Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Visual Art Tip: Cross Purposing Colored Pencil

This post is a little about needlework, and a lot about colored pencil work. A while back I started out playing with and learning about colored pencils. The Prisma color pencils I use are a wax based pencil. This means that they have a wax base into which different colored pigments are mixed, which mixture is then put into the centers of a wooden casing. The resulting pencil is easy to stroke onto paper surfaces.
I usually start out with a outline of the main points of my drawing. I then begin lightly sketching in the various color sections, much like a paint by number kit. You can see my initial outline sketch and light color sketching on the center of this image.

I then lay in a second layer of color pigment over the first one, to deepen the colors. You can also lay in different colors to make a “color blending” happen, in the next step.

Often you want to change or augment one color from the pigments of just one pencil......which you can easily do by layering different colors on top of each other. This sketch of a leaf is a good example. Leaves are really reddish underneath the green chlorophyl. That's why you see reddish colors in the leaves in the fall, when the chlorophyl dies off. I started off with this sketch using dull reds, then layering over some greens. This makes the final green leaf much more realistic in colour than the manufactured pigments often allow.

After you layer your colors, then comes the “magic” of a technique called burnishing. This technique takes advantage of the wax/pigment mixture that makes up the Prisma color pencils. What you do is take a pencil of the final color you want the current section to be, and stroke over and over that section. This repeated firm stroking will slightly melt the wax/pigments already on the paper surface. You end up mixing the previous layers with your color strokes. You can get lovely colours and great detail with this method.

Oh and about the needlework reference? Well these samples of colored pencil steps I did for a talk I presented.....I actually did to decide on colors I wanted to use for a wool needlework cross stitch piece. The design was a 17th century cloth design from a Dover book. I wanted to decide on the colors using colored pencils to draw me a color “map”. You can see the result at the top of the post.

Colored pencils come in wax, ink and watercolor versions, each with it's own speciality. Colored pencils of any type, are a great tool for crafters, artists and illustrators!

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