Friday, December 30, 2011

Digital image: Twilight woods

Twilight Woods.  Digital image

A complex mix of various of the samples done with the Derwent pencils and ink sketches.  This doesn't exist anywhere but in the computer - I do like tangled undergrowth like this and did a whole series of work on the theme in my final year of my degree - something I'd like to work on again a little.   On big canvasses.   And maybe focussing in on details as below:

I'm making no New Year resolutions other than to go with the flow :>)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

merry christmas

Merry Christmas

A Christmas doodle in Derwent metallic pencils on their black sketch pad - yes another with the items they sent me ::>) I'm having fun working my way through their products :>)  at the moment all is in a trying-it-out-in-small-things-stage - I'll manage some larger works after Christmas.

Monday, December 19, 2011

City Lights: night time sketch on black paper in mixed media

Lone figure, city night sketch, December, inktense, coloured pencil and white gouache on black paper, A5 ish

I've been meaning to try doing some sketches of the city at night for a long time.  I'm constantly looking at the lights vs the pools of darkness, mysterious shapes and often a feeling of loneliness and emptiness out there, as I drive.

This is a first attempt.  It's not a subject I've tackled before - but it's about the same thing that normally interests me - light, lost edges, a sense of place.   It's in a Derwent black sketch pad - another item they kindly sent me :>)  Coloured pencil sinks and loses intensity on black paper - but that's just what I needed to catch the sheen of light on the road, paths and buildings. the black paper flickering through the colour, helping to create the feel of light reflections over a dark surface.  The reflected light on these surfaces is made up of multiple layers of scribbled marks in different colours of pencil.

I started off with Inktense blocks, using water to create washes of muted colour.   These were intensified by scribbles of dry Inktense and  Artists coloured pencils.

It needed more light, which I was never going to build with pencils alone, so I put down Winsor and Newton white designers gouache where I needed more intense brightness, working over it when it dried with further inktense pencils  and coloured pencil scribbles. This gouache is so useful for regaining lights, mixed with watercolour it will give an infinite variety of pale colours to reclaim overworked dark areas or create a light opaque cover for this black paper.  Used dry, the inktense gave a stronger cover of colour than the coloured pencils.

The lone figure is simply the black paper itself, outlined in brightness.

Mixing media in this way gave me the marks and colour intensity that I needed.

It would be interesting to do some more of these, larger and better.   This was just a sketch, an experiment to find out how materials behaved and what I'd need to do to get the intense contrasts and the areas lost in darkness.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Review - Derwent Studio pencils: testing, drawing feathers, seascapes and illustration and Derwent A3 sketchbook

Feathers, Derwent Studio pencils, approximately 7 inches square


 Derwent have given me some of their products to experiment with and review, so I'm like a child in a sweetie shop.  : > )

Some I have used for a long time but some are new to me.   I remember as a very small child visiting their pencil museum and my father explaining how 'lead' pencils were actually graphite - and owning coloured pencils made by them.  In those days obviously just the basic range - not the artists ones I choose now.  

I can't remember a time when I didn't draw.   One of my earliest memories is posting scribbled 'letters' to my father when I was 18 months old and he was away in Gibraltar with the RAF.

Here I've been taking a look at their Studio coloured pencils    

The above study of feathers was done with a limited range of colours - unfortunately scanners and cameras find pale colours impossible - the wash of greeny bronze behind the feathers is made up of yellow, green and orange hatched and softly laid over each other and is much smoother than appears above.   I think the problem with scanning is partly due to the tonal range I use, with intense darks through to very pale colour.    Scanning at 600dpi does help a bit as does adjusting in Photoshop but the palest drifts of colour simply will not register correctly : > )

The pencils were perfect for this sort of study, it was easy to get fine details and the colours layered beautifully.  I'll definitely be using them again for this sort of close up study of objects and textures.    

I tend to do these sort of studies when curled in an armchair, half watching TV or listening to music - using paint isn't practical in that situation (I've got into enough trouble with himself over the years for gettting paint on clothes, carpets furniture .....)   Coloured pencils and watercolour pencils with a waterbrush keep me out of trouble and enable me to work on ideas in my armchair, which I can develop further in paint later, or can be something in their own right,   Paintings are done elsewhere to avoid the divorce court  ; > )

I used an A3 hardback, wirebound sketch book. with good, quite heavy paper (110lb).   The paper is really lovely to use for both wet and dry media, taking any amount of layering, drawing back into with an eraser and embossing, to leave white lines through overlaid pencil.   For me the 75lb is too light for the way I like to work - this one is absolutely ideal and A3 is a great size for taking out plein air, allowing more space to work in - an A4 or smaller can feel very cramped if you like to work with sweeping lines and washes of colour.  I also really like the elastic closure, which protects work in storage or in transit, keeping pages tightly and neatly closed.

