I got asked this question recently and it is also one l have been thinking about for a while.
To a certain extent it depends what you are drawing, if you are drawing someone’s pet it may be more important to be exact. Too much ‘artistic license’ and they might not recognize their pet.
But what about when you are just using a beautiful photo as a reference?
l used to think that l must copy exactly every little detail. I will say that l learned a lot from trying to copy every little detail, even if l wasn’t always successful. Then l read an interview with a famous artist and the way that they spoke about photos changed my thinking.
It suddenly dawned on me that l am drawing, it is art. I can change a color, l can change a shape, l can take out shadows, l can add in a color. It was really very freeing to realize this. And it doesn’t have to make the finished piece unrealistic, it just makes it your own.
So for example with the Tree Swallow above, the eye is slightly larger (something l often do), the colors are clearly bluer and whiter. The shadows are pinkier. The eye l have kept a little lighter than the photo. The beak is more blue.
My Swallow is altogether cooler in tone. It was a choice l made when l started working it and realized that to get the greenish tint on the feathers l would lose a lot of the shine l had spent ages working to establish and that l rather liked the blue particularly against the color of paper l was using.
l have no idea why it has taken me so long to realize that if a fin makes a funny shape that l don’t like, l can just change it! If l don’t like the brown in a wing l can use a different color.
And the best thing of all is, it makes it your unique work. It is art, have fun!
I feel like there should be a prize for guessing correctly?
How many layers do you think to go from photo 1 to photo 2?
I am working on a tutorial and l decided to photograph every single layer. And actually the photo on the right had more layers added after l took that shot!
I was thinking about this because l often get asked by people what they can do to improve their work and you know most of the time their work is excellent. It just needs more time spent on it. More layers.
Which is interesting because the difference between something that looks average and something that looks good can really be as simple as time.
You don’t need to learn any new skills to add more layers. You don’t need any special technique. You just need patience to keep layering long after you think you are done! And yes, sometimes that is boring. But if you want vibrant colour that pops off the page dealing with the boredom is part of it!
So how many layers to get from photo one to photo two? Twenty!
Well, l think it has been over two years since l wrote a post! And l feel just like l did at the start, that weird feeling of talking to myself!
l wanted to spend a bit of time talking about white pencils. I get asked repeatedly about white pencils.
So first of all let me tell you right off that none of them will give you a brilliant white highlight over a darker colour. If you are seeing brilliant white highlights in a colored pencil drawing it is being achieved using a different method or a different medium and l will discuss ways of achieving a bright white in my next post.
Here l will talk about the brands of white pencil l have used and what l think of them and what l use them for.
Below is a photo showing different brands of white over dark.
As you can see from the above photo, they are all useless! With no.1. the Polychromos being the most useless of the lot as l had to go over it four or five times to get that much color! The brightest there is no.8. the Holbein Soft White. Second best and my go to for adding ‘white’ (or more accurately lighter) highlights on top of dark colors is no.6 Caran D’ache Luminance in the Buff Titanium which despite being just off white is much better than the true white.
However, l do use most of these whites a lot and it different ways. So l thought l would explain how l use them because they are all better for different things.
1. Faber Castell Polychromos white, l use this a lot because it holds the sharpest point. I use this pencil to emboss white lines into the paper before adding other colors over the top. For example cats whiskers. I use heavy pressure to really texture the paper and the resulting indents won’t pick up as much of the darker colours over the top.
2&3. Caran D’ache Pablo’s and Supracolor they work equally the same and will often show up reasonably well over darker colors and oddly they show better if the darker color has been left for a few hours before adding them.
l tend to use these where l want to lighten something (say feathers of fur and l want lighter strands) but still want to go over the top with other colors.
4. Prismacolor. Truthfully l never really use it. It is no better or worse than any of the other whites. It is good for blending final layers if you want a soft look, but not easy to layer over again.
5. Caran D’ache Luminance White. I use these where l want to preserve a layer of white or make a pastel color. Because it is more waxy than Polychromos or Pablo’s it resists darker colors on top better.
6. Luminance Buff Titanium l find gives me the brightest highlights over dark colours of all the readily available pencils.
7. Holbein White. Nothing special and l wouldn’t bother with the effort of trying to get hold of it.
8. Holbein Soft White. Now this is significantly better than all the other whites. It is a weird texture,
feeling a little like an oil pastel to work with. But the huge downside is that unless you live in Japan it is really difficult to source individual pencils. In fact, l have not been able to. Which means to replace it you have to buy a set of pencils and the cheapest smaller set of pencils l found with it in was around £50 last time l looked! That makes it a very expensive pencil indeed and until l find a source for individual ones, l won’t be replacing it.
9. An odd ball thrown in because l saw it recommended , Conte a Paris, is actually a pastel pencil. As you see no better than anything else. Add to that the very thick core and it not fitting standard sharpeners, for me not worth bothering with.
There is one more white l tried from Derwent, the Coloursoft. I couldn’t find it for this photo. Which should tell you, l don’t use it. The results are pretty much the same as all of the above. But it has a thicker core meaning l can’t get such fine detail.
So there you have it. If you are looking for a white pencil that comes out white over dark colors you are on a fruitless quest. Although if you have found one please, please share.
This doesn’t mean you can’t have bright white in your work if you want it. My next blog post will cover that.
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