Being Arty When You Don't Have the Time: Keeping the Artistic Fires Burning
EMG News for September
My Studio, the Dump
PhoenixBehind the Art
by Melissa Acker
I hadn't done a colored pencil piece in some time, so I thought that it was about time to do another one. Usually when I use colored pencil, I first complete an initial value layer to set the tone. It's time consuming, but it's worth it.
So first we have our sketch. There's not a lot of detail, but the basic shapes and proportions are there. It's enough to get me started. Throw in a curving tree that echoes the shape of the bird and we have our basic composition. Note that in the finished piece there is more negative space in the composition, I've cropped the image here about as tightly as possible. This piece is being completed on a piece of Bristol paper; it has a very smooth finish.
The next step is the value layer. It usually takes me longer than any other step; not only am I covering pretty much the whole image, but I'm stopping to look and make decisions about the lights and darks as I go. Generally, I don't use black for this step; I'll use a dark but fairly neutral color. For this piece I'm using dark brown. All the pencils I used here are Prismacolors. For some of the more detailed spots, I used a Verithin pencil instead; they have a harder lead and keep their point very well. Verithin is a Prismacolor brand. I keep the pressure light and the point fairly sharp, going over and over an area until the white of the paper is evenly covered -- no burnishing quite yet, as there are still several areas of color left to go!
Building texture is just as important as building darks at this point -- the more work you put into this step, the easier the rest of the painting goes. I tried to keep most of the feathers on the head and neck fluffy, while the primaries and secondaries are more 'feather-like'.
In this step I continued building the darks, this time adding complementary colors. Because the bird will be mostly red, I'm using a dark green color for most of the shadows. For the panels of gold feathers and the beak, I use a warm violet pencil. Again, I used light pressure and a sharp point, making sure not to burnish the color.
Now it's finally time for the local color! A cherry red, a crimson red and a canary yellow are used in this step. The crimson red went over the shadow areas and the cherry red over everything else. In some areas I also went over the light areas with the yellow to brighten them a little. The canary yellow was also used on the light panel of the wings, the beak and the eye. For the most part I still kept the pressure light, but I came very close to burnishing in the shadows. I also started the tail plumes, just a quick bit of turquoise.
The differences between this step and the last are pretty subtle. The shadows were worked on a little bit, particularly the golden feathers. I added the crown on the head, using a very sharp canary yellow for the strands, and the same violet color to very carefully trace in their shadows. The tail plumes were also finished, using a very light touch and a very sharp pencil. The tree branch was also worked on: I added some local color, and some red reflected color underneath the bird as well.
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