When I started this project, colour pencils wasn’t something I was looking forward to. Matter of fact I was apprehensive – past experiences were that they’re a very labour intensive medium requiring a lot of patience and time.
Even when I did a search online for colour pencil art I was suprised that practically all results were tightly rendered drawings –meticulously blended and layered to an inch of its life.
I dont mind realism in art and do appreciate that for some people this technique is a very meditative, zen-like thing. The love and care that goes into them is also unquestionable. Sure there were some abstract examples but they were still heavily blended, layered drawings that saturated the entire page with colour. This isn’t a crticism, just an observation.
It was perplexing because I expected a wider range of styles and techniques in my search results. For instance a search on watercolour art or dip pen & ink art still presented a decent amount of examples that weren’t so traditional in their approach.
Which I feel is a bit of a shame as having spent time playing around with them it became immediate to me that they are a far more versatile and exciting medium than what is shown.
There is a beautiful intensity to the colours and the swiftness in which you can lay down consistent colour is an advantage. Paints and brushes need to be mixed and cleaned repeatedly, and even mediums like markers can start off super-charged bleeding with colour, but will eventually wane and become streaky.
I don’t even think it matters greatly in regards to the quality or brand of pencil. All the sets I had, ranging from kids to professional worked well. The only quality concern I had was in some of my Derwent Rexel Cumberland pencils dirt particles in the lead left a scratchy result.
The actual shape or diameter of the pencil itself matters. For some reason, colour pencils are more physically taxing on your hand than graphite, so finding one that feels comfortable to use would be a better investment. Paper, I believe, should be at least proper drawing paper like cartridge, not bank or layout.
Spending the day learning from the works of Paul Klee was fundamental in freeing my mind of how colours can be used. It’s a great warm up exercise for any kind of colour exploration, not just pencil – graphic design, sewing or even ideas for landscape gardening! Definitely beneficial for artist’s block.
However, the most satisfying results came when I stopped seeing it as a ‘colouring-in’ medium but more as a drawing tool. I started using them with the same headspace as I if were using a graphite pencil or a pen to draw with. For instance if I saw some blue light reflected off a surface I would ‘draw’ it in rather than softly and neatly merge it into its neighbouring colours or colour in a designated space.
What I like about this technique is that it keeps a lot of the colours clean and pure and allows your eye to optically mix them, a bit like a Seurat or a Pointilist painting. It also allows the paper to come through and what that does is it let’s the drawing breathe. It gives it animation, life, vitality.
That was another observation I found in a lot of existing colour pencil work. There’s not much of a symbiotic relationship with the paper and the artwork. It’s merely a surface in which to execute your art. If that doesn’t make sense, again I’ll use the example of watercolour art, where the paper can be used as a compositional element.
When I used them in combination with watercolours they also showed that even used sparingly they can be elegant, subtle and still be the main attraction.
Towards the end I felt really comfortable using colour pencils and rather enjoyed them. I came up with some pieces that I’m really proud of, surprised at even. They will definitely make more of an appearance in my work from now on. I wish I had more time to play around with them as my happy results have only led to more ideas and thoughts. Well, I’ll definitely wont let them collect dust anymore!
The Creative Plan – Day 5 Colour Pencils