastic medium just lacks the subtlety and I am such a sucker for old painting styles. Oils…cant wait for them to dry and I am not able to sway towards realism or away to impressionism which oils lend themselves so well.

I looked at colour pencils. I suppose I remember the colouring in as a child and they seemed so flat. Pencils in my head were for drawing outlines and sketching. I tried charcoal way back and shades of browns and greys in tinted cartridge papers. I remember I liked the tonal ranges. But to colour a whole page? I couldnt see how that would work.

Castle coloured pencils.

But good old YouTube and a few books on textures and building up of layers and strange words like ‘pencil core’, ‘paper tooth’ and ‘burnishing’ started to hint at a brave new at world fir me. It seemed many artists were into hyper-realism. Hours producing what could be described as almost photographic. But not for me. I have a Canon Mark III and I equally feel exhilarated by turning my lens to the light and creating an image. In fact I was looking at combining the image with an art medium. Coloured pencils could work to enhance elements. I can spice up my photos with a few filters but I wanted more control.

My new pack of pencils (oh how I wanted this many colours when I was a child!) arrived today. I was too scared to use them. How stupid is that! I bought a zipped pack for travel as I wanted to take them in my campa van. Then an hour ago I unzipped and pulled out a few shades I felt drawn to (excuse the pun) and scribbled a few marks down on a spare sheet of paper. The Castle pencils are cheaper than other well known makes but reading reviews, were actually recommended as they rarely broke when sharpened and held a good point. I am not a master yet, so price is relevant at the moment. However to really test these pencils I needed to colour something.

I have learnt through years of studying that it doesn’t matter what scenic route you take to get to your destination. It’s the journey and the fun of it. Better to learn how the pencils work than stress over producing a drawing to colour. Plus I needed to see a final image that was already successful and published. Colouring this would determine if this actually worked.

So to relax and learn how colours interact, I have a favorite book that’s crying out for colour. The grey scale images are full of tones and character and the artist uses the white space and shadow placement really well; a little like a newspaper cartoonist with their grey overlay film.

Burnishing away and trying to control the light and enhance the subject, I love the result. I began to see how certain shades like cadmium yellow, cobalt turquoise, terre verde green and cherry pink coral zinged other colours when overlaid. My husband liked them too and he is damned critical. Below are the results plus my pintade pencil drafts.

I had been drawing this week with a very cheap pack of pencils and liked the result. My Guinea Fowl are acting as my models and off the blank page appeared Pippi pintade ( that’s what the French call them) and the lightbulb went off! I get coloured pencils!

I can watercolour in the shadows but then detail with pencil and ink any fine detail. The final I did a minor tweak with filter…to contrast a little more. I am working upto illustrating my own books so the pictures in the end have to be punchy, but delicate with continuity. All new for me. Enjoying myself.

So I do not appear to be cheating to much, here is Heff my adorable Pekin duck. I illustrated him in watercolour and worked up a little colour in pencil. I just now need to combine it all in one mind knowingly amazing way. Wish me luck!

Heff. Watercolour.
Finished shading.
Fini! Slight Snapseed filtering with increased contrast and saturation only.

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