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

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.


Gracie ..... finished?

Possibly. I'm going to let it sit for a day or two and see. The scan makes her skin look kind of grainy, but it's actually much smoother than it appears onscreen.

As usual, comments and constructive criticism welcome!

I'm 6:49 a.m.

Rosie over at Corners of My Mind had a link to a little quiz that tells you what time of day you are based on your personality. Turns out I'm 6:49 am (as was Rosie) even though most mornings I'm usually up between 5:00 - 6:00 am. Yes, I'm one of those disgustingly cheerful morning persons! Below, in italics, is how I was summarized by the quiz. It's surprisingly accurate.

You're the time of day right around sunrise, when the sky is still a pale bluish gray. The streets are empty, and the grass and leaves are a little bit sparkly with dew. You are the sound of a few chirpy birds outside the window. You are quiet, peaceful, and contemplative. If you move slowly, it's not because you're lazy, it's because you know there's no reason to rush. You move like a relaxed cat, pausing for deep stretches that make your muscles feel alive. You are long sips of tea or coffee (out of a mug that's held with both hands) that slowly warm your insides just as the sun is brightening the sky.

I wonder what time of day you are?
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