Thursday, May 28, 2009

Coloured Pencil from Start to Finish--Finished!

Concept, or where it all comes from:

I'll always consider this piece as having been conceived the day of my rather silly misadventure in a boggy spot along Vivian Creek, York Regional forest. Being stuck in the mud was a new experience and somehow it took my brain awhile assimilate the memory. Ideas, thoughts, and feelings leaked out in strange and vivid dreams and then one morning the image popped up behind my eyelids.

One incident, alone, does not shape the art; everything I've ever done, read or thought has relevance. How far back can you go to search for the source of inspiration? To birth, to the twinkle in a young man's eye, choices my grandparents made? Going further back would get me as mired in philosophy as I ever was in the bog so lets not. Suffice to say, all art, any art, is a culmination of the artist's experience and interpretation.
While I don't intellectualize my work (ie. its not a logical construction based language oriented ideas but more less based on hunches and feelings), hours spent picking and poking at the paper (how, that indicates how much I love the actual physical process--not) leaves my brain with plenty of roam time. That means, while working, I start to ruminate on what it all might mean.

Of course, from the beginning, I knew this one had everything to do with the head-waters of the Oak Ridges Moraine, given the incident involved being literally mired in it. Add to that a continuing interest in myths and folklore and a cursory excuse for the subject matter is there. However, while I work, I like to listen to discussions on CBC radio, the more in depth the better, and two of them turned out to be curiously relevant and influential.

Discussion 1:
Involved a protest against a proposed dumpsite in Tiny Township, rural Ontario, north of where I live. The short story, is the usual 'dump threatens groundwater'. The slightly longer story being that Tiny Township has some of the purest aquifers in Ontario and they are being drained, not for use, but to make the dumpsite dry.
While listening, I realized that the central figure was not some woodland mermaid creature, but the personification of an aquifer, or groundwater.
Help Stop Dump Site 41

Discussion 2:

A few days later, another discussion took a darker turn. The subject: the sacred Yamuna River in India, associated with the Goddess that bears its name. In spite of its spiritual status, it has been diverted, constrained, and dumped into that by the time it goes through Delhi it is so laden with urban sewage that is reclassified as a drain. Not even religion, with all its power to create and destroy was is enough to save the goddess from defilement.
While I was almost finished while I heard this story it did make the saturated colours and ornate design so reminiscent of East Indian religious artwork seem more appropriate.

Online Petition to Save the Yamuna River

Now, how does all this folklore, storytelling and environmentalism tie in to a tutorial on coloured pencil? Its my way of saying, art is not a technical exercise but a means of communication. Just as we need time to learn to speak a language and are not born with the knowledge, we need to learn the techniques of a medium in order to communicate, but that is only half the process. The remainder is simply to live, feel, experience, listen and open yourself to world before, during or after you pick up your pencils. Everything you've ever done, thought or felt will flow from your hand to your art. Now go scribble.

Image: Strathmore 300 Series Bristol 14"x11", coloured pencil. This is a heavilly burnished piece but I didn't use the colourless blender and instead used heavy application of choice colours to do the work. Here's some treeholes, a peculiar problem for every landscape artist.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

WIP's and other notions

Darned, I was almost ready to fire off Coloured Pencil from Start to Finish--Finished when 95% got deleted. I was editing in Blogger with no back-up (won't do that again, ahem). So a Work In Progress (WIP) to keep things going.
This is a scene from Hollidge Tract, York Regional Forest. I've sketched it in on watercolour paper, and washed in some background with watercolour and Inktense Pencils. It's so tempting to stop here, but I'll be strengthening lines, textures and elements. It's fairly big, um, 14x17" approx (hand-cut paper and I'll measure it later), stretched and stapled to a board.
This is a scene that I've walked by countless times (an almost daily walk) and yet I only noticed it once. Luckilly, I had the camera with me and snapped a shot. Of course, the camera gave it all a fish-eyed view with inwardly warping trees and such, but it was a remarkably clean landscape (early leafless spring without underbrush). Already, burgeoning life have obscured the rocks that caught my eye (which when measured are less than knee high) and it once again all fades into the background.
Enough for now--I really hate computers, blogging, typing, and fiddling with html right now...grrrrr.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Gazeboing & Other Good Verbs

This is a little off the cuff (I should be painting, well, always) but I haven't blogged for a while and feeling a bit lost and lonely for all that.
I was visiting friends for the weekend, up on the Magnetawan River, chilly weather and hungry bugs kept us indoors when we weren't out walking. While the conversations are fantastic, I always bring a little something to do. This time I brought my Inktense pencil and a bunch of pre-cut ACEO cards. Lucky me, as we spent much time in their handbuilt gazebo on a rock peninsula. Ah, the luxuries that clever frugal people can come up with. The gazebo was completely built of surplus lumber, and windows found in the local dump. On a sunny day, it warms itself, and we lounge on foam padded benches, the four of us sprawled across the furniture and each other like sleeping cats, & sleep does happen under these idyllic circumstances. Somehow I managed to keep awake and produce this image as the sun painted the west behind the screen of wind-warped sapling. I felt so neo-Victorian, discussing literature & philosophy with friends, lounging like time itself comes in unlimited quantities and sketching delicately with my pencils. I mentioned this, but was told I would have needed a white billowing multi-buttoned blouse and voluminous skirts. These items were not packed in my duffel bag.
In contrast, these people who practically live off the grid (they have electricity, but no plumbing, road access or home phone) do now own 2 laptop computers and access the internet instantly via Rogers Rocket Stick (portable internet). There is something bizarrely futuristic about surfing the net under such primitive conditions.

