Sunday, January 10, 2016

Layering with Colored Pencils

Dried leaf. Colored pencil, 2016.
Lately I've been interested in capturing small objects as accurately as possible in colored pencil. This drawing was done from a leaf I picked up somewhere in my life this past autumn. It's only about 1.25" long, but my drawing is on 9x12" Stonehenge with Prismacolor pencils. This is the second in a series of four leaves I'm making for prints and notecards in my etsy shop.


Stonehenge paper is thick with a nice, even tooth that works well with my Prismacolors. Since these are relatively soft colored pencils, there's still a pebbly texture from the paper's surface when gently applied. As with graphite, I prefer to work as lightly as possible, putting on layer after layer to build up a richer, more natural leaf color. In taking the time to study this one small leaf, I found that it wasn't merely copper in color. There were warm grays, soft, buttery yellows, and purplish reds. Everything blended together, weaving in and out of each other to create this rich tapestry of color that could never have been achieved if I applied a lot of pressure when coloring.

Perhaps the biggest challenge with this one was the lighting. Because I was studying the actual leaf and not a photograph, the lighting conditions changed every time I sat down to work. When I began this piece, I worked in the studio with natural sunlight from 2:00 to 5:00 pm. Just during that 3 hours the lighting moved, of course. At one point I had to stop because it was directly in my face. I couldn't really move the leaf because the shadows would have been completely different. The second shift was an ill-conceived attempt to work at home with poor natural light coming in. I only bothered working for about half an hour or so before deciding I was doing more harm than good. I was able to finish it in the studio today but even then, the time was 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and the sunlight was coming from windows on a different wall. If I had been able to work in the exact same conditions for all three sessions I would have been able to better capture the curvature of the leaf, but overall, I'm happy with how this turned out.

As always, your questions and comments are most welcome!