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Friday, March 27, 2009

Colored Pencils: In search of smooth skin...

Top color swatches: Colorfix
Bottom swatches: Arches, underpainted on left, plain on right

After taking some time to play around with my new Chroma Atelier Acrylics (the results of which ended up in the trash can - guess I need to play some more) I decided to do some colored pencil experiments to try and come up with a better technique for skin. Specifically, achieving a smooth blend between skin's lights, darks and halftones, and getting smooth even coverage. Though I don't always want a smooth look, when I do want it I want to know how to get it.

To that end, I made some tiny little color samples on two different supports: Colorfix and Arches Hot Press watercolor paper. I didn't include Stonehenge because I've already experimented with it quite a bit and though I like it, there are times it doesn't fit the bill.

I also wanted to see how underpainting affected the appearance of colored pencil on Arches, so I painted a light peach colored swatch on Arches (I used the Chroma Acrylic paint but diluted it to the point that it looked like watercolor). I then made three color samples on the plain Arches, the painted Arches and the Colorfix.

In each swatch group pictured above...
- The top squares are simply layers of colored pencil.
- On the middle squares a solvent was used in between every color.
- On the bottom squares, the color was burnished in between each layer.

The results were interesting...

1. The two swatches that looked the most promising for smooth skin tones were the simple layers swatch (no solvent, no burnish) on the Colorfix paper, and the simple layers swatch (again, no solvent, no burnish) on the Arches that was underpainted.
2. I was surprised to see the layered swatch on Arches that was underpainted was substantially smoother and softer in appearance than the layered swatch on the plain Arches. The underpainting made a difference.
3. Burnishing significantly inhibits the application of additional color layers. On the top sample swatch pictured, note the difference in saturation between the top two color squares and the bottom square which was burnished. I didn't try doing all the layers and then burnishing once after the last application because when I'm working I never know which application will be my last!
4. For the purposes of smooth color, my two least favorites were the burnished swatches on the Arches without the underpainting and the Colorfix.
5. All three swatches on the underpainted Arches were significantly smoother than the three swatches on the plain Arches.
6. The swatch that showed the least amount of pencil strokes was the layered swatch on the Colorfix (and the way it was eating my pencils it SHOULD be smooth!)

Conclusion: If we take time to play and experiment with our chosen medium(s), we acquire valuable information that can be used when painting a real project.... when time counts and you want predictable results.


Laure Ferlita said...

Love to see someone playing and exploring their chosen medium. That said . . . .
Not being a CP girl, I guess I'm a little confused. It seems from your conclusions that you are leaning towards the results that look the least like CP . . . .

If this is the case, why not just use the acrylics to paint the skin tones? What am I missing?

Michelle Burnett said...

Hi Teresa, Thanks for sharing this great information. Makes me want to get back to working in colored pencils again.

Artist Unplugged said...

Wow! Alot of information - so informative!

Teresa said...

Laure: Good question... let me get back to you on that.

Michelle: Something about cp that I just can't seem to resist!

AU: Good to hear from you again... I'm planning some Zentangles soon... you and Jeanne have got my curiousity piqued about them!

Jo Castillo said...

This is interesting and over my head since I don't use CPs except to color a sketch. It is great to explore our media and learn what we like most. A nice read and some may rub off. Ha.

ellie said...

Very interesting, and you are so right about taking time to experiment with different media. Love seeing your beautiful portraits develope, you are so clever at capturing expression.

Tresses Art Blog said...

Thanks so much for sharing this information...I love the details that you go into as I've been debating doing this very thing. Was the solvent that I was most interested in learning about because it was suggested to me that I try it as a way of getting the color into the tooth of the paper better with fewer layers.
I'm like you...I want a smooth finish, but I don't dare burnish because I'm not sure I'm done layering yet!!!
I have never underpainted colorfix before...something I will definitely try and do...it does eat up pencils doesn't it??!!?? Oh well the results are worth the diminished pencil!
Thanks for sharing this info!
The other Teresa

Megha Chhatbar said...

This is useful for me Teresa..Thanks...BTW I have started a new blog dedicated to my sketch work — Art on Sketchbook

Lynne said...

Hi Teresa,
I don't paint or draw, but I find your observations interesting.
What a great portrait of Gracie!

Teresa said...

Ellie: Thank you so much!

Teresa: Glad you found it interesting! I love to experiment.. that way I feel more confident when I'm doing a real piece and can use what I learned.

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