Now, feeling a little more connected, back to what I should be doing.

Image: 2.5 x 3.5 bristol, Inktense Pencils, colourless blender. Looks like the kit plus colourless blender is a perfect travelling companion, giving options to do watercolour, pencil crayon or a combination of both.

PPS. My Coloured Pencil project is finished, but I need a softly overcast day to get a decent photo of it as it's way to big to scan, and too burnished for flash photography.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Trillium Erectum

That is the proper name; this flower has many common names. I always called it the red, but I imagine its botanical name refers to its tall and stately pose. This image was a victim of overzealous lifting with tape. I tried to lighten up some areas when I lifted a layer of paper right off. In hindsight, I should have glued the torn piece down but the incident caught me by surprise. On the other hand, I am now looking forward to a redo, as I really like this image, but I was experimenting with Inktense watersolubles and Prismacolors and while I was at it, I began to wonder how things would go if I would start with a soft underpainting in watercolour and finish with the coloured pencils. Mistakes are not so bad and this one may well end up on my wall.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Yellow Trillium and other Small Wonders

It's trillium time here in southern Ontario (my friend up in Magnetawan, a little to the north, informs me they are not yet blooming) and the show is on. Trilliums paint the forest floor in drifts of green and white and sometimes purple. In this rare instance, delicate lemon yellow. There is only one that I've seen. I await it's arrival yearly since I first set eyes on it. Being close to the trail, I'm afraid it will be a victim of digging or plucking by the ignorant or the greedy. It's exact location is my secret. Last year, it produced two blooms, and I was hoping for more, but at least it is back and beautiful as ever.

Here is the common red variety, sometimes called purple, and even other less complimentary things (stinking benjamin) because they really do smell awful if you get your nose too close. The burgundy purple colour is a lure for flies looking for carrion to land on (mmmm...). No photo can do the colour justice, as up close (not too close, remember the stink) they have a velvety shimmer that is quite mesmerizing. Scientific name for both the lemon coloured above and the reds here is trillium erectum. There is indeed a yellow trillium species trillium luteum but it is not found naturally in this region and is not the one I photographed.

Here is another favourite, almost too small to photograph with my equipment (this was a fluke). Squirrel corn or dicentra canadensis. Last year I did a pencil crayon and blog post on it.

Black raspberry: even in winter, their stems absolutely glow with electric blue over purple. Now they're on fire, and sometime in July, I'll eat them, yum. Which reminds me, in my last post about experiencing the forest, I believe I missed mentioning a sensation, and that is taste. Berries and mushrooms let me taste the forest and bring it inside me which is just a truly weird thought.

And here's a close-up of my almost finished coloured pencil piece that I've been working on. Well, today, I took a break, and started some studies, sketches and thoughts on what the next big project will be; such an investment in time is a big decision. I've set this one aside for a brief cooling off period. It may even be finished; I'm not sure, and I'm definitely not ready to blog about it yet. So enjoy the wildflowers.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Coloured Pencil-Start to Finish Part 4

Burnishing or the Point of No Return

At the beginning, when your pencilling passes lightly over the paper, there are things you can do if you wish to change something. With tape, cello or masking, you can 'lift' colour. Just place tape over the area, and lightly go over the offending spot with the back end of a pencil, chopstick, etc. . Experiment a bit first, as you can literally rip a layer off the paper if you are overzealous (been there, done that, yep). I actually did a little lifting with cello tape on the lily, as I wasn't sure I wanted such a strong yellow (and later put the yellow back in again). Bristol is tough paper, so it had no effect on the surface.
In the beginning, except for some strong lines, I worked delicately, trying to feel my way through the piece, but without strong areas of colour I was beginning to lose my way with all the lines, so here I am filling in with strong colour and the paper is getting burnished. This is the point were your work develops a waxy sheen as the pencil is laid on so thick that no paper shows through and the texture of the paper gets flattened. Once this happens, there's no going back as the paper surface has irrevocably been changed (although I did once find instructions on how to almost seamlessly cut out an error and paste a new piece in--not tried by me). Burnishing can happen by accident (you're hamfisted and pushed too hard), by process (you apply the colour deliberately thickly) or by design--you layer up your dark colours and then when ready, you go over it with a lighter colour or even a clear wax stick called a colourless blender. Any of these methods with mash the paper texture flat and blend the pigment together. The skinks (lizards outside of Canada) are very burnished with lemon yellow being thickly applied over red orange and orange. The blues in the corner oval are burnished being ultramarine and plum below, with an over-layer of electric blue. Prismacolors are very waxy, and when burnished develop a jewel-like sheen that catches the light. It's beautiful up close, difficult to photograph (flash will show as a white flare) and scanning doesn't do it justice. Did I say I love pencil crayon?
I still have a long way to go, but at least now I have a few small finished/and burnished areas to use as benchmark for further fill ins.


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