Friday, October 22, 2021

"Red Hair" (watercolor pencil on paper; 11" x 8.5")


"Red Hair" (watercolor pencil, 11" x 8.5")

I decided to blog about my online Zoom classes with the Art League School in Alexandria, VA. This is what we did in the fifth week of the fall term, 2021 for my "Watercolor Portraits" class. 
The lesson was about drawing portraits in watercolor pencils. The process is similar to watercolor in that we layer from light to dark. On an accurate pencil drawing, I began the portrait by hatching colors, starting with a turquoise to indicate reflected light on the shadow side of the head. Then I hatched and cross-hatched with lightest colors (cream and pale pink) and moved onto the mid-tone colors of orange, scarlet, and red purple; then, finally the dark tones (brown, violet, indigo, and black for the upper lash lines, pupils and iris outlines). When you are hatching and cross-hatching, be consistent and mindful. Below is where I stopped before adding water.

"Red Hair" in progress

When you add water to your drawing with a brush, you will notice the colors deepen dramatically as long as you are using the artist-quality watercolor pencils such as Caran d'Ache Museum Aquarelle and Faber Castell Albrecht Durer. What you are doing is activating the pencils. That's right. We don't use watercolor pencils the way we do waxy colored pencils. On their own, watercolor pencils are anemic-looking; it's only when they are activated with water, they begin to sing. 
Please avoid the temptation to scrub the hatched texture to obliterate pencil strokes. If you don't like the strokes, why bother with watercolor pencils? It's time-consuming to hatch and cross-hatch and there is no point in erasing them with water. These pencil strokes add charm and the graphic texture to the finished work.

After the paper dries, you can add more tone by using watercolor pencils as if they are watercolors. How? With a clean wet brush, you pick up tone from the long lead of a pencil and apply it to the desired area. (By the way, I don't use a mechanical pencil sharpener to sharpen my pencils because it tends to eat up pencil leads and sometimes break them!) You can dip the pencil into water and draw with the wet lead (upper lash lines, upper lid folds, hair, etc) to strengthen lines.
You can also use a nail file to grate pencil leads onto a wet area to create texture like freckles, etc. Keep adding more tone until you are satisfied. You can of course introduce watercolor, but we didn't in this lesson.

By the way, what kind of paper works best with watercolor pencils? My favorite is Fabriano 140 lb hot press paper; I also like Moleskine watercolor sketchbook and Strathmore 500 series drawing paper pad (8" x 10" is a good size). In other words, smoother paper with less pronounced tooth than Arches 140 lb cold press paper seems to work better.

The following are the colors I find useful for skin tones in case you want to purchase a few more watercolor pencils:
Naples ochre (Museum Aquarelle or M/A), Light flesh (M/A), Medium flesh (Albrecht Durer or A/D), Salmon (A/D), Light purple pink (A/D), Burnt ochre (M/A), Pompeian red (A/D), Purplish red (M/A), Caput Mortuum (A/D), Carmine lake (M/A), Dark flesh (M/A), Violet pink (M/A), Periwinkle blue (M/A), Light malachite green (M/A), Light olive (M/A), Olive yellow (M/A).

I've played around with watercolor pencils. Here are some of the results; the last one is my self-portrait!

"Self-portrait" (watercolor pencil, 8.5" x 5")

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