I remember in grade school, one of my favorite things to draw with was colored pencils. I would spend hours and hours creating with the ones that came in the small box ,only had about 6 colors, and came from the local 5 and Dime. I would wear down the tip in no time and sharpen them over and over until there was hardly anything left to hold on to. But it was so much fun and I just loved that I could take them anywhere. They were really one of my favorite things.
Now, as I look back, I have to admit, I hardly even think about using them today. Maybe it is because, we have been using colored pencils since we were kids and they just seem like such an elementary kind of art material. One that was always on our school supply list, that was used to keep little ones quiet while waiting in the doctor’s office, or to decorate homemade cards for grandma. Today, many artists do not really think of them as a professional medium.
Well, colored pencils have been ignored for way too many years, and it’s time we take them seriously! Prismacolor has spent years developing this basic art tool into a fine art material that many artist can not do without. Professional graphic artists have used colored pencils to produce highly detailed illustrations for children’s books, medical manuals, and design layouts for interior design. Also, as professional cartoon artists are preparing your Sunday comics, they still use indigo blue pencils to draw cartoon characters before committing them to ink. This certain color of blue (a non-photo blue) will not show up when copied. So the preliminary sketch can remain without having to erase it. I feel we will continually see this medium through out the art industry as a professional tool artists just can’t do without.
Prismacolor is one of the art industry leading manufacturers of fine art pencils. They have a wide variety and selection of colored pencils, as well as, watercolor and drawing pencils. They use only high quality pigments and take pride in the final product they produce. Prismacolor knows that quality and value is truly important to today’s fine artists.
With so many choices in quality, many artists are discovering that colored pencils make the perfect travel companion. They come in an enormous selection of colors and styles are quite clean to work with and are relatively inexpensive. So, why are so many of us still reluctant to explore the colored pencil world?
Recently, I picked up a small tin of Prismacolor pencils from our outlet. Inside was a beautiful and informative pamphlet created by Nina Weiss. I was so intrigued by the technique in which she used to create the colorful and illuminated sketches, that I went looking for more information about her and her artwork.
Nina Weiss is a professional oil artist from Highland Park, IL. She paints highly expressive landscapes by building the medium in rich layers atop a huge canvas. Her artwork is well known and recognizable throughout the world. She has a unique approach to oil painting and, also, an even more unique approach to developing her inspirations for her paintings. Nina utilizes the complete array of colored pencils to create the road map for her larger oil paintings.
Most artists rely solely on a gray scale value sketch for the design of a painting. Nina, however, develops the idea as a basic gray scale, but, also, goes further to completely render the view as a fully finished work of art in colored pencil. This is usually done on site in the field and enables her to capture the essence of the inspiration en plein air. Nina journals with colored pencil while traveling, not only because of the portability and convenience of the medium, but because of the rich and vibrating colors they can create. She has discovered that colored pencils can stand alone in producing beautiful and exciting paintings. Nina has partnered with Prismacolor to create a three part DVD that explains her unique colored pencil process. I was really excited to try out this colored pencil technique.
Nina’s You Tube three part demonstration-
My Studio Notes:
As I began to review the Prismacolor video of Nina demonstrating her process, the view she chose was basically just different shades of green. At first, it really didn’t appeal to me, as it was a subject that didn’t seem too challenging. Just green. However, Nina’s approach to sketching was much more than laying down various blocks of green. She unlocked the mystery of how to create something incredibly interesting by using the complementary colors as an under painting for her green subject matter! I was very intrigued, indeed!
So, I accepted the challenge of this unfamiliar medium and set out to find a suitable subject. I looked for a similar view as Nina had captured in her video. A non-descriptive landscape with, basically, just shades of greens, and in this early part of summer, it was not hard to find.
My drawing kit consisted of all of the necessary supplies.
Kilimanjaro 9x12140lb CP Paintbook- I keep gravitating to this particular sketchbook because I love the Kilimanjaro paper and sketch paper, both which are included. I like the spiral binding and the convenient sizes.
Prismacolor Premier 24 colored pencil set- Thinking about people just getting back into colored pencils, I chose the 24 color set, because it was cost effective for a beginner and still had a nice selection of basic colors. Nina makes mention in the video that she uses all of the colors in the 150 piece set during her demonstration. Well, maybe I will add to my selection as I become more familiar with the process.
