Thursday, October 25, 2012

Playing With Watercolour Pencils

Hello again!  Thank you all for your lovely, supportive comments on my last post about printmaking and my hand coloured prints. There were some really great questions and suggestions which I want to respond to in a moment.  But first I want to share the fun I've been having with my Derwent Inktense watercolour pencils!

Like my busy, brightly coloured table cloth...?  : )  My workspace is the dining room table, and this is my art making table cloth - paint spills won't show much on a busy patterned surface like this!  And I love how cheery and colourful it is - it helps inspire me.

First I decided to just do something "fun" to test out the Inktense pencils...

I love how bright and intense they are when washed with water.  My other "regular" watercolour pencils look so much more pale and washed out than these ones do.

That was so much fun I decided to try something else.....

In my minds eye the "Hearts can mend" piece was supposed to look much lighter and brighter, but somehow it ended up looking somber, dark and heavy.  But at least it demonstrated that the Inktense pencils can create some lovely rich colours.  : )

I surfed the internet to see how other artists are using watercolour pencils, and came across an online workshop by Dion Dior.  Her preference is to use Inktense pencils.  So I'm trying some of the exercises she suggests in her workshop.  One exercise involved blending colours using the image of a cherry.  Here's my version of her cherry illustration...

There are several layers of pencil 'washes' built up on this cherry to achieve the final image.  Once I was satisfied with the colours and shading, I went around the outside of the cherry, stem and leaf with a 0.03 fine tipped black Micron pen.  While I'm pleased with how it turned out, it made me want to try pencil-painting a "real" cherry.  There are cherry trees in the backyard where I live, so I found a photo from the spring and started my own cherry picture.

I love the soft look of the underpainting of the cherry (fuchsia pink blended with deep yellow)...

When the green cherries on the backyard trees were beginning to ripen in the spring they went through a phase of being a soft yellowy pink similar to the colours in this underpainting.  But today my intention was to pencil-paint a ripe cherry... so more layers of pencil were added and washed with water - layers of warm orange red, cool blue red, and a deep wine red.

And there you have it... a ripe cherry hanging from the branch!

I signed my artwork with every intention of it being a finished little piece... but the more I looked at it the more I felt like something was missing.  So I decided maybe it needed a little background colour. Out came the sky blue pencil...

The colour wash is really pale (and hard to see in the photo above!) but I think it finishes the piece quite nicely.  (Since you can't really see it, you'll just have to trust me on this... lol...)

One thing I like about using the watercolour pencils is that when you wash water over the pencil it doesn't completely dissolve the pencil marks.  I deliberately used that feature when laying down the blue pencil in the background - I don't know if you can see in the photo below (particularly the lower left corner) that I stroked the pencil in a bit of an arc.

I tried to stroke the pencil in curves and swirls over the entire background and even after it was washed with water you can still see faint traces of the original blue pencil strokes. I think this adds some nice texture and motion to the background.

Oh, almost forgot to say... one nice feature of the Inktense pencils is that once you've washed them with water and the paper has dried, the ink is fixed to the paper.  Subsequent washes of water will not lift or smear previous layers of pencil-paint. What a lovely feature of these pencils!  Makes glazing layers of colour so much easier than with traditional watercolour paints. : )

So there you have it... the fun I've had playing with watercolour pencils! 

Ok, now I'd like to respond to some of the comments from my last post on printmaking.  Hollace asked, "I am curious about the over-printing. Is that necessary?" In this instance it was necessary because the inks we were using to print with were water based inks.  Using water media over top of the inked lines created smeared ink.  : (  Not a good look.  There are waterproof inks available - oil based I believe - and if they were used a person could apply watercolour paint over them without any  problem at all.  But oil based inks require clean-up with chemical paint cleaning agents, etc, and the workshop instructor preferred to use the less toxic water-based inks.  So how do you use water-based inks and still over paint them with watercolours?  The instructor had come up with a method of printing her first image in a very pale colour of ink. For my prints I chose a pale grey so that if some of it smudged when I applied my watercolour paint it wouldn't be so noticeable. I did experience a little bit of smudging/smearing - applying your  paints with a single, light stroke is definitely preferable. 