I had previously owned one single pencil of this range!  which I loved for its glorious colour and feel, used over watercolour - the perfect viridian/jade to enhance the glow in the sea in the shallows in Cornwall,   I frequently use coloured pencil this way and this one features frequently in my seascapes - from slight touches to more intense use, enhancing and adjusting colour and tone in paintings.  It is used in the examples from my sketchbooks below (previously shown on the blog as they were done) which are watercolours with touches of coloured pencil (the single viridian Studio pencil I owned, featuring strongly in that gloriously coloured shallower water) along with touches of pen and oil pastel:

plein air sketches in 12 inch Canson sketchbook - double page spread is 24 inches across - detail below

And again, over watercolour in some of the illustrations for the abc book - for instance in the background to this page in the book I've made this year for my grandson, who is learning to read and my grandaughter who, at nearly 12 months, will simply look at colours and shapes and listen to the repeated sounds of the letters.  Again, the solitary, deliciously coloured viridian/jade studio pencil was used, over washes of a pthalo blue and green mix watercolour.   This time to intensify the colour brightness and add a little opacity without being as flat and even as gouache.

Below is a scribble where the left hand side is simply watercolour pencil very roughly scribbled and washed out - and on the left, hazes of viridian and turquoise pencil are built up to intensify the colour.    Many years ago, gifted artist John Lidzey was the first  I was aware of who used this technique of coloured pencil over watercolour, encouraging me to experiment with the combination.  It's something I've used frequenly ever since.

 doodles/illustration, pencils over watercolour pencil washes and scribbles over embossing

I used the embossing tool from a set of drawing tools, to 'draw' the spirals into the paper - the coloured pencil  doesn't reach into the dips, allowing interesting possibilities - like whiskers on animals, pale hair that overlaps darker hair  - or simply pattern as above.   It needs more investigation as I work my way onwards : > )  -  I frequently draw through wet watercolour with the wrong end of a paintbrush, damaging/indenting the surface of the paper a little, making the paint a deeper tone along the fine line created - this tool could be useful used in that way I think - something to try anyway.

The colours can be rich and intense, as in the snowman illustration, or soft and subtle, mixing in dense layers or hatched layers of different colours, allowing optical mixing - see work by Katherine Tyrrell who uses this method.   I can see these pencils  becoming a favourite and I know Katherine enjoyed using them.

The colours are the same as the Artists Range, enabling them to be combined - something I have yet to try

Have you used these? what do you think?


Pearly morning colours, Derwent Studio pencils in moleskine sketchbook

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

editing images: lost edges and contrast

Mawgan Porth, Moonrise, coloured pencil and gouache on a deep buff paper

Originally the cliff top showed more clearly against the dark clouds, paler.   It jarred, I didn't like it, so I sat down to create a lost edge - the cliff top edge barely visible against the dark cloud.  I like it better. This is another in that sketchbook with the deep buff paper - you can see it in places in this and the other images.

I also added  a little white gouache to enhance the gleam on the water, moved the moon (with the flick of my hand!), added a ring around the moon and I'm happier with it now..

The clouds haven't scanned well  - they are softer with more subtleties and changes of colour than is picked up here.   I think it's finished.


Monday, December 12, 2011

amending past images, editing, reviewing and changing drastically : The bend in the river, coloured pencil and white gouache

The Bend. Coloured pencil and white gouache

This one was once a loud abstracted landscape, where I'd simply played with colour and the composition was frankly bad!  There was only a small distant patch of water in it, a lot more high foreground, looking downhill and the composition, viewpoint and subject were very different.  It wasn't something I wanted to keep but sat there - luridly - in my sketchbook.   The original and this were both just totally imaginary landscapes, based on a mix of visual memories.  I can't find a photo of the original - but you aren't missing anything!

It's in that sketchbook with a deep buff coloured paper, a gift from a friend in the US.  Luckily the paper is strong and can take a lot of rough treatment.

