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November 2009

November 2009 -- Moon



  • Artist Spotlight:
    Interview with Jasmine Becket-Griffith
  • Behind the Art:
    Moon Guardian
  • Wombat Droppings:
    The Uncanny Valley
  • Part Time Painter:
    Art Supplies for the Part Time Painter
  • EMG News:
    News for November



  • Fiction: Woman on the Moon
  • Poem: Under a Fey Moon
  • Poem: Mister Moon Man


  • Tomb of the King: Scepter, Part 4

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  • Moon Guardian
    Behind the Art
    by Melissa Acker

    Another month, another walkthrough! This time Iíll be showing you another multimedia piece, using ink, watercolor, and colored pencil. The ink and watercolor allows you to very quickly lay in deep values and base colors, which greatly speeds up the normally rather slow and tedious process of using colored pencils. They work very well together!

    As always, first you need a sketch. In this case, I drew the moon, and curled the dragon up around it. The split tail curling across helps move the eye around and makes for a more interesting composition. This piece is done on 140lb cold-press watercolor paper, stretched onto a piece of masonite.

    The first medium I use when doing this kind of piece is the ink. Itís used to immediately create a value pattern, to define what exactly is going to be dark and what is going to be light. In this case, Iím only using it on the background for a few reasons. One is that it will immediately make the dragon (and the moon) look slightly different from the background, and, since Iím going for a stylized look, thatís what I want.

    Normally using flat black in a piece is frowned upon, because it can look flat and dead. Weíre going to get around this in two ways: one, again Iím not going for something realistic here; and two, weíre not going to just lay it on and leave it there. Weíre going to put more color over it to keep it from looking so stark.

    I work section by section, putting on ink with the brush, using the brush and a spray bottle filled with water to push the ink around. I leave the moon and dragon as untouched as possible.

    Now we move on to the watercolor step, and the first thing to do is punch up the background. A dark blue wash, made up of Winsor blue and Prussian blue, because they are both very strong pigments, goes over the black ink. I go back and forth over it, keeping the paper wet so I can keep adding dark color in without leaving sharp edges. Again I keep the dragon and moon untouched.

    And now itís finally time to start working on the dragon! The color on the dragon is mostly quinacridrone gold, mixed with a few violet pigments in the shadow areas. The resulting orange-ish color goes really well with the blue. The colors fade to cooler and lighter blues and violets further down on the tail, to draw it more into the background. The moon remains untouched -- it is going to be almost all colored pencil.

    More watercolor in this step, this time focusing on darkening the values. Darker mixes of my gold mix, with more violet and burnt scarlet, darken the shadows on the dragon, and I added some feather texture on the wings as well. And while darkening the background further, adding ultramarine blue to my blue mixture, I also started defining the furry mane of the dragon. This was done by painting the negative shapes -- the pieces of background that would show up behind the breaks in the mane. There are actually about three or four layers of blue on the background at this point.

    Now that Iím reasonably satisfied with the base colors, itís time to move onto the colored pencil parts. I use almost all Prismacolors, and Dark Brown, Indigo Blue and Black Cherry are the workhorses of my pencils. The three together make a very rich and deep dark color that works great for almost any shadow. Most of the shadows on the mane are violet, as it goes great with the golden color of the dragon and will show through even after I apply more layers of colored pencil. I try to leave as much of the watercolor showing as possible in the lighter areas, concentrating the pencil in the shadows. I also trace in the contours of the feathers on the wing lightly.

    Burnishing is when you apply the colored pencil in such a way as to smooth out the pigment and push it into the nooks and crannies of the paper. The end result is that the colors blend together, sometimes in unexpected ways, and the applied color also develops a solid, glossy look to it. You can then apply more color over it. Using a colorless blender will generally blend the colors together more or less evenly, while burnishing with white or a grey will push the colors back.

    Most of the time, I burnish with either a colorless blender, or a French grey 10% pencil. I only burnish with white when Iím coloring in an object that is white, or something that has a strong reflection. And sometimes Iíll burnish with a very dark color in the shadows. In the case of the dragon, I add white on the mane, and most of the rest is burnished with a colorless blender. I use a brown pencil to add shadows to the feathers on the wings.

    This last step mostly involves touching up little things and darkening some of the details. I also add much darker values on the mane, pushing the ends back so they arenít so obvious. And I add some very subtle shadows on the tails, just enough to differentiate between the various coils, and in some places to push the thinner parts further back into the background.

    And weíre done! Doing a piece this big in all colored pencil would take hours -- especially the dark background -- but by using ink and watercolor to speed things up, weíve cut down on the work time considerably, while still creating an interesting looking painting. Until next time!

    Melissa Acker

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