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June 2011

June 2011 -- Jewelry



  • Behind the Art:
    Jewelry Still Life
  • EMG News:
    News for June!
  • Artist Spotlight:
    Interview with Kelly Chehardy


  • Introduction to Illustrating Gems and Metals


  • Poem: Jewels of the Ocean

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  • Introduction to Illustrating Gems and Metals
    by Jenny Heidewald

    What are gems?

    Gems are precious or semi-precious stones. Lapidary, the art of gem cutting, is required to bring the beauty of stones to light. The easiest gem to depict is the cabochon. This stone is a flat bottom cut with a smoothly polished dome. The other, and more difficult to depict, is the faceted gem, the style into which most diamonds are cut. The cuts are to expose the brilliance of the gem to the eye. The multicolored sparkles some gems (mainly diamonds) make as they are turned is referred to as "fire," although the technical term is dispersion. The round brilliant cut is the most popular for the diamond because it reflects the most light and fire back to the viewer. Other cuts that you will see are the octagon, oval, marquise, pear, trillium, princess, heart, emerald, and square.

    Faceted Gems

    Start off with a circle, I used a circle template. Pretend you are slicing a pie for eight people, draw 90 degree lines, the "+", and then 45 degree angles, the "x". It is handy to have a transparent or "see-thru" ruler and a 180-degree protractor for this step. Next draw a square that joins the corners of the 90 degree angles, then a square that joins the 45 degree angles. Lightly erase the lines in the middle, and you have the top shape of a round cut gem. I have also included a round cut that has more facets, and a hexagon.

    Next I move to colors. I start with a pencil drawing, then ink my lines with a micron pen. Since I will be working with watercolor, a waterproof pen is essential. I don't ink the lines in the middle of the gems; depending on the lighting the face of this facet usually reflects a lighter hue, and that obscures the depths. You can think of the flat top facet of a gem like glass, and render it accordingly.

    If you study photos of faceted gems, you'll find the trick to capturing the sparkle is to place a really dark facet next to a light one. This has the same effect as metal, white next to black with no blending makes a surface that equals shiny or metallic to the human eye. Gems with their many geometric facets can be daunting to approach; luckily for most art you can leave out some of the detail and still get something that equals gem to the mind. In the third panel I have started out with placing dark facets, and I tried to avoid placing too much of a middle color, sticking to dark and light. I have also added a metal border to two gems. In the fourth panel I finished off the details, adding a bit more dark to a few gems, and finishing the girl's hair.

    Gold and Faceted Gems

    Metallic items can be hard to depict, they need a sharpness between the colors that it can be hard to resist blending away. For gold I use pale yellow, medium yellow, and deep yellow or dark brown.

    Again I start by outlining my illustration with a micron pen, I used a light brown, which will blend best with the gold metal. I fill the metal shape with a light yellow, then for the next step I choose a medium yellow and add a line of color more towards the middle of the metal. To add more depth I also line along the borders where the gems would meet with the gold.

    To finish the gold, I choose a darker color yet, a yellow ochre, and go over the areas where I had placed the middle yellow. I cover about half of that color, making sure that the dark color runs along the lightest colored I had first laid down. This gives it that metallic look. Time to start the jewels, I pick the colors I want the gems to be and make lines to indicate the top facets.

    I add in lighter colors to the gems, making sure to leave white highlights. Next I add color to the rest of the character so that I can see how the colors interact. I decide that to add more pop to the jewelry I needed a bit more dark color, I chose a blue and lined around the darker areas of the gold. If you happen to lose a bit of sparkle you can add in a bit of white gouache at the end, or, before you start adding color, put down some friskit to preserve the white.

    Silver and Cabochons

    For silver, or steel, I use greys, black, white, light blue and dark blue. Cabochons are easier to work with than faceted gems, as you can tell by the number of tutorials online dedicated to them as opposed to faceted stones. I start out the same as the other pictures, then I decide what colors I want for the cabochons. Decide where you want your light to be coming from--mine is from the upper left--and put in a wash of gem color in a circle, leaving the middle bit white. It is important to preserve your white highlight. For the silver I lay in a wash of light grey, a very watered down black. For the third step I go back in with the same colors, darkening the gems and the silver. Rendering silver is basically the same as gold, just different colors. The black line goes pretty much where the top curve of the metal is. I like to make the line squiggly to add interest. For the final panel I added a darker yellow for the yellow gems, a darker wash of the same blue and red for those gems, and I added a pale wash of blue in select areas of the silver. For her skin, instead of my normal burnt sienna, I used a pale cool red, along with cool yellow and cool blue.

    Here is another way I depict metal, in this case a steel blade. This was done with micron pen.


    Pearls are one of my favorite gems to depict; they are unique from other gems in the way they are formed. When debris or a parasite gets inside a pearl oyster, the oyster coats the intruder with calcium carbonate, and eventually, a coat of nacre. For centuries the only way to get a pearl was by searching through hundreds of pearl oysters. The chances of finding a perfect pearl were low, and hence the high value and gem status. In modern times pearls can be manufactured by placing a piece of round shell into a pearl oyster.

    A pearl can be depicted simply by drawing a circle and shading it like a sphere, basic drawing books cover shading spheres. For smaller drawings, I freehand draw a circle and add a little line on the shadowed side. Study the following paintings that feature pearls.

    A close up of Queen Marie Antoinette of France, by Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun (1755-1842)

    Empress in a Head-Dress Decorated with Pearls, by Ivan Kramskoy (1880s)

    In Closing

    While gems and metals can be frustrating, it is worth the aggravation learning how to depict them. Jewelry adds more of a story to characters; from a lady dripping with faceted gems, or a girl with a single strand of pearls, to a gentleman with a cabochon pin for his cloak. Please look through the reference links for more assistance with gems and metals.


    Gem (cabochon) Tutorial 1, by Liiga Smilshkalne

    Gem (cabochon) Tutorial 2, by Liiga Smilshkalne

    Faceted Gems in Photoshop, by Amy

    Diamonds in Gouache, by Joana Miranda, also check out the rest of her site for more great drawings

    The Clever Gem Buyer, a lot of information on different gems and cuts

    Jewelry rendering books

    Gold metal tutorial, by Chi Tsao

    Silver metal tutorial, by Rebeccasx

    Jenny Heidewald is one of those self-taught artists that has been drawing since she was little; she remembers the exact moment she decided that she wanted to be an artist. Interestingly enough, it was while watching her mom draw the hand of God reaching from the clouds to His followers. Jenny was floored, it seemed to be magic, an image appearing out of nowhere. She thought, "I want
    to do THAT!" In addition to writing for EMG-zine, Jenny is a prolific artist who has worked in many mediums. Her current favorite technique is working with colored micron pens, and coloring either with watercolor or Photoshop. Jenny lives in Maryland with her husband. Please check out her Sketchfest, Portrait Adoption, Deviant Art, and Elfwood pages.

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