Tuesday, February 26, 2019


2/23/19 Caran d'Ache Museum, Derwent Procolour pencils in Stillman & Birn
Beta sketchbook

Shown here are two sketches of the same heirloom tomato, before and after Greg cut a wedge for his salad. In the first sketch (below), I was trying to take the painterly approach that I’ve been studying lately: using more water and fewer applications of pigment. I don’t like the results at all – the colors are muddy, and it was extremely challenging to paint around all those reflections on the tomato’s lobes when I had a juicy brush that I was trying to move quickly so that the water wouldn’t pool.

A couple of days later, I tried again (above), and the cut surfaces of the tomato presented all new challenges that I’d never encountered before (obviously I need to sketch incomplete tomatoes more often!). Getting the hue of the shaded side of the cut gave me the most difficulty. Although overworked from many cycles of dry-wet/dry-wet watercolor pencil applications to try to get the colors and textures right, I thought that taking the painterly approach worked well on these cut surfaces. Blending colors wet-in-wet looks more convincing than trying to draw the organic color changes with dry pencils or with a more methodical approach.

By the time I got to working on the smooth, uncut surface of the tomato, I had sort of forgotten about practicing more painterly techniques and fell back on the more methodical, multiple-application approach I had learned in class. It was much easier to keep the hues from muddying by using less water. I’m finding I also don’t like the look of a large area of one flat color when activated with water (the tomato’s shadow, as in the sketch below)  – the brush strokes show, no matter how carefully I work. So for the second sketch, I left the shadow unactivated. I prefer the interesting contrast between the smooth tomato and the textured shadow.

2/21/19 Caran d'Ache Museum, Derwent Procolour pencils
One experiment that is working well is using traditional (non-water-soluble) colored pencils for certain lines that I want to retain sharply, such as the ones describing the “cleavages” between the tomato’s lobes. If I draw these with watercolor pencils, I lose them all when I apply water, and then I can’t see them anymore when I need them to guide the highlights. When I draw them with non-soluble pencils, I can still see them through the transparent activated color.

Both sketches were done in a Stillman & Birn Beta sketchbook, and I gotta hand it to this paper: It takes everything like a champ. My overworking demanded many sequences of wet/dry, lifting color with a paper towel, and finally erasing back in a few secondary highlights that I lost during the overworking – with an electric eraser! The paper’s surface shows no signs of pilling or other damage.

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