Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Religious Sister - Starting Over Again!

I've been a bit concerned about the roughness of this portrait. In fact, this is something that has challenged me a lot, since I started using Coloursoft and Prismacolor pencils. They are both very soft pencils and, even on Stonehenge paper with a large-scale project, I find that they need to be handled carefully. The positives are that a deep, intense colour is possible, which gives a realistic depth and vibrancy to the finished picture.

At the moment, I am using smooth watercolour paper and I am working on a small scale project. This meant that I wasn't achieving the delicacy that I desire. I improved the situation, somewhat, by burnishing the skin tones with a layer of pale peach, but it was, still, too flawed to be acceptable. So, I've started afresh with Derwent Artist pencils. These are noticeably harder and I am able to lay down the pigment very slowly, to build up a smooth and flawless finish.

The first step was to trace the old drawing onto tracing paper and transfer the image. I didn't want to go through the sketching process, again, so I merely duplicated the portrait I had already begun. This took about half an hour and I was, then, able to start work on a simple, line rendition of the subject.

At this stage, I erased the pencil marks and replaced them with a pale peach pigment so that the original markings would not show through. Then, I applied two pale washes - cream and pale peach - using Prismacolors. I used the soft pencils for these as they are ideal for laying down even expanses of colour.

Next, I began to model the skin tones and I changed to the harder pencils for this. Using pale pink, peach and pale ochre, I began to build up the shadows of the face. Suddenly, I felt more relaxed than I have since I switched to the softer pencils! The colour is more delicate and I have more control over its application. I will keep applying increasingly darker tones and switch to the softer pencils when I need more depth than is possible with the Artists range of colours.

To achieve anything worthwhile, it is necessary to experiment and push the boundaries - but, I feel that some of my recent experiments with soft pencils have been unsuited to my style. Generally, the softer pencils are considered superior for fine art drawings, but I have been very frustrated that, even with constant sharpening of the pencils, I have not been able to achieve the level of delicacy that I usually aim for. This has affected my confidence as an artist, and it is probably a reason why my last portrait took so much longer to complete than normal. So, while my style is continuing to develop, I think I am taking a bit of a step backwards, at the moment. I am trying to regain the aspects of my style which worked so well for me, before I started experimenting with the soft pencils, whilst, at the same time, trying to take advantage of the qualities of the softer pigments, when the harder ones prove limiting.

The photo above shows the new portrait with its very first layers of modelling. It is very faint, at this stage, and it will take a few more layers before it looks reasonable on the computer screen.

The following photo shows a previous portrait, using harder pencils on watercolour paper and my usual technique. If it is compared to the photo at the top, it seems much more delicate and beautiful to my eyes.

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Thank you for reading my blog. I appreciate your comments and feedback. Vicky