I used a mix of Jakar and Derwent electric erasers to 'draw' back into it, creating those paler trees, against a dark background, darkening the background further and simplifying,  taking out the distant dry reeds/hay, which is the colour of the paper;  creating a swathe of water by using white gouache and darkening sections, leaving other sections with traces of previous marks left as reflections and finally adding the foreground reeds.  

Sometimes an image just needs changing - drastically :>)

The Derwent eraser takes out a wider mark than the Jakar - so having the 2 enables a wider range of mark making for me.   I really like to draw with an eraser through charcoal or pencils.  It allows a whole range of different expressive marks.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Amending and editing old sketches: Clovelly, Devon, in coloured pencil

Clovelly Harbour, Misty Summer Day, coloured pencil and white gouache

I was looking at this sketchbook with buff paper, thinking of working in it.  Instead I edited the 3 images in there.   I'd never been quite happy with them due to the whites being dull, making the whole image dull.   White pencils are very disappointing when used on coloured paper I find - I'd used 3 different brands in trying to get the whites brighter.

I used a little white gouache, drybrushed where I wanted a gleam in the water, scrubbed a little into part of the wall of the house (but not all over) and used the small colour shaper tool that came in a set of Derwent tools to apply thin drawn lines of gouache for the edges of the waves.

I'm much happier with it now.  This is also a better scan, bringing out the colours in the stone wall at the front and the water colour is more like the original.  Maybe it's having that white there to help it get the white balance to scan accurately?

the images side by side

Friday, December 09, 2011

Doodling with Graphitints

Winter trees, approaching rain, Graphitints

I was experimenting with water soluble Graphitints, which I've never used before.  The colours were perfect for the wintry weather we have at the moment.   This is looking out across the fields in that wonderful light you get when it's sunny where you are - but ahead is a deep dark threatening sky - such a wonderful mix.

I liked the ability to create washes with these and also use them dry and the colours mixed well.  Drawing through a wet wash created stronger marks.   I want to get out more with these during the winter.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Review: Derwent Aquatones used with their waterbrush, a sketch of Cornish rocks and sea

A quick sketch of the rocks and sea in Cornwall (from previous plein air work) to experiment with the Derwent Aquatones.  In A4 sketchbook.

Derwent Aquatones:

An early Christmas gift :>)  - I wanted to experiment with the Aquatones and see what was possible as I hadn't used these before.   They are a pencil made of solid pigment with a coating of paint to keep hands clean   They feel harder in use than the watercolour pencils and don't provide such a strong colour whilst dry  but colour still washes richly out when they are wet.   I found that the same scribble and pressure gave richer colour on the 110lb paper - the 75lb needing more pencil application or layers built up to achieve rich colour  (the sketchbook reviewed in the previous post).

Colours mix well on the paper - something I need them to do.   Drawing back into wet washes made nice marks.   It is easy to wash out marks entirely (on heavier paper) or deliberately leave marks showing with only a light sweep of a wet paintbrush.   I like the capability to leave lines showing, taking only a light sweep across with water sometimes.  Lines and marks are important in the way I work.

It is also possible to lift pigment directly from the pencil with a brush, which results in rich sweeps of colour, which can be glazed over previous layers.  Drawing across damp paper gives a rich line, that gels with the underlying colours in a satisfying way, the edges softening slightly, depending on the wetness of the paper.

I will happily sketch with these plein air. :>0


The sketch above was done with a waterbrush - again something I haven't used before as I'd imagined that changing colours during painting, would result in muddiness -,with contamination from previous colour.   It amazingly, wipes clean in a second on a tissue or rag, ready for the next colour.   Even yellow wasn't contaminated at all.

I can see me taking this out regularly in a small sketching kit, where I don't want to carry too much.

I wouldn't use it in larger work as I like to use larger brushes.    It's a very  useful tool for smaller sketchs - for A4 and below it would be part of a great minimalist sketch kit with water soluble graphite pencils or ink, the waterbrush and a sketchbook - lots of expressive tonal marks would be possible.   To see a sketch done with liquid graphite and a waterbrush that I was lucky enough to receive in the Postcard Exchange, click here.

I'd love Derwent to make a size 12 or larger waterbrush.  I know the reservoir would need to be bigger but it would open up so much more opportunity to use it.   Maybe a half inch flat too?   Please Derwent?

Have you used either of these? 

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Review: Derwent 75lb hardback sketchbook , sketch of sea and rocks in Cornwall - added further media to Jan 2012

edited 4.1.11   additional work in carbon pencil, ink, watersoluble graphite and more ........

