News for 2010
Ten Years of Rendering the Chicken
More Experimenting With Collage
Interview with Tiziano Baracchi
More Experimenting With CollageBehind the Art
by Melissa Acker
Doing the my last project got my mind twirling, and so I got out my craft knife, my cutting pad and my glue, and started another one!
Like usual, I start with a watercolor background, which in this case is mostly pthalo blue and a little bit of violet magenta, quite liberally sprayed with a spray bottle while it was still wet to add texture and smooth out some of the transitions.
This time, I also took a piece of scrap watercolor paper I had lying around and painted it a flat brown color, using burnt scarlet. I let both parts dry completely.
Next, after doing some scattered thumbnails and a few minutes of sketching, I drew an outline of the griffin onto the now-brown scrap paper, and carefully cut it out before attaching it to the watercolor background. I used rubber cement, which I intensely hate using, and after this step I actually went out and bought a glue stick (and was instantly transported back to grade school). Rubber cement smells, and if you do plan to use it for more than a few minutes at a time, itís best to work in a well-ventilated room.
This is actually the step that took the longest. I took out a few sheets of pastel paper I had lying around, secure in the knowledge that I will probably never, ever use them for pastels, and drew in major shapes for the feather tracts. Once they were all cut out, I played around with placing them, threw some out and cut out some more. The edges of the feathers were cut with the craft knife, with a very new, very sharp blade. Changing the blades on your knife is something many people forget to do -- they come with replaceable blades for a reason! Donít punish yourself by using a dull one.
Once I was satisfied with my shapes, I glued them in their proper places, using the glue stick. It probably isnít archival, but, as I am just experimenting and donít plan on selling this piece, Iím not terribly concerned about that at this juncture.
Colored pencil time! I sometimes wonder why I use colored pencil in my work so often these days, and have come to the conclusion that it is because I can use them in my living room, while watching tv. In any event, this step was all done with a (continuously sharpened) Tuscan red Prismacolor pencil. All I did in this stage was establish values and build a little feather texture as well. Notice how different the Tuscan red looks on the different colored papers Ė in each section it takes on a slightly different cast.
I have a default set of pencils I use interchangeably to color dark subjects or areas in colored pencil. Indigo blue, Dark Brown and Black Cherry are my core three, but I also use Dark Green, Black Grape and Dark Umber. Using two or three of those colors invariably gets you a very dark, very rich color that doesnít have the dead look a black pencil can sometimes get you. You can almost pick three at random and still get a good result, even if you have to go back in with two or three layers to get the effect you want. For highlights, I tend to use opaque colors, because I almost never work on the white of the paper with colored pencil. I rarely use the standard white, preferring instead to use French Grey 10%, Cold Grey 10%, or even Sand if I need a really warm cast. Cloud Blue is one of my favorite lights to use, as it is fairly opaque and gives off a cool cast, which is perfect for reflected daylight under a blue sky. Yellow Ochre is another good pencil choice.
I went in and made my darks really dark, especially on the neck and some of the feather tracts. I used cloud blue and one of my greys for highlights, particularly on the areas made of the blue paper. Underneath each line of light pencil, I laid in a dark, in this case with Black Grape, just underneath it as a shadow, and it really makes the feather texture pop in places. A Yellow Ochre pencil went on many of the upper portions of the head and back, as well as the beak and eye -- Yellow Ochre is very near in value to the brown of the watercolor paper but much brighter and more vibrant, and it gives it a little bit of a sun-touched appearance.
There are things about this piece that I like, and things that I donít, which is to be expected when youíre trying something that you havenít done before. The several layers of paper gives it a very solid feeling in places, and it really brings the one wing forward towards the viewer quite a bit. But there are definitely some aspects of this technique that I need to work on. For one thing, I need to find a more reliable way of affixing the collage pieces to the paper.
And so another experiment draws to a close -- time to start gathering my scrap paper for the next one!
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