After all the previous doodles, in December I decided I wanted to do some that were a little more complex/ challenging (something I hadn't been able to handle for a while). I also wanted to do something different with the background. Me and my bright ideas... The contorted clouds in this one seemed to take forever. But I like the result very much.
I'm amused that this one, an attempt to vary the curvy and flowy tendencies, ended up looking a lot like heavy metal album art. I had a hard time keeping the dark pigment dust out of the light areas and vice versa, and the paper began to get overworked from all that 'scrubbing'. Turns out this paper does have an eventual limit of how much pressure it can handle, though it takes a while to get there.
This one is a bit different, and I love its exuberance: a Scythian-esque fish, amid Celtic-esque waves. I was stumped for a long time on what to do in the background that wouldn't get overly busy and compete with the waves. Finally I found a color scheme that was muted enough to work, partly inspired by rediscovering pre-Raphaelite/ symbolist artist John Duncan
. I atypically kept the strokes in the sky loose, not fully blended, to make it more energetic and ethereal. Although the waves are mostly saturated, there too I avoided taking it to the ultimate polish, because I didn't want to lose the vigor and spontaneity of the colors. It's also a good break from my default color scheme.
All these were done with mostly Prismacolor brand pencils, on Stillman and Burn gamma series paper.
(In general, this medium photographs really poorly. I get truer color using flash, but then I end up with unwanted shine on the glossy surface. The fish photo is unsatisfactory in that regard, but still the best image I have, and the edging of the top one should be a darker blue.)
Every time I use this technique, I find myself wondering why I do it--why spend so much time building up layer after layer to achieve full color saturation, when I could just squeeze brilliant red or deep blue right out of a paint tube? Plus it's MUCH easier to cover mistakes and restore highlights in acrylics than in colored pencil, which requires more strategic forethought, reserving the lightest areas and laying in the darkest ones cautiously. But working with a pencil or pen has always seemed much more intuitive to me than working with a brush. Sure, I can do good stuff with a brush, but the color rendering just seems to take more mental translation. Also, pencils are extremely consistent: x pencil used at x pressure gives the same color every time. Paint has a lot more variables: how thick or dilute, ambient temp/humidity affecting drying time, proportions used in mixtures, amount of paint on the brush, shape and material of the brush, how absorbent the surface is, whether the layers and strokes blend or stay distinct, etc.
Above all, what I have finally realized is that I use this technique because I enjoy it, even when it seems to take forever and makes my hand hurt. The very fact of going over and over an area is part of what I like about it... getting the enjoyment of creating a shape not just once but repeatedly, making it emerge almost sculpturally from the page. It allows me to savor the creation, like slowly unwrapping a present or sipping a delicious drink instead of gulping it. Because it goes gradually, it is also less likely to abruptly go wrong. And although pencils are predictable, there is still a certain amount of mystery in determining what layers to lightly apply so that the right color and texture will emerge when the final burnishing blends them all together. It's the kind of enjoyment many people get from a crossword or sudoku, except at the end, I get a drawing!
Still, I do have a tendency to lose interest at the very end, when the discovery is past and it's just a matter of filling in all the last unwanted spots of white paper. These were all started in the winter and then ignored for a while, so when I got fired up about drawing again in March and April, I decided I should finish them before I started something new.