Sunday, February 27, 2011

Trying a New Medium

A couple of years ago I bought a full set of Polychromos colored pencils and the matching full set of watercolor pencils.  I've used the colored pencils and like them, but hadn't so far tried the watercolor pencils.  I bought both sets after a trip to a trade show in Anaheim where I tried the watercolor pencils and liked them.  But I just hadn't gotten around to ueing them here at home.  So, since I am taking a break from the pastel animal paintings, it seemed like a good time to unwind with something new.

So here's my Chipping Sparrow on a branch of peach blossoms.  This painting is small, abut 6 1/2" by 8 1/2" the way I cropped it in the photo.

I worked pretty tentatively, working a small area of one color at a time and dampening it immediately afterward with a brush loaded with clean water.  I also went light with the pencils because I'm not experienced with them to know how the colors would brighten with water.  As it turns out, some brighten quite a bit and others not very much.  No surprise there, I guess.

One of the big draws for me about these watercolor pencils was that the product literature said that once the dampened color dried it would not move again with water.  Hence, layer after layer should be possible.  This may be true of other watercolor pencils as well, but these are the only ones I'm familiar with.

The pencils sharpen to a very fine point so thin lines are quite possible.  I found that if I dampened them with not much water the lines didn't dissolve much.  So I could get quite a bit of texture on the bird's breast.

After a while, it struck me that working with these pencils is, in a way, like china painting.  The layers are transparent and don't move once they're "set" either by firing (china paints) or letting them dry.  Once I had the china painting mind-set, things seemed to progress more smoothly.

Before I began "painting" I put in the eye with permanent ink.  And once I finished "painting" I added a few touches of a very fine felt tip pen with dark sepia ink.  I also added broad strokes of iridescent gold and red watercolor coming in from the edges and ending unevenly partway into the image.  You can see some of the iridescence in the upper left corner.  I used Daniel Smith watercolors which I really like.

By the way, I used Canson Coventry Rag paper - very nice.  After I had begin adding color glazes to the background, I ran a very light line of graphit pencil to indicate the outer edges of the images.  I carefully erased these lines once they had served their purpose, but I see that the show a little in the photo.  I think the pencil lead must have slightly incised the paper and that's what I'm seeing.  So perhaps next time I'll tape some paper strips to mark the edges instead.

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