Enjoy life now... it has an expiration date.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Yep... still here!

(above) Skin Tone Bar, (below) Smooth Bristol swatch
I got an email today from a blog friend who inquired if I was "still there" or had I gotten lost in the berry bushes? Hmmm.... well, since the title of this blog does include blueberries here's the rundown on the berry situation: On Saturday, since the hubby's band was not playing (a "free" Saturday! Woo Hoo!) I got up bright and early, 5:45 am to be precise, and began picking blueberries at 6:30 a.m. Figured I'd beat the heat. I figured wrong. Instead of being finished at around 10:30 as I hoped, I was still picking at close to 1 p.m. And it was miserably hot by then. Long story short- I hope that was the last major pick of the season. As far as I'm concerned the birds, deer and all other hungry critters can HAVE the blueberries!!

Okay, now that I've gotten that out of my system, let's forget about nearly 100 degree heat, spiders, wasps and scratchy branches to concentrate on art!

Yes, I have been working at my little art table. I've completed two cards for the WC project Vacation Dreams and started on the third. Since the third card will be a mini portrait I studied Ann Kullberg's book "Colored Pencil Portraits Step by Step" and, as the book recommended, made a skin tone bar. The idea behind this skin tone bar is that it gives you practically every shade of skin you'll need (or close to it - just modify as needed). I also made a couple of "value viewers" which are just a piece of white cardboard with a hole punched in the middle. You lay one value viewer on the reference photo you're using in the spot where you're deciding what colors to use, and lay the other value viewer on the skin tone bar and then move it around until you get a close match for your reference photo. You then know what colors you need to achieve that particular shade of skin. Now this may sound very quick and simple; it is simple, but it's certainly not quick. There are two layers of base color (first layer is cream, second layer is light peach) that represent the lightest of skin tones. Then all the other colors are added, layer by layer. Well, there are 21 -yes, twenty-one! - additional colors. That means 23 total layers on part of the skin tone bar. Yep, that's what I thought too. But I persevered, sitting at my art table dutifully making light vertical strokes while talking on the phone, watching the birds, eating a banana, getting a year older. Well, perhaps the last one is a slight exaggeration.

It was definitely slow going, but I did learn a lot. I learned:
  • Ann Kullberg has the patience of Job

  • I will most likely have a crippling case of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in my right wrist if I do many portraits with a lot of skin that is in the shade (i.e. requiring most of those 23 layers). Consequently, all of my portraits will be of people in bright sunshine only. Just kidding.

  • I love my electric pencil sharpener. Yes I do. Save that wrist for the layers.

  • Though initially skeptical, I found out you really can put 23 layers of colored pencil (using light to medium pressure) on Stonehenge paper. Impressive paper.

  • Though even more skeptical, I found out that if you use VERY light pressure, you can also put 23 layers on Smooth Bristol. Honestly. See swatch above.

  • I love the even smoothness of CP on Smooth Bristol.

  • I now understand why Ann Kullberg recommends using a scumbling/"brillo pad" technique (light, smooth overlapping circular strokes) to get a nice even finish for skin. Even though I was careful to be as consistent as possible with my vertical strokes they were still visible in the skin tone bar. This may not necessarily be a bad thing (I think the consistency is more important than the stroke style) but for the times when do you want a super smooth look the scumbling works better than the vertical strokes.

  • Despite the s-l-o-w, S--L--O--W rate of application and the many layers it can require, I love colored pencil. I love its immediacy.... no mixing, no wetting, no washing brushes.... just pick up and "paint". Brilliantly simple!

  • Since I also still love watercolor I'd like to try combining the two and see how that works. Seems like an underpainting of watercolor would definitely speed things along. Then use colored pencil for all of the details that I dearly love.

Last, but not least..... if you've sent an email to me via my gmail address (on the blog) and have not received a reply - I just found out today that the replies I've sent out the last week or so did not go through. I'm not sure what the problem is, nor how to fix it, but I'll be trying to get it worked out. I have replied to all incoming emails so if you did not receive a reply please email me again and let me know - I'll send you a reply using an alternate email address. Thanks!

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