 Water soluble graphite and graphite pencil

Near Porthgwarra, Derwent Aquatone pencils in Derwent 75lb A4 sketchbook

 Back to painting and sketching - and testing out some early Christmas gifts.   First of all is an A4 75lb hardback using  a set of 24  Aquatone pencils and a waterbrush.   I'll do a review of the pencils and brush another day.

I revisited my plein air sketchbooks and previous subjects of paintings, so that I could compare the variety of marks possible with work already existing, the depth of colour achievable, the ability to glaze colour and to achieve the translucency of water and colour mixing that happens in the painting, that I want.

Sorry if you are tired, seeing Porthgwarra again!  - it's just a very suitable subject for the problem solving that I wanted to test these items against.  The changing colour of sea and sky, the water over the rocks, the grassy clifftop against the sea etc

The 75lb paper weight sketchbook:

75lb is a lighter weight of paper than I normally use - I have the 110lb in an A3 and love it.   This lighter weight did cause a few problems when testing if I let the paper get too wet - but in fairness it stood up to the wet very well considering it isn't designed for this use.

The Aquatone needed more layers of scribbling to build colour  - whereas colour builds up instantly on the heavier paper, enabling me to work faster.  Interestingly, the Derwent watercolour pencils that I have, built up very nearly the same density of colour with the same pressure on 75lb and 110lb paper - though marks didn't wash out as cleanly on the lighter weight paper.   This doesn't always matter to me as the marks are part of my process.  .

The scratchiness of a Rotring pen + water to create washes did result in the ink going through the page.  This isn't something I use regularly but I would definitely use the 110lb book when working with it in the future.

I would keep this book mainly for sketching with dry media - it took charcoal, pencil, coloured pencil and hard pastel well. 

I wouldn't rule out 'wet' media entirely though.   With care, and not over-wetting the paper, it coped surprisingly well with Aquatone, watercolour pencils and watersoluble graphite. 

I did go through the page once in one sketch because I worked too much on a section that was pretty soggy but that was my own impatience!  The paper flattened out and is repaired with a patch on the back and is barely discernable now dry (hidden by surf)  :>). Overall the Aquatones behaved surprisingly well on this thinner paper but working seriously plein air I'd take the A3 book of heavier paper - a size and weight I prefer to work with.

Some people regard an A4 book as their large one, so they would be very happy with the size.  I often work in an A4 but I really do like the extra space of an A3 or A2 for the room to make gestural marks and use masses of colour.

With hardback books you have the ability to work on double page spreads, something I like to do - with thinner paper it pays not to work on the back of these in case work shows through.  I usually put a big pencil cross across the page so that I don't accidentally work on it.   I do this in any book really even if the paper is heavy.   I don't want to end up with 2 paintings/drawings I want to frame that are back to back!

The pages are perforated for easy removal  - something I don't actually want in a hardback book but for those wanting to take out pages for framing, it makes removal easy.

All in all a nice book though I prefer the 110lb version because I use a lot of water based media.

 I'll write about the Aquatones and waterbrush another day - soon.

The ABC's are almost printed and just need to be bound .   If you want to see the illustrations to Z look on the tabs at the top of the blog and you can see them all together.   I'm looking at the possibility of making a Blurb book or one of those that you make with Amazon or Barnes and Noble - I need to do the research and see what is possible.

EDIT:  January 2012  additional media tested - I'll look at each of these media separately in later posts, but for now, this is how they behave on the thin paper

I've now had chance to play with more media in this book - examples below.    Though I much prefer the heavier weight sketchbooks in the Derwent range for my own use, I have to say this is holding up surprisingly well to a variety of media.

here a doodle with a Wolff carbon pencil

Rotring pen and wash

The Lamy pen I have, despite being cleaned and having all sorts done to it, insists on drying after a tiny amount of drawing and bleeds through the paper .......... and is totally useless and will be binned!  My ancient, neglected Rotring Art Pen working infinitely better and doesn't soak through to the next page.

Derwent water soluble graphite (dark) with wax resist stick used for retaining white of waves

Rotring Art Penwith Derwent Inktense pencils (watersoluble and waterproof when dry)

Tombow pen and wash

Aquatone water soluble pencil

Derwent Graphitint, water soluble tinted graphite pencils

sketch using the pencils in the Drawing Pencils tin by Derwent (Tame and wild tin) - the range of colours is shown in the scribbles at the top of the page