Prismacolor Colored Pencil Accessory Set- This accessory set is essential when just starting out! It includes a colorless blending pencil (great for melding layers of color), 2B drawing pencil, colorless blending marker, kneaded eraser, plastic eraser, pencil extender (when your pencils get down to a stub!), and a basic pencil sharpener.
Prismacolor Premier Pencil Sharpener- Prismacolor recommends this particular sharpener for colored pencils over most other sharpeners. It can sharpen to a long slender point or a stubby thick point. Use this sharpener only for colored pencils. This will keep the blades sharp longer. Prismacolor recommends that you hold the pencil in the middle and turn the sharpener around the pencil to sharpen. Do not apply too much pressure. Professional grade pencils are glued along the lead to keep them from breaking during use. Caution: Dropping a pencil may cause the lead to break inside.
After collecting all of my “tools”, I loaded up my Cheap Joe’s Art Stuff Artist’s Tool Belt (aka. Cheap Joe’s Fanny Pack)! Ok, I know it’s just a fanny pack, but that term seems so outdated and the least reference mentioned about my fanny, the better! This thing is loaded with zippered pockets and room galore, with plenty of storage for all of my plein air art stuff. Hey, my dad was a carpenter and he always wore his “carpenter’s tool belt”, so, I feel it is completely appropriate for me, an artist, to call mine an artist’s tool belt! Just sayin’!
As I settled in at my plein air location, I basically, began with a small simple value sketch. This gave me a chance to find my focal point which is in the lower left hand quadrant of my sketch. Lightest lights- Darkest Darks.
Next, I drew my view with red colored pencil, blocking in simple shapes.
Then, I roughed in the first layer of warm undertones of the complementary colors.
Adding in the second layer which is mainly several shades of greens.
The last layer was comprised of details and strengthening darks.
Although, I think I over worked the mountains in the back, I was really pleased that my “basically green” landscape had a “not so green” finish! I really loved the warmth and vibrant foreground and feel the project was a wonderful learning experience. This challenge has really ignited my desire to use colored pencils more than ever before. Nina has been a great inspiration to me in trying something new and different with traditional colored pencils. I enjoyed all of the information in the DVD demonstration and found it to be a great help in developing a strong travel sketch. Colored pencils are the ideal medium to carry into the field. With this simple tool kit, you can draw and capture beautiful landscapes like never before.
Nina is scheduled to teach at Cheap Joe’s in Boone, NC, August 12-16, 2013. She will be sharing all of her knowledge in creating colored pencil art. This technique and much more is to be expected. This is a wonderful opportunity to learn from an artist with years of experience and a background of teaching that will ensure you will leave with the inspiration and knowledge to continue what you have learned outside of the classroom.
“You love to draw and travel! Combine the two as you learn to capture fresh, expressive landscapes using water-based color pencils and non permanent graphic black pens. Learn elements crucial to successful landscape drawings with emphasis on a creative use of color. The workshop will cover colored pencil techniques such as layering, hatching; wet and dry usage; and the use of value and tonal value. Experiment with both studio sketching from photographs and plein air drawings on site. Nina Weiss is a nationally recognized artist with over 25 years of teaching experience, including fifteen years at the school of the Art Institute of Chicago, as well as, many other locations!”
So, dime store colored pencils, while a wonderful childhood memory, are not to be confused with the professional quality colored pencils that are available today. These are true artists’ tools and have a permanent place in my “Artist’s Tool Belt” every time I venture out to journal. Travel sketching is a wonderful way to bring home a more personal souvenir from every trip or vacation. You get to take home the landscape without removing its contents and share the experience with family and friends. What a great way to see the world through your eyes as only you can see it.
Take time to try new things, even if they aren’t so new, but something forgotten like those dime store colored pencils. You might discover, like I did, a new technique that I now just love, love, love! You might uncover a great new desire to sketch. You might try an exciting new workshop that will be an experience you will never forget! And you might even meet a new friend that can teach you a thing or two about art!
Take all of that possibility and make it a reality, today!
I Hope You Have a Happily Colored Pencil Day!
And Keep your Colored Pencils Sharpened and your Travel Sketchbooks filled!