Archive for category Medium: Coloured Pencil

Colored Pencil Painting Portraits || Alyona Nickelsen

Thorough and comprehensive, this is more than just a practical guide. Aloyna includes historical examples that set modern approaches in context and show how portrait painting has developed over the centuries. As well as exercises and demonstrations, there are example poses, explanations of skin tones, facial features and structure, and extended consideration of the medium itself.

The subtitle refers to “a revolutionary method for rendering depth and imitating life”, which is a harmless enough strapline to aid sales. The blurb glosses this as “new layering tools and techniques”, although I do seem to have heard similar claims elsewhere. I’m not debunking the claim or the superb quality of the book, but I suspect that the author hasn’t in fact discovered something completely new, but rather adapted the glazing-like approach that coloured pencil artists have been using for some time. For all that, the results are impressive and the explanation of how to achieve them well executed, so you’d have nothing to complain about.

Watson Guptill books are characterised by their assiduous approach and detailed explanations and this is no exception. It’s one to read as well as work along with and an excellent masterclass in its subject.

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Bird Art || Alan Woollett

This is not, I think it’s fair to say, for the faint-hearted. Birds are a challenge to paint at the best of times, but in this detail, you need absolute confidence with your materials and techniques. If you’re up for it, however, this guide will satisfy the most demanding exponent. If you think of the difference between basic flower painting and botanical illustration, you’ll get the idea of what’s involved. Back when I was selling books, I was always surprised by how well this kind of thing did, so I think there’s a solid market.

The medium used is graphite and coloured pencils, which are capable of great subtlety of shading and record fine detail readily. The book has, as you’d expect, plenty of step-by-step demonstrations, but the way they’re incorporated into the overall instruction is interesting. Rather than an introductory section on materials and techniques that is separate from the main work, Alan plunges pretty much straight in. There’s no real “basic” section, but rather considerations of composition, colour, structure and the overall shape of the finished work: “leaving space” is some of the soundest advice here.

There are more words in this than you sometimes get in instructional books, but also plenty of illustrations and this betokens the fact that Alan is under no illusions about the magnitude of the task he has set himself. Although I said that this is not a book for the beginner, he doesn’t short-change the student and explains both the technical and ornithological considerations absolutely as much as is necessary.

This is a major work and Alan carries it through rather magnificently.

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The Encyclopedia of Coloured Pencil Techniques || Judy Martin

This was originally published sufficiently long ago that I’ve never reviewed it here, so let’s have a go at it as a Search Press Classic. The first thing that should be said is that there’s no clue to its age on the copyright page or in the information sheet I get in advance. I would take points off for that, but I think the “classic” billing probably has it just about covered.

The Encyclopedia series, originated by the packager Quarto, was ground-breaking in its day. Innovation often looks stale after a few years, but this still has a vitality that won’t leave you feeling you’ve been left with cast-offs, and the information is still sound. Quarto productions are always design-led and usually work on a spread-by-spread basis, so you can open this more or less at random and find a topic covered as completely as it’s going to be – which is with surprising thoroughness, given the space allocated. Quarto are always good at conveying information efficiently.

Information contained covers media, styles, subjects and techniques and there are plenty of illustrations to guide and inspire you. At £12.99, this is about the same price as it was when it was new, which is a reduction if you allow for inflation, but not a fantastic bargain. However, it’s not an unreasonable addition to the canon of Classics and emphatically one that’s worth keeping in print.

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Botanical Drawing using Graphite and Coloured Pencils || Sue Vize

Along with watercolour, pencils are a favoured medium for the botanical artist because of their ability to capture fine detail as well as blend to provide subtle colour variation.

As you would expect from Crowood Press, this is a very thorough and comprehensive guide that goes into considerable depth. As well as detailed analyses of its subject matter, it also includes step-by-step exercises that allow you to get hands-on with plenty of supervision. Each of these lists all the materials used, which are for the most part Faber Castell and Derwent. Unlike watercolours, where a limited, or relatively limited, palette is commonplace, you may need over 20 different shades for one subject. It’s worth equipping yourself, though, as you do need to be sure that you’re replicating the example exactly. Botanical illustration is not an area where interpretation is desirable.

