Drawing Skin with ONLY 5 Colored Pencils

I love drawing with limited palette. It’s a great exercise in coming up with colors for which I don’t have a pencil. It eliminates the agony of going through a hundred and a half colored pencils trying to figure out which ones to layer (and in which order!) to get what I want. And as a bonus, it feels a bit like doing magic.

Here, Kirsty Partridge shows how to approach one of the most complex subjects, human skin, with just a few carefully selected colored pencils.

Tsunago: the pencil sharpener that creates a never-ending pencil

The biggest problem with pencils is that you can never use all of them. There are always leftover stubs that become too small for your hand and must be thrown out. It may be not a big deal with graphite, but what about colored pencils that can be quite expensive?

I learned to split the stumps and either crush leads from them for backgrounds or use them whole in a clutch pencil. But apparently there is a better way to fight stump waste: a Tsunago sharpener that actually creates a never-ending pencil. I need to try it!

Copying Other People’s Art Can Boost Creativity, Study Finds

Creativity and copying appear to be the opposites. Therefore, it seems unlikely then that there would be a link between copying another artist’s work and being able to create fresh, original work of your own. However, Kentaro Ishibashi and Takeshi Okada, an architect and a professor at the University of Tokyo in Japan respectively, have been researching this topic for several years, and they found that copying may help facilitate artistic creativity.

The increased creativity is not really a product of the copying itself, Okada says. Instead, it’s about being pushed beyond the familiar, being exposed to other possibilities, questioning the other artist’s choices and thoughts.

Stress-related hormone cortisol lowers significantly after just 45 minutes of art creation

Whether you’re Van Gogh or a stick-figure sketcher, a new Drexel University study found that making art can significantly reduce stress-related hormones in your body.

Although the researchers from Drexel’s College of Nursing and Health Professions believed that past experience in creating art might amplify the activity’s stress-reducing effects, their study found that everyone seems to benefit equally.

How to draw 3 points perspective

I finally found out who was the author of the perspective drawing with a rubber band video that was making rounds on FB:

It’s Reza Asgaripour. Would like to know why the second part of the YouTube title of the one below is in Russian, but regardless… it is as neat as the older one, if not more:

Reza Asgaripour is on Instagram too: https://www.instagram.com/architectdrw/, and here is one more of his neat videos:

It’s fascinating to watch even if the art you create does not rely on getting perspective right.

Inspiration is for amateurs…

There was a quote from Chuck Close on A.C.T. Art MArketing Blog part of which rang true to me:

If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself.

I don’t put the entire quote here because I am not all that sure about the beginning which is about inspiration being for amateurs and because the rest merely expands on the excerpt above.

It’s a fact, at least for me, that waiting around for an idea or looking at work of others gets me nowhere and eventually it feels like I’ve got a solid brick in my brain that makes it impossible to create anything. I do enjoy looking at what other artists do, by the way. I could do it all day long, it just does not help with the problem at hand. Drawing without much expectation is far better. I can abandon the original idea before I get too far, change it while it’s still changeable, throw the entire thing away because it refuses to cooperate, or base another drawing on the original failure. All of it is still more productive than waiting for a miracle to happen on its own.

There is no shortage of advice on getting inspired and getting over a creative block; I trust it makes a real difference for others, but for some reason it’s not doing much to me. Maybe I am approaching it the wrong way?

Coloured Pencil Lightfastness, from Coloured Pencil Society of Canada

This thorough article by Manon Leclerc covers lightfastness standards, manufacturer classifications, and how to do your own tests for artist grade colored pencils.

Why do your own tests? Because sometimes it’s not clear which technical standards manufacturers use, how much their ratings differ from other brands, and depending on the type of pencils the available information may not be clear. Case in point: watercolor pencils. Often, you can’t tell if the information applies to the dry or diluted state of the pencil.

Some manufacturers like Caran d’Ache thoughtfully indicate resistance to light right on their pencils, Lyra puts it in a slip inside their pencil boxes, so if you are married to one of those brands and don’t use any others, choosing your pencils by those marks is all you have to do to insure that your work will stay vibrant for decades to come. That is, until you run into a situation where you really want to use this particular color, but its resistance to light is so low that you have to look at other manufacturers for something similar and more durable.

The next best thing a manufacturer can do after marking their pencils is to put lightfastness information into one document.

Manon did a wonderful job researching documents related to lightfastness of Derwent, Prismacolor, and seven other brands of colored pencils, gathering results in one article, and posting links for each brand.

Derwent makes charts for all their lines easy to find. The article mentiones some of them but the links changed since the article was published, so here are updated ones: Artists, Studio, Coloursoft, Drawing, Graphitint, Aquatone, Inktense, Watercolour. The full list of documents for pencils and blocks can be found here: http://www.pencils.co.uk/search.aspx?s=lightfastness.

My dear Prismacolor only makes this information readily available for Premier Watercolor Colored Pencils, Premier Soft Core Colored Pencils and Premier Art Stix, and Premier Verithin Colored Pencils. Their web site does not offer search, and I lack time and determination to hunt down the rest of their lines. Some day. Maybe.

