Following on from my post yesterday about how i did the background on my Gathering Strength piece.
Ways of working with CP's
I have noted during this piece that i actually have a couple of ways of working with cp's ... My technique depends on the value and texture of the section i am working on as to the way i will approach the process. I have also realized that i do this quite subconsciously. I thought others might be interested particularly those just beginning so here is my attempt at explaining it.
For Painters: I actually use a similar technique to this when painting as well but i find with painting i am not required to be as precise as i can go in and change things later which cant always be done with cp.
I typically trace the "basic" lines and shadows of the subject, especially for faces and details. At this point i am aiming to get the basic positioning of major elements so for instance on this piece i got the major lines of all three subjects their arms clothing noses eye etc.
Next, I always start with the background concentrating on laying down areas that require lots of colour or that are dark (seeing as i am working on white paper, if i was working on dark papers the white or light areas would be done first).
As i start to add colour to the other areas i am looking and basically drawing as i go, adjusting lines and curves and contours. As you may know, often photos are distorted and if you adhere directly to the initial tracing this will not always be correct so as i apply the first few layers of colour I determine what lines are where or rather where they "should" be, also where the shadows need to stop and start. As strange as it sounds i imagine if i could "feel" the contour of that line in 3D what way would that really go even if i cant see it. i.e. the curve of a forearm would curve around .. so rather than colour just in blocks of up and down lines the colour follows the contour of that line going around in a curve.
As i go along..
I typically will work in sections i.e. i decided that the first head i was going to do was my oldest son Max. I typically worked on his hair and his head (as these were merging with the background)and then moved on his shirt and legs and worked down.
For the first few layers on any section, I start with the darks and choose three values .. a dark, a midtone a light value of a base colour. Usually the dark is the shadow, the midtone is a base colour and light is a highlight so i will typically choose three pencils and start with those. I start blocking in the area with my darkest value with 4-5 layers and leaving the lightest value almost white with maybe only 1 layer... i often will start with the complimentary colour and if you know of Arlene Steinberg you will know exactly what i am talking about there, if not checkout this post about her book I recommend you buy it :) .
After i have added a couple of layers of the darkest value i will move onto my my midtones. Remembering to feather the edges always and ensure there are no distinct lines from one value to another, unless it dramatically is called for on the reference. I should Note: here i am checking the reference CONSTANTLY at this point, i have it printed out in front of me and checking it often as i go along.
Generally after i have about 3-4 layers down i tend to go over the area with a solvent and a cotton tip or makeup pad. I use Zest It which is a citrus based solvent but many others you can use.
As i blend i am remembering that this also goes in the direction of the contours of the subject, this is particularly important for the skin and curved objects.
As a side note: I have tried not to blend, but i have an obsession with the white of the support showing through, for some reason the work doesn't feel finished unless i have none of that showing through. Other artists leave it and i think their work is absolutely beautiful just in my own artwork i cant seem to do it.
HOWEVER: One thing to note if you are new to solvents, the only problem with this step is after you have applied solvent you are not able "undo" this step. The solvent will merge the pencil into the paper and is not removable. So for example, if you have a shadow which goes next to a highlight you need to be careful you don't go into the highlight area as you may run into problems if you try to cover your darker area with a lighter colour that is dramatically different in value.
It is this point everything looks really messy and using the solvent will mean that some layers have blended with other colours ie. if you have used complimentary colours you will see all your good work here and some other areas will have had their last couple of layers taken off.
When i was a novice, i would typically start to panic about now and think that i have ruined the whole piece (there is still a bit of panic now, but i have learnt to trust myself and the process and know it will all come together). Its usually at this point i leave the paper to totally dry.
Some people will work after just applying the solvent and pencil will kind of melt as they work but i am not a fan of doing it that way as i feel i cant get the detail i am after ..i like to start again once everything is try with a sharp pencil.
It's in the details
At this point i will really work in with the details, as i mentioned the solvent makes everything kinda messy and loose, its now that i start really defining (and checking with the reference) where exactly the contours, shadows values and everything is going and i basically will continue on with this process until i am done. It is here i will introduce other colours and build up the layers occasionally doing slightly more blending or rubbing where i feel it needs it.
For some reason i approach clothing and fabric differently. I guess its because this is often an area where i am less precise and it kinda evolves as i go along. I don't do much tracing when i do clothing other than the major basic folds and shadow areas, so I draw the contours and shapes as i lay down the layers of colour. Again here is really important to think about what what the fabric actually folds and how it would be if you ran your had over it sometimes i think the fabric goes one way but when i stop and think about it, its actually another.
For these areas i will often lay down white pencil on the highlight areas and blend that into the dark or base colour areas, then i will lay a base colour over the top of the white pencil and repeat this process a few times. Once i have done that a few times it will appear that they all are the same colour, but then when you use the solvent you can see that the white will blend with the base colour and the highlight will shine through. Then once the paper is dry again i will continue blending the base colours with the shadow and the highlight areas until i am satisfied.
An area i applied this process was in the brown section of my top as well as on the boys clothing.
So there you have it that's a bit about my process. I hope you enjoyed it its actually been really good to note what i have done so i can keep in mind how to go for next time :) If you scroll down on this blog you will be able to see the various stages that the piece went through.