One of the topics I’ve been looking forward to talking about on my blog is my process. I wanted to introduce a more detailed account of my process that I don’t usually explore in conversations with viewers who always ask “How did you make this?” and “What kind of paper is that?”. I’m going to show you the making of my latest piece, the first major work since my thesis exhibition in May.
First, a little bit about my materials! I’ve listed all the materials I use and the brands I like.
Paper: The paper I’m working on is not actually paper, it’s actually a polyester film, called synthetic paper in art supply stores. The brand I like is Mylar, but there are lots of types out there all different sizes, weights, and transparencies. I use a Mylar that has been frosted on both sides which is translucent and also a good texture to draw on. Compared to a normal drawing paper, it is very smooth so graphite, charcoal, and colored pencil can be laid down very evenly and value can be built up with little effort. Colored pencils can still be blended (and erased!!!) but less application is required to get a nice coloration. Synthetic paper can also be rolled easily for storage, and comes undone flat almost immediately. You can roll finished artwork as well, as long as none of the materials are prone to flaking off or smudging.
Colored Pencil: I started using colored pencil about a year ago, as I was starting my thesis. I was previously a black and white only kind of girl, but I have been converted. Colored pencil is very easy to use on Mylar, no filling in tooth like normal drawing paper. I only use Prismacolor pencils, but I haven’t used any other artist grade pencils so I can’t really compare them to anything. For the most part I have been happy with them, though the cores are very prone to breaking (tips fall out when you sharpen) if they get dropped or jostled too much. I have the full range of colors, but I do have favorites! I’ll point them out during the step-by step.
Watercolor: For most of the backgrounds I use watercolors. (Acrylic washes or printmaking processes in other cases.) I’m using a set of Windsor and Newton pan watercolors that was my Grandfather’s ( guess that says something for their longevity!) I use mostly opaque blues, greens and purples mixed with black.
After I have a composition in mind, I start by sketching the main parts to scale on separate sheets. I maneuver them under the Mylar until I have the correct placement then trace over the sketches onto the Mylar. I outline different pieces in separate colors that will blend well when I fill them in completely. I’m using hands and different types of seaweed in this composition. Here’s what my image looks like at this point…
Now that the main elements are fixed in position I can move onto the background. I don’t leave the background until last so that I can adjust the main composition by adding elements or erasing them as needed to balance the overall image. I’m applying the background to the back of the Mylar on for this piece, but sometimes I use a separate piece of Mylar when I want to draw on both sides of the main sheet of Mylar. I start by mixing up a few ounces of well-pigmented wash and dumping this onto the Mylar. I let this dry and direct the wash by tilting the Mylar sheet. Drying time is significantly increased since the plastic-like sheet does not absorb water. I continue mixing washes and letting them dry on the mylar to create patterns until the whole sheet is covered. This is the most time-consuming part of completing a piece. Here is what is looks like after a few washes have dried.
Below, you can see how the wash looks from the front of the piece. The drawn outline is just visible over the lighter areas of wash. When the outlined areas are filled in the dark shadows will blend naturally with the wash and lighter colors will pop off the dark background.
It will take at least a few days of working on the the background until it is opaque and looks natural at the edges of the sheet. I will show you the finished background and the beginning of the serious drawing to complete the front. I’ll talk about my favorite colors for shadows, natural highlights, and the greenery and skin tones that will be featured in this composition. So keep an eye out for “The Process: Part Two”!