Thursday, March 15, 2007

Playing with My Pencils

My work using colored pencils is almost always very representational and realistic; it requires a great deal of control. Meticulous planning and preparation are necessary to achieve the results I hope to achieve: studies for composition, value and color studies. Making art for me is usually a step-by-step process to get to the goal.

Every once in a while, I need to work in a completely different way: looser, freer and with no goal in mind. Working this way is almost playful and relaxing; it's focus is on Process, not goal. If I happen to make something that pleases me, fine; if not, fine. It's just a way to push my pencils around in a very different way, to mix them with other media, and to "explore the edges" a bit.

I've also found that some of this looseness is crossing over into some of my other work. And that's a good thing. I, personally, want my art to be more expressive and emotional, and not always just a great rendering.

That being said, here's how I make my little abstract exercises:

1. I generally use, Arches 140 lb cold press watercolor paper, torn into random sizes. I have a drawer-full. This one measures 8 x 11". (Here's the only planning part): I decide on a limited pallete, sometimes using a color wheel; think about a mood or feeling I am trying to achieve and maybe a loose compositional idea (which can evolve later). I then lay down some color with watercolor pencils, Inktense pencils, or water soluble pastels.

2. I add the water and offer very little control. You can add drips, move the paper, allow things to really move around! This is the part I like best and what I can never do with my other work.

3. I then begin to add more color with Prismacolor pencils and ink with Micron pens. This is usually where the composition either begins to work or I realize I have something to tear up for a collage. But it doesn't matter, just keep playing.

4. Then I might (as I did this time) use odorless Turpenoid to "paint" the wax pencil into the piece.

I may keep working on this to just see where it leads me. Maybe I'll add liquid acrylic paint, guache, gesso, more colored pencil, metalic paint - who knows. I'll show you where it end up.

It's a lot of fun to use this technique as a warm-up in the morning. You can start several small abstracts at once, visit them as you wish, toss them in a drawer for later. These are also wonderful to do when you are "between projects" or stuck.

If you try this, remember to "take your hands off the wheel" a bit and push your boundaries. I took a wonderful workshop from Dyanne Locati last year where she told us "If you always do the same thing in the same way on the same paper, you will become very SKILLED. However, to become a CREATIVE artist, you have to put yourself into the work. Too much reliance on your skills alone can make a cold, formal piece of work". (Ouch. She was definitely talking to me.)

Have fun and let me know if you try this!

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