Hollace also commented, "I think I would just try to 'color inside the lines' if the print were compromised by the wash."  You know, I never thought about just using watercolour 'inside the lines' but that could work nicely, too.  : )  "The blocks I've done were lino on a wood block. What you are using seems softer, like a rubber eraser. Did you like the product? The linocuts were hard and it was easy to lose control with force." Ah, yes... I remember the tough-to-cut lino from high school and yes, the vinyl material I used feels a lot like a rubber eraser!    This product is MUCH easier to use.  The instructor recommended a vinyl product called "Saf-t-kut".  It was quite soft and very easy to carve without a lot of pressure which gave me good control over the cutting tools.  Speedball makes a pink coloured material that seems similarly soft - it wasn't the instructor's preferred material so I haven't tried it yet and can't tell you much about it.  If anyone out there has worked with the Speedball product I'd love to hear how it's worked for you.

Suzi suggested, "I wonder what adding a little inktense pencil over them would look like."  Great suggestion Suzi! I'd not thought about doing that but I think it would work well.  The pencil stroke marks that show even after you've washed them with water would create more texture. That would have worked especially well in the foreground area of my print - the area that was to represent grass and vegetation.  I'll have to play around with colouring prints with Inktense pencils.  : )

As for the input on which print people liked best - it's a tie.  Between comments on the blog and comments on Facebook, it would seem that the first (blue greens) and third (all blue) prints tied for most popular and the second (warm sunset colours) print was many peoples' second favourite.  Thank you all for taking time to give me your input!

Not sure what project I'll be working on next.  I might play around with mixing traditional watercolours with the Inktense watercolour pencils... but then again... I guess you'll have to check back next week to see where the creative muse led!
-- Fern  : )

Thursday, October 18, 2012

More Fun With Print Making

Two posts ago I told you about experimenting with print making.  At that time I had three prints that I was going to hand colour with watercolours and then over print in black ink.  Well... they're done!... and I'm excited to show you how they turned out.

Peaceful green and blue-greens...

The warmth of the late day near sun-down...

Icy cool blues...

Three different versions - different moods.  Which one do you like best...??

If the last one (the all blue one) looks a bit blurry, don't run out and get your vision checked.  When I over printed it with black ink I didn't pay quite enough attention to making sure the plate was going to accurately line up with the grey lines previously printed.  Oops...!!  You can see the grey lines showing a little above the black lines in the picture below...

So, good lesson learned... check v-e-r-y carefully before overprinting to make sure you have everything lined up as closely to the original printing as you can!

Other than that little glitch, I think my experiment with hand colouring and over printing went quite well.  I'd like to try more printing and learn some new carving techniques.  So many thing to try... so little time!  lol...

In an earlier post I wrote about the fun I was having with pearlescent paints.  Unfortunately it does not show up so well in these pictures, but I used some pearlescent paints on the top of the mountain to try and create the idea of sun glistening off snow.

And I thought I'd share pictures with you of what the printing "plates" look like.

This is what the whole plate looked like before I cut the sky away.  The black parts are the uncarved parts that pick up the paint when the inked brayer (roller) is rolled over the print, and those are the parts that press the ink onto the paper when you lay paper over the plate and press down on the paper.

And this is my plate now - cut in two, so I can print the sky separately or not print it at all if I want to leave a blank area to hand colour (like in the three prints I hand coloured).  Notice that everything on the plate is reversed from the finished print?  You have to account for the reversed image when you are planning how you want to carve your image.  : )

Here is a view of the side of the "plate" - you'll see that in some placed I gouged a bit deeply into the rubbery material.  Good thing it was thick!  Practice would help me make more uniform cuts.

Other than that, I've been playing with my watercolour pencils again.  I bought some Derwent "Inktense" pencils and I'm loving the beautiful rich colour I get when I wash coloured areas with water.  Next post I'll show you what I've been working on...  (don't you love 'cliff hangers'...?? lol...)

I hope you're making time for some creativity in your life - it's a great stress buster!
: ) Fern