Friday, April 18, 2008

Maggie on Art Materials, Part II

Today a brief post to talk about other fancy-schmancy stuff I’ve tried in the course of my pencils. Last post I mumbled somewhat coherently about the Bristol Smooth paper I often use.

I love trying new supports and so here are the ones I’ve tried, from most successful to least.

Top of the list has to be drafting film. I use Dura-Lar Matte, which is a non-yellowing acetate alternative (if we’re being official). Make sure you get the matte, otherwise your pencils won’t stick. Anyway, film is this lovely strange surface that is very smooth and buttery. I only ever managed to get two layers (on each side) and never had much luck with solvent on it. Because it’s so terrible to blend but amazing for fine detail, I had a great time using this for the 8 gagillion ACEOs I did last year (ACEO = Art Cards, Editions & Originals – 2.5 x 3.5" of art).

It is, as its name suggests, transparent, so it's easy to get fun and fascinating effects by experimenting with which colors you make dominant (on the front side) and which you make more subtle (on the back side). I still recommend that newbies to film start very small on this support and give it a few pieces to get the hang of it. It is absolutely nothing like working on paper, and if you treat it like paper, it will treat you like crap. The pieces around this paragraph are all 2.5 x 3.5" pieces I did on drafting film. See the crazy detail? It’s because the film loves detail like I love sweet tea.

Okay, next up. Artagain black paper. This is a nice, smooth paper that lets you play with working on dark paper without having the crazy toothiness of Colorfix paper (mentioned in the first post in the series). Drawbacks to working on black paper include ugly green colors when you try and use yellow without putting white under it first and not being able to erase without creating a mess uglier than a Ford Festiva. Here’s an example of an old piece I did on Artagain.

Next is another white paper. Arches HP Watercolor paper. It’s got a lot more texture than Bristol Smooth, but it still takes colored pencil without making it look like chicken wire. There are other good watercolor papers out there for colored pencils but when you’re trying them, I’d recommend looking for “HP” by the name (versus “CP”). The HP stands for “Hunky Prince” and who doesn’t need one of those?

No, seriously, it stands for “hot-pressed,” which results in a smoother paper than cold-pressing. Here’s an example of an old piece I did on Arches HP. Notice how much of the toothiness you can see through it – it’s almost grainy looking.

Finally, some weird supports I tried but wasn’t thrilled with: wood, canvas, Clayboard, and Mi-Teintes paper. Wood was interesting but didn’t layer well, canvas was really bumpy (even smooth portrait canvas - the image on left is on canvas) and didn’t layer well, clayboard was slick and didn’t blend properly, and Mi-Teintes paper . . . . well, I was fine with Mi-Teintes once I decided it was manufactured by the devil to torture colored pencil souls still on earth. Every time I try it, I have to fight endlessly against the chicken-wire pattern on the rough side or the ugly, tactless smooth side. You might have luck with these supports, but I just didn’t like working on them, even if the eventual results were passable as something like art.

And one last footnote to this . . . I was sent samples of a new board, r-tistx boards, to try out, and I finally got around to trying the week before last. It had a sort of colorfix type sandpaper surface on a white archival backing board and the color went down okay (though not as nice as pastelbord from the get-go) but things went weird when I layered. Once I got a some pigment down, the next layer started sort of swirling up from the surface and making a dusty mess on everything. So I decided to tamp it down with some solvent. Well, that worked much better . . . um, until I started back with my pencil and it ripped right through the sanded surface and straight down to the slick board.

Hm. Might be just that board. I’m going to try one of the other sample boards sent before I write it off as too fragile, but I have to say that after two hours of work on a piece, I was pretty p’oed. Plus, it would’ve been done already if it had been on pastelbord. So, grrr. But again, it usually takes me a few tries on a new support to get the hang of it, so jury's out.

Questions/ comments? Question's and anything I've forgotten will be tackled tomorrow.


jackie said...

Hi Maggie, thank you so much for this information. Its very helpful.

Rita said...

Great post(s) Maggie!

I have a question related to the pastelbord (although I suppose this could apply to any support) and solvents: Do you find that the application of solvent limits the number of layers that you can apply?

stacey maddock said...

great info maggie, thanks! have you ever tried working on metal? as a metalsmith i haven't tried it yet, but it is all the rage right now. the metal has to be sandblasted so the pencil can grip, but its quite a neat effect. i think its rachelle thiewes that has done it best, especially in her sculpture pieces. cheers!