Friday, November 03, 2006

"I have a question..........."

One of my readers sent me a question - and as I thought it might be something which others have wondered about also, I'm going to answer it here
I have a question. I hope you don't mind. Do you put down a line drawing or anything before you start to lay in your color with color pencils? I have been putting a light line of graphite pencil in but it shows thru the color. I'm not sure I can just start without a pre-drawing.
Thanks for the question J - and it's a good one.
You are in excellent company in needing to do a pre-drawing and in using a pencil. Many artists and draughtsmen use a pencil or some other erasable media for their initial drawing. Da Vinci used to ink over his initial chalk drawings (isn't it nice to know he needed a pencil drawing first as well?!) - and we know this because in some of his notebooks the only drawings that have lasted are the ones he inked in - the ones still in black chalk have faded and been rubbed away. He also created cartoons in black and red chalk which were then pricked to transfer the outline for a drawing to the surface for the painting. Van Gogh also inked over initial pencil drawings in producing his pen and ink drawings done using a reed pen.

I generally use a graphite pencil line before I start to use coloured pencils. My pencil of choice for this is a mechanical pencil with an HB lead. This is because I get a light and thin line and I don't need to worry about the graphite transferring to the colour pencil (unless I start using it to shade in the tonal values). I've included a photo of my Moleskine on the rocks at Pemaquid Point and my initial pencil outline - which you can then see developed further here.

If I use the pencil to produce tonal values then it influences how the CP looks - but this is not necessarily a negative. This sketch of the kitchen garden at Winston Churchill's home Chartwell, in Kent, illustrates what it can look like

In my sketches I also use pen and either black or sepia ink and, of course, this shows right through the coloured pencils, although the sepia ink is less obvious than the black.

In artwork which is intended to be a more finished drawing I also generally draw lightly with a pencil initially - and then I often erase it in the area I am working with coloured pencils. However this depends on the colour being used - if I know the area is going to be dark I quite often don't bother - but if it is going to be a light value then I will generally erase.

If I'm working on a coloured ground, then I might draw using a coloured pencil, usually a fairly light coloured one. On the left you can see an example of a very early stage in "A wall of ophioscorodon" where I've created a very basic 'thirds' grid and outlined the shape of the garlic bulbs in white coloured pencil before starting to lay down initial colours.

From my perspective, the answer to the questions of whether or not a pencil line should show through or not or whether this is a 'good thing' or not is that it is purely a question of individual choice by the artist concerned. It's essentially a question of what the artist wants to do and personal style. If you look closely at some artwork in watercolour or pastel by famous artists selling for many thousands of pounds/dollars, you can quite often see the pencil showing through - it's not regarded as a fault per se. Some people like to show the process they used to produce their art.

Personally I'm not that fussed about it - but I feel it also can depend on the subject and the degree of finish I'm trying to achieve.

What do other people think?

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6 comments:

Jeanette Jobson said...

In coloured pencil I create a detailed master line drawing first, then I transfer my image onto the paper of choice using a pale coloured pencil, so graphite showing through never is an issue in that medium.

And unless its a sketch, in which I want that mix of lines and the looseness that it provices, that's usually the process I use in most other mediums as well, with the exception of watercolour. I do transfer a very light graphite pencil drawing to my watercolour paper and after I've laid in my main shapes, I try to erase as much of it as I can. My master line drawing becomes the reference then for shapes and tonal placement.

"JeanneG" said...

Thanks Katherine.

Freiluftmaler said...

I consider it a bad habit that blocks progress in drawing and in colored work. It blocks development of personal handwrite as well.

vivien said...

I don't normally draw in pencil if I'm using CP's - I sketch lightly in a variety of colours that will be in the final piece.

I haven't done many 'pure' CP's though. I tend to use them with/over watercolour.

I too like to see the process so it wouldn't necessarily bother me at all to see line, as long as it's sympathetic and not a hard outline round everything.

Sometimes with watercolour I wouldn't draw at all - just go straight in with areas of colour but it depends on the subject matter. Some subjects I feel the need to draw and to have the drawing showing as an essential major part of the finished piece - I'd feel the same with any medium, including CP.

Katherine said...

Martin - I can understand your perspective but I still think it's a question of individual choice. Also maybe leaving out an initial drawing in pencil is something people can do as they grow more confident in their drawing abilities.

I make myself draw in ink on a frequent basis so that that I can draw without a pencil guide - but it took some practice to be able to do that

Freiluftmaler said...

Hi Katherine,my statement was related to drawing. Please forgive me the following :).
Of course it is a question of individual choice,but the habit of doing a "predrawing" more than often marks a borderline and separates quality from the rest. Bert Dodson has delivered good arguments for the student to accept "mistakes". Another good related read on drawing is this one : Good draughtsmanship or real drawing .

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