Sunday, August 13, 2017

Delicate Veins on Flowers and Other Such Things

Initial orchid on left, veined and washed orchid on right.

This is an orchid from a few weeks back when I was doing test runs on the Pentalic Field Book (7"x10") along with a few other techniques. The Field Book surface is definitely cold press on one side, though I'll note that unlike the Pentalic Aqua Journals, only one side of a page is cold press, and the other is far more flat, somewhere between cold press and hot press. This is a feature I don't particularly like about the Field Book.

Getting back to the subject at hand: on this orchid, I was trying an initial contour-only sketch in red and purple Fancolor watercolor pencils, then inked with a pink Micron PN, then applying watercolors on top. (The black pen above is from an older orchid test using black ballpoint for veining, which didn't work so well, but the ballpoint—cheap as it was—was also waterproof.)

Original watercolor orchid.

The results are OK, but I wasn't able to get in the delicate veining due to not yet owning a spotter brush that could do the lines in watercolor, so I let the little sketch lie fallow instead of following up with a wet, sharpened watercolor pencil tip and doing the veining. This is primarily because I learned that heavy color laydown of the watercolor pencil has issues, such as less line control and the tip running out of water rapidly and needing constant re-dipping every second or so.

Eventually I did get a spotter and tested it out. I was not terribly pleased with using it for veining in this case. Spotters naturally don't hold much paint, so I was re-dipping every other second or so.

But then I decided to sharpen up my Pablo purple, and did the actual petal veining. It was highly effective and much faster, even though the Pablo didn't hold a perfectly sharp point; I just had to pay attention to which side of the point was getting worn down, and rotate the tip to draw more thin lines.

Veined orchid.

The veins turned out well, especially since they have that gentle quality of pencil that I love. Especially on rougher textured paper (especially cold press, but also on drawing paper), they have a very organic texture.

For extra measure I also added the spots on the "tongue" of the orchid in violet.

I then washed over the whole orchid with a dilute quinacridone rose wash. The lines and spots stayed, as these aren't aquarelle pencils.

This final wash was done to seal in the colored pencil—it doesn't smear or migrate as much like graphite does, but it needs some kind of sealing in or it'll still stain the opposite page of a journal, and washes with some watercolor seems to do the job.

You can also just stroke a colorless blender over the whole thing to seal. My friend Hajra Meeks (who has an awesome YouTube channel on watercolors and more) suggests using a thinned gum arabic solution—which is the binder in watercolors—for a colorless sealing wash, and that rubbing beeswax is also a nice way to seal watercolors and pencils.

(The Caran d'Ache colorless blender also supposedly seals and protects against UV damage, but I haven't tested this for myself and so can't verify if this is actually true in any or all situations.)

I really do like the brush give-and-take effect of the spotter, and it still has its uses—like signing my signature ever smaller, or messing about with gouache details; color pencils, at least at high artist grade quality, are nearly as transparent and luminous as watercolors to facilitate layering, which means that gouache details still are useful. (Caran d'Ache didn't call their top color pencil line Luminance for nothing.)

Watercolor and color pencil do complement on cold press in other ways. For instance, a single mid-strength quinacridone rose filled out this red sphere done in scarlet/carmine/cobalt blue/etc, which had quite a few white divots not colored in as the pencil pigment did not reach all the way in:

Red sphere on cold press in colored pencil, with watercolor washed over into the cevices.

Quinacridone rose in a mid-strength wash is a rosy pink, and yet it played the perfect background to the scarlet etc of the sphere. I could have chosen another color to fill in the darker crevices, as I did with the shadow (a mid-strength desaturated purple wash), but I decided not to, because I'm strange.

Alternatively I could have melted the color pencil into the crevices with a solvent. But if I were going to do that, I should have used watercolor pencil or watercolors in the first place, since solvents tend to entirely destroy that organic texture I do love about pencils.

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