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January 2010

January 2010 -- Time



  • EMG News:
    News for 2010
  • Wombat Droppings:
    Ten Years of Rendering the Chicken
  • Ask an Artist:
    Troubleshooting Watercolor
  • Behind the Art:
    More Experimenting With Collage
  • Artist Spotlight:
    Interview with Tiziano Baracchi


  • On Finding Clients as a Freelancer


  • Fiction: A Whole Year in One Key

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  • More Experimenting With Collage
    Behind 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!

    Melissa Acker

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