About me: Yelena Shabrova, an artist and web designer who lives and works in Silicon Valley, Ca. See more of my art at shabrova.com or visit duskowl.com for everything that has to do with graphic design and web development.
Looking back at all my attempts to make colored pencils play nice with the digital canvas, I have to admit that they certainly prefer a traditional linen one. So the blank digital canvases that I still have will be used for other media. For example, a graphite pencil:
Miniature – graphite pencil on canvas, 3.5″ x 2.5″
Things learned with this one:
- only soft graphite works, harder grades scrape the priming off the canvas without leaving noticeable marks
- for blending, small sponge makeup applicators and bristle brushes work best
- common erasers are of little help when you need a highlight or to scrape off a mistake, but kneaded eraser works wonderfully (I am using a Koh-i-Noor Hardtmuth eraser that comes with its own case and like it better than other brands I had before)
- an x-acto knife can be good for small bright highlights, but using it requires care because it easily gets deep into priming and scrapes it off
- areas treates with a x-acto knife are still good for blending tools, but pencil marks behave unpredictably, so better be avoided
My other canvas experiment that is yet to be finished is a mix of the black India ink and graphite. I am not sure how I like the result so far, but we’ll see.
This one was created with Derwent Coloursoft pencils, not my usual Prismacolor. The good thing is that these pencils are really, really soft and blend together easily. The bad thing is that in just a few layers it becomes impossible to add more color. The next stroke tries to lift off what’s already on the surface. This is not such a big deal with lighter colors, but getting good darks with Derwent on canvas (at least on a digital one that was used for this piece) turned into a challenge. The solution: use a softest graphite pencil you have. Koh-I-Noor Hardtmuth 7B worked quite well for me.
Most of this one was done with an artificial light, and today I was going to put finishing touches on it while we were at the Pescadero Beach. But the sunlight showed me that more than just that was needed. Good thing that the weather was very warm and without strong winds, or the miniature would travel back home to be finished there. I must say though that colored pencils start to lay on the canvas in a funny way as humidity goes up. I think if I was working with water soluble ones, I would end up with a painting without adding water.
Finally, a miniature on a digital canvas that was not a struggle:
colored pencil on canvas, 3.5″ x 2.5″
I noticed that colors almost do not smear at all on this type of canvas and put dark branches first, then moved to the clouds. It worked – branches stayed dark, clouds stayed clean, no mess at all. And it probably helped that I used harder Derwent pencils for the branches and my usual Prismacolor ones for the rest.
That’s the pleasant part, always good to finish even a little piece. Now, the unpleasant one: this miniature, like the previous two, was done on a digital canvas, and apparently it has a shorter patience with multiple layers of color than a traditional canvas does. In the process of “thinking” about earth colors right on the canvas I found out that I better make up my mind quicker, or the color will start to chip off. It didn’t really come to chipping off, but from my previous experience with paper I know the feeling that the pencil gives you right before the surface gives up. That’s a little disappointing, or maybe it’s a good opportunity to learn how to be more decisive.
That’s right, this little piece went with me over half of the globe and back. I had big drawing plans while visiting with my family and friends in Russia, and as it usually happens very little of it got accomplished. In fact, this is the only thing I managed to finish in 3 weeks, all done either in flight or in airports. Yay for working small.
As much as I enjoy the gessoed canvas, it has one serious problem when it comes to colored pencils: the unsupported area inside the mini stretcher bars. I found two workarounds: working with a very sharp point that does not require much pressure and keeping a finger against the back of the canvas when I need to burnish. Unfortunately, burnishing does not happen without pressure.
Slava suggested to try a digital canvas on a piece of wood. We had a few samples left from the time when he was in the process of finding the best canvas for his photography, and he stretched one for me. The sunset above is my first mini landscape on the new surface. Lessons learned:
- a digital canvas is finer and more dense
- it has more “tooth” (or what should it be called in this case?), and even a slightly dull point will leave white gaps on it
- it is not possible to correct small mistakes with a white pencil on a digital canvas
- all strokes, even those made with a dull point, look harsher on a digital canvas than on a traditional one
It feels like a good surface, I just need to adjust to it.
Fall colors are almost non-existent outside of urban areas here. The best we see when hiking is a few colorful trees or shrubs here and there. The rest is either brown or green that later turns bare. But there is a a nice aspen grove at the edge of the Stevens Creek Park, it actually turns golden in October. It’s a wonderful sight then – glowing trunks and branches against bright yellow foliage. The only thing that can make it better is a backdrop of either blue skies or water.
colored pencil on canvas, 3.5″ x 2.5″
I know that Sunol Park looks pretty impressive in fall too, but for one reason or another we keep missing its autumnal beauty every year.
As it turned out, you can fit quite a lot into 3.5″ x 2.5″, more than I hoped to. If I planned a little more carefully, there would even be more space for the water at the bottom. Instead, I ran with the clouds first and fitted the rest into what little space remained. Morale: even for a tiny piece, start with thumbnails. I would love to do something with cloud reflections.