‘Serenity’ is my latest coloured pencil painting and is of a Maiko I was fortunate to meet whilst in Japan last year.
Throughout Japan I had lots of opportunity to see people, men, women and children in traditional costume and to take photographs but it was in Kyoto that I had the pleasure of meeting the Maiko who became the subject of ‘Serenity’.
A Maiko is a young woman who is training to be a Geisha, a journey which is both long and gruelling. As part of their training Maiko learn to become accomplished musicians, singers, dancers and conversationalists. When travelling in a group, as I was, it is sometimes possible to attend as dinner where a Maiko performs for the group, otherwise attendance at such a performance would be by invitation only.
The Maiko who performed for us was very young, graceful and unusually happy to talk with us, answering our questions and allowing us to take photographs. Many such photographs are carefully posed, with hands and head held in specific positions but with such amazing access it was possible to catch off guard moments too. It was such photographs that I chose to use for this work.
Having met the Maiko it was important for me not just to capture her likeness but something of her essence, the way she held herself and the sense of peace she carried with her.
The following work in progress pictures show how the image came to life, as usual by slowly building up layers of colour to create depth and texture. Clicking on the photos will bring up larger images.
I recently finished a Colour Pencil Certificate with the London Art College. It’s distance learning but with a tutor to whom you submit assignments and in return receive useful and constructive teaching/feedback. In the blurb it said that the course work takes around 6 months but that students have up to two years to finish which was just as well as I took 23 months. I’m not sure whether it’s that I work slowly, if I miscalculated the time,or if I took lots of breaks, but it was suggested to take 8-10 hrs for each piece of work whereas they took me anything from 25hrs to 60hrs +!
Anyway, I am now all done and very happy to have received a Distinction 🙂
I was also asked to write a blog post about my assignments for the college and if you are interested you can click here to read my blog and see my course work in its entirety.
In the blog I include my current WIP which is in fact now finished and so I will include the completed work here, slipped behind a mount so it gives some idea of how it will look when its ready to be framed.
The last two pieces I have worked on have involved fabric. The next piece I do I am hoping to take a break from it although as I have so many lovely photos from our last trip which was to Japan, many of which involve kimonos that might be easier said than done.
Having said that I have learnt so much about making fabric look like fabric that it has all been good practice. For me the secret has been not to look just at the colour but at the flow of the fabric, the lines that it takes and to make my strokes follow them. Now I am writing about it I realise that it is a bit like doing animal fur, making the lines follow the direction that something lies in rather than doing mown thing.
It’s not finished yet, it’s still a work in progress but I am getting there 🙂
I always like to see how a piece of work develops over time especially with coloured pencil paintings. I think we all go though the stage of thinking the work is ugly and that it’s probably not working only for it then to begin to take shape and become something reasonable (most of us amateur artists would never use the work ‘good’ about our work). This is one of the reasons that I take photos each time I stop working on a piece. Plus it is also always good to look back and see exactly how a piece has taken shape.
The other reason I take photos is that it is only by looking at a photo that I can really see what is wrong with a piece and what is working. All too often I fail to see something when working on top of it, only to see it clearly in a photo. Others use a mirror or turn a piece upside down, me, I take photos.
The light in some of these is not particularly good as they were taken with my phone due to a broken iPad and a flat camera battery but they serve the purpose for me anyway and provide a record of how the piece has grown so far.
My struggle the last couple of weeks has been not to use one or the other but to work out how Luminance and Polychromos work together and to understand the similarities and differences.
Before I purchased Luminance pencils I sought information online from others who used them. Apart from one person who sold theirs on because they couldn’t get on with them, everyone else seemed to love them. I read reviews as well as comparisons but really the only way is to try them for yourself.
If I had made my mind up last week I’d have been all set to box them back up but two weeks in I am beginning to appreciate Luminance. They are though very different to Polychromos and its taken me this long to work out why, apart from one being wax and the other oil that is.
Where Polychromos are translucent, like to be layered gently, building up the colour to something vibrant and glowing, Luminance are opaque, soft, mute almost and don’t like being layered as much. When you use a light coloured Polychromos over other Polys it blends, when you do the same with a light colour Luminance it can blend but equally it can shift the lower layers around, I’ve yet to find the tipping point but I am sure I will.
Last blog post I thought I’d been using Polys on top of Luminance but this time I tried on top, underneath and in the middle. Effects are different but they work all ways now I understand them a bit more 🙂
This is still a WIP but with every little bit I do, as with everything, I am learning a little more.
I hadn’t anticipated how difficult it would be to introduce some new coloured pencils in to the mix. After all I had worked reasonably successfully with two different types, mixed oil and wax based ones and managed to blend them with a Derwent blender as well as simply by using the pencils themselves. I had worked on several different types of paper, adapted and not run into problems so why now?
I’d like to be able to answer that but really I have no idea. Nor do I have any idea why having reverted to using Bristol Board, which has been my go to paper recently, and having decided to stick to just the Luminance pencils I should find myself picking up a Polychromos pencil and then working quite happily with both types with none of the previous problems.
Looking back at the last couple of days I have worked, I wish now I had paid more attention to what I was doing. I do think though that, as far as I can recall, I have mainly used Polychromos on top of Luminance. Whatever I I have been doing though it seems to have worked and not a solvent or blender in sight 🙂
From now on I will try and be more aware of how I am working to see if I can shed some light on this, both for my own satisfaction and also to help anyone else in the same position.
This though is my progress so far, not as clear as it might be as it was taken with my phone and then cropped. I will try and do better next time 🙂
My newest piece of art is of a young boy I saw while on holiday in Japan and gives me chance to try out my newly purchased Caran D’Ache Luminance pencils.
It took me a long time to convince myself to buy these pencils as they are the most expensive artists coloured pencils manufactured at present. They are wax, like my Derwent Coloursoft but seem harder, and softer and quite different from my oil Faber Castell Polychromos. Between the three sets I have a range of colours and consistency of leads. My challenge now is to find a way to make all these pencils work together.
I started this WIP on a Pastelmat paper that I had never used before. New pencils and new paper are not a good idea! I gave up and reverted to some Bockingford HP which I have used many times but I managed to damage the surface of the paper. My go to paper for recent work has been smooth Bristol Board and this became the support for my third attempt.
I decided I would only work with Luminance so that I could get to know them a little. I quickly discovered I needed to use my Polychromos for the detail, i.e. eyes, mouth and ears and also to bring in a slightly deeper strength of colour in places. I was relieved as I did this, to discover first hand what I had perviously heard, that Luminance and Polychromos can be used together 🙂
At the moment I am working on building up skin tones, trying to hang on to the translucence and smoothness of blemish free young skin as I do.
I have been waiting for the chance to scan in the finished piece in order to share an image that is straight for once. The problems of not having a working read facing camera on the iPad cannot be underestimated!
Clicking on the image will give you an enlarged version.
I used a mixture of Derwent Coloursoft and Faber Castell Polychromos and worked on Fisk Bristol Board.
The lace blouse was done with soft blues, mauves, grey and grey white along with some additional reflected colours. Trying to keep the colours soft while at the same time making sure the patterning of the lace was clear meant lots of breaks to give my eyes a rest. There was still some layering of colours but with much lighter pressure than the headdress for example.
I am changing the size of photos on here as I know some people have been having problems with copy-write infringement and illegal sharing of art work. I hope those I share are clear enough for you to see now.
Clicking on each image will bring up an enlarged image.
The next stage for me was to work on the jewellery whilst at the same time starting to add some colour to her blouse which is made of lace.