Referencing the charts is a little more of leg work but still convenient. These two brands are the ones I use the most, so links to their charts go here as much for my own convenience as to benefit another fellow artist.

Still, nothing beats your own testing that allows you to see real results, not some printed or online images. Manor guides you through such testing and discusses the results that can be quite surprising.

Finally, a fiber-tip pen black enough to my liking

I think my search for perfect travel-friendly fiber-tip pen is over. It’s been over a year since I started to look for something that could replace my trusted Rapidograph.

The dream pen that draws in pitch black is Staedtler Lumocolor permanent universal pen. The funny part is that I found it while cleaning art supplies bough at the last super sale at University Art. Somehow I never gave it a try after purchasing.

The ink is so opaque that areas of flat black look completely even, no cross-hatch effect, no distinguishable pen strokes. I am very happy.

Digital art, disrespected

In its June 2008 issue, The Artist’s Magazine published a letter from the digital artist Dani Montoya who asked if to allow digital artists compete with those who create their art with paint and brush. The September issue brought a whole bunch of replies. Not surprisingly, the only ones who supported Dani were digital artists themselves. The rest consisted of more or less purist attitude spiced up with advice on where Dani should take her “so called” art and what she should do instead of making unacceptable suggestions. The “so called” part specifically rubbed me the wrong way. I wonder if anyone who so strongly disagreed with her even took a minute to look up her art on the Web.

I sent a letter to the magazine too, but I am not sure if it will be published since many good points about why digital art is real have been already made. Besides, the magazine has this tidbit about letters they receive: “All letters become property of the Artist’s Magazine, and those chosen for publication may be edited for clarity and length.” While I can see why the editors want to do it if necessary, there is still a possibility that their idea of clarity could be different from mine. So I am putting my 0.02 cents here too, just to make sure they stay as intended somewhere.

I was doing digital art for several years when my kids were small and it was impossible to work with pastels, tempera or gouache and keep the house child-proof at the same time. Back then, I had no idea I could just switch to colored pencils and draw at tiniest intervals as kids’ schedule permitted. So Adobe Photoshop and later Painter became my replacement for pastel sticks, paints and brushes. Naive me hoped that I would be able to speed up the process since I could easily correct my mistakes or parts that don’t work on a digital canvas. Yeah, right! Turned out the only time I was saving was that needed to clean up the creative mess or put it away once the kids were awake and set it up again after they went to sleep. I didn’t start with a photograph as a basis for the artwork. I did a sketch either on the computer or on a sheet of paper that was then scanned and opened in Photoshop or Painter. The rest of the process was very similar to what I would do on real paper or wood.

I don’t do digital art anymore. My kids grew up, I can have charcoal, pastel and colored pencils lying around the house, and these are media that I prefer to work in now. But I will never call art created on a computer “fake” because I had an opportunity to learn first hand how real it is.

Traditional artists seem to believe that the computer does a great deal of work for you or that it is possible to push a few buttons and come up with a masterpiece. I am not sure how they envision this to work. Sure, you can apply a few filters to a photo, get some pseudo-painterly look, but this won’t make you an artist. No one in their right mind would think of entering an art competition with a altered photo, and it would be an insult to imply that this is what all digital artists do. Since Dani was very clear about her process, I hope no one who replied meant that.

So what gives? The program won’t draw for you; it has no concept of composition, contrast, or which colors work best together. If you think that a digital artist takes the photo and simply paints over it with strokes and blotches of colors, than it is no different from tracing a photo and filling the rest with real watercolor or oil. Will that art be acceptable for a competition? Will the judge be able to tell that the artist can’t draw to save her life after seeing a slide or a digital image? It’s not the medium of choice that matters, it’s the person behind the medium who either has skills or relies on shortcuts to compensate for the lack of them.

So what if the fingers of the digital artist don’t get dirty with paint or charcoal? It’s still a manual process; it’s still trial and error at times. It can be very time-consuming, just like rendering details with a fine brush or a sharp pencil. Not that time spent on producing a single piece matters of course, or by that logic plain air paintings should be discarded as the ones done too quickly to have any value. And you still spend years mastering the craft of painting or drawing digitally, just like with oil, watercolor, or pastel.

There also was a word “mechanical” used in regard to the digital art. What’s mechanical about putting your hand-eye coordination to work? What’s mechanical about building up layers of color with a digital pen? No, it does not look like a brush, but it can produce the effect that is indistinguishable from real washes of watercolor or impasto effect. Corel Painter is really good at that, yet it won’t paint a landscape or portrait for you. You yourself have to know what you are doing and where you are going, just like with any traditional medium.

Getting back to the annual competition, it already has various media in each category. If a still life done in colored pencil can compete with one painted with oil, how terrible it actually is to add digital art to the mix?

In conclusion, I invite you to look at the work of these artists who chose to create on a computer: Kevin Mack, Shannon Hilson, Mark Henninger, Russ Mills. With all honesty, what’s not real about their art?