Subject include flowers, leaves, stems, seeds and fruit and even fungi. This is a book for the serious student, who it will occupy and enlighten for a considerable period.

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Botanical Illustration for Beginners || Meriel Thurstan & Rosie Martin

If your first reaction to seeing the title of this is “no it isn’t”, please bear with me, because I want to convince you it’s something that you can approach with a reasonable amount of skill, experience and determination.

No, you’re right, it’s not something you should attempt as your first foray into flower painting. Yes, no less an institution than Kew runs a prestigious course for something that many exponents will tell you is a lifetime’s study. A few years back, you could also have headed off to Cornwall’s Eden Project and enrol in its diploma course, where you’d have met the authors of this innovative and intriguing book.

Meriel and Rosie have an impeccable track record of explaining what can at first seem (and can easily be) tricky subjects. They also have the teaching experience to know where students’ blocks are and how to get over that initial hurdle of simply getting started.

Botanical Illustration in its purest form is a complex and highly technical subject. It’s used in preference to photography for producing example images that aid identification, picturing a typical plant or flower rather than a specific example and sometimes emphasising particular characteristics in a way that may not been seen in nature, but which guide the viewer towards what to look for. It requires a detailed knowledge both of the subject and of painting in general and the medium (usually watercolour) in particular. As I implied, at this level, it’s not something you can learn just from a book.

And yet. Here we have a beginner’s step-by-step guide. And it works. The trick is that this isn’t a book for the aspiring professional, but for the amateur who wants something a bit more specific than the slightly less formal flower portrait. What it has up its sleeve is to keep you working all the time on demonstrations and projects, rather than technical exercises. This is important because, in something as painstaking as this, it’s important to keep the reader’s interest engaged and there’s nothing like a steady stream of results to do that. Each stage builds on what has gone before and you’re learning and building skills as you go, almost without noticing it. No, it’s neither easy nor completely painless and you will have to put a lot of work in, but you didn’t expect anything less (did you?).

Every time Meriel and Rosie produce another book, I say it’s their best. I’m running out of superlatives. This one is maybe slightly niche but, my goodness, they’ve nailed a tricky subject.

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The New Colored Pencil || Kristy Ann Hutch

I’ll admit that I double-checked the publication date (it’s 2014) as most of the materials covered here have been around for a while and have been the subject of a good number of earlier books.

This doesn’t mean that this one isn’t any good, or is late to the party. In fact, having had time to consider its subject and the earlier treatments, it’s perhaps more of a considered opinion. The approach is highly practical and is based on a series of how-to’s such as Grating Pigment Over A Wet Surface, Creating a Muted Foliage Background or How to Use The Grid Method. All of these are subsections to general chapters on wax-based coloured pencils, water-soluble pencils and wax pastels as well as working with different media in combination.

I can’t say that the book offers any great new insights, but it does have a novel and accessible approach that, combined with a catholic selection of subject matter, gives it a wide appeal that may well make you think that, out of all that’s available, this is the one to buy.

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Drawing Birds With Colored Pencils || Kaaren Poole

Let’s get one thing clear before we start: this is an American book. You need to know that or you’ll be in for a shock the moment you look up “Robin”. There’s a UK-originated book coming later this year, but that’ll be on acrylics and anyway, this is so good that I think its transatlantic coverage is something you should try to ignore.

The book consist of a series of demonstrations which have a good amount of step-by-step instruction, but a limited number of individual illustrations. This makes it something for the more advanced worker, but frankly, this is a subject you probably wouldn’t want to tackle as a beginner anyway. Each demonstration covers a different species and starts with the colours you’re going to need. Kaaren tends to work using her colours straight, with only a small amount of blending, so it may be more pencils than you’re used to. She then proceeds in a series of three layers and explains the stages that go into each. You get an illustration for each layer but, as I said, not each stage.

Coloured pencils can produce wonderfully fine detail and are perfect for feathers, where a little blending gives you the softness of colour interaction. Achieving this is something Kaaren covers comprehensively.

This is a gorgeous book. The basic principles of mark-making, colour and structure can be applied to any bird, but you are going to have to be prepared to make that jump from what you see on the page to what you see on the branch. It’s worth the effort, though.

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