‘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.
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.
An actual photo taken in daylight 🙂
Whilst today is dark and dreary again and even with my daylight lamp I have given up working, the other day it was sunny and light so I managed to take a photo in better light conditions.
The Banyan Tree is now completely finished and I am moving on to the trees on the right hand side which will then give me a framework within which to work on the background before tackling the two figures which are really the focus of the piece.
Whilst working on this I have been converting some new pencils. I don’t need any but like most artists I love new tools of any kind and pencils are no different.
Prismacolours are the most affordable and have such lovely colours but I do know they are prone to breaking and can cause problems. Luminance are so expensive and far fewer in number but do have such a good reputation although I did hear of someone who sold hers as she couldn’t get on with them.
If I did buy any more I would really need to think about storage. If I did this then I would probably need to see about setting up a proper work space rather than working on my lap in the conservatory where I have light, warmth and often company, a place and way of working that suits me. So for now I’m sticking with what I’ve got….today at least 🙂
It’s not the best photo as I had trouble getting the picture straight but I’m sure you get the idea. It was fun to do and I may get some cards made up from it when I get a proper photo taken.
I was going to save this until it was finished but as I haven’t posted any new work for a while…..here it is 🙂 It’s still a work in progress but hopefully will be finished by the end of the weekend if I work hard.
Its 100% coloured / colored pencil on Bristol Board. Only tiny though, around A5 size.
The art group I paint with has their Christmas exhibition coming up in December and I hope to have some new work to show.
For me the most important aspect of any portrait, be it animal or human is the eyes. The eyes need to capture the essence of the animal or person and if these are wrong the whole portrait is wrong.
Once the eyes were right I began to develop this portrait by laying out in the lightest colours, the shape of the face.
Doing this lets me see the shape the face needs to take as well as allowing me to begin to build up the layers of colour. The slower I work the better the result. Pale layers first then gradually getting darker whilst paying attention to the colours I can see in the fur. Darkest darks and lightest lights are important to lay in.
I also build up the fur slowly and again by starting light and moving towards dark.
Being careful to pick out the colours that make up the White fur is very important as this again helps to give depth. By laying in the short fur first then moving towards the longer fur I can adjust the shape as I go until the portrait is complete.
What at is so important here is that it not only looks like no carries the energy and character of the pet.
This is a portrait of my last pet who sadly is no longer with us.
I used mainly Faber Castell Polychromos along with a few Derwent Coloursoft and worked on Fabiano Ingres paper.
Needless to say this is not and never will be for sale.
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.