Monday, June 30, 2008

Really Whale Down Those Colors

Whew. I'm back from my two-day colored pencil workshop at the Apple Tree in Springfield. It went really well. Much caffeine was had by all. As it's the last workshop I'm teaching for awhile, I thought I'd reveal a few of the secrets of the world here on the blog. Well, secrets of my workshops, anyway.

Here they are -- do with them what you will.

  • We spend half the workshops getting over the fear of failing. The path to success is littered with bodies. For every successful colored pencil piece I turn out now, there are at least twenty quite hideous colored pencil things (not even fit to be called 'pieces') laying moldering in some garbage pile somewhere
  • We do three versions of each piece. A two minute value sketch (like the black and white sketch of the books), a 10-15 minute color sketch (like the color version of the books) and a final piece that takes 2-4 hours (like the portrait of Moose at the top)
  • All the time that you spend staring at your art, trying to decide what to do next or what color to pick up -- that's time you could be using to slap some color down. All those "ums" "ahs" and "ers" really add up. That's what preliminary sketches are for.
  • I have discovered that if I were made into a doll with a pull string on the back, I would say the following phrases: "push those dark values." "Whale down those colors." "Super sharp point on that pencil, ladies." "Do I need to come over there and heckle you?" and "Pick out some wild colors!"

Sunday, June 01, 2008

May Artist Wrap-Up, May Artist: Nicole Caulfield

Grrrr. I think the universe was intrinsically against me finishing up my May Artist series, because my internet was knocked down by thunderstorms every evening that I was home, making it totally impossible to blog this week. So I'm going to take the hint and finish up with the last artist I had earmarked before my internet went wonky: Nicole Caulfield.

Regular readers of this blog will recognize her name, because she's one of my close artist chums -- we e-mail daily. But even though we're friends, that's not why she's on the blog today. She's on the blog today because I admire her work hugely and have for a long time.

Like me, she's a colored pencil artist that works on board -- she's the artist who introduced me to pastelbord -- and she's been a huge influence on my work.

Now, without further ado, the reasons I like her work:

  • Absolutely jaw dropping texture. Look at the folds in the cloth, the crinkles in the paper. More than just photorealism, I believe in the weight of the fabric and the snap of the paper.
  • Coherent palette and style. I know instinctively when I look at one of these pieces that they are a Nicole Caulfield: everything screams Nicole from the color choices, the subject matter, the cropping, and the grain of the pencil -- everything is very uniquely Nicole.
  • Those long weird crops. Oooh, I love them. Let me count the ways. Composition get more difficult the further away you move from a traditional rectangle format, but Nicole deftly leads the viewer's eye through the piece through careful angles and color choices.
  • Deliberate. Nicole's pieces have a sort of studied intelligence to them, and I have a feeling that's because she composes and takes all of her own reference photos herself. I've seen the process she goes through . . . every item in a shot has a reason to be there.
  • Sense of light. Nicole has a great grip on dark values, so she gets a great effect of light. Again, just . . . thoughtful.
Nicole is definitely the colored pencil artist I look up to the most and I think she sets a pretty fearsome standard.

I hope all of you guys liked the May Artist project - I have a new project for June that I'll post about tomorrow.