Monday, December 21, 2009

Colored Pencils - Tools of the Trade

So, let's talk a little bit about the actual pencils that are used in colored pencil art.  Most people will be tempted to go cheap and pick up a set at a dollar store or in the kid's section of a hobby store.  If you are really serious about creating art with colored pencil you will avoid this temptation like the plague

What's the Difference?

Here's the deal. Colored pencils are a combination of a pigment and a medium.  Normally that medium is either wax or a combination of wax and clay.  The problem with cheap colored pencils is that they contain way too much wax and not near enough pigment.  The result is that your drawing will end up with so
much wax that you can't possibly get enough pigment on the paper to get the rich colors that you desire.  That is why so many colored pencil pieces look like coloring book drawings.

So don't skimp out.  In order to create the effects that we will be working on here, you will have to have a good quality set of colored pencils.  I recommend either Prismacolor or Derwent.  Both are very good quality.  I personally prefer Prismacolor simply because that is what I started out with and I am comfortable with them.

Color fastness

Some people avoid using colored pencil at all because they fear the color fastness of the medium. They are afraid that the colors will fade over time.  While this may be the case with cheap pencils, there really is nothing to fear with a good quality product unless your finished pieces are going to sit in direct sunlight all of the time.  The pigments in colored pencils are just as colorfast as the pigments that are in watercolor and pastel.  In fact, in many cases, they are the exact same pigments.

If you are still concerned, Prismacolor came out with a line of colorfast pencils not too long ago.  They are a little more expensive, but if you have a serious concern about color fading, you might consider trying them out.

Sets or Individual Pencils?

This is entirely up to you.  If you want to invest the money into a good quality set, go right ahead.  If you are a bit hesitant then try just a few at a time.  As we progress in through these lessons I will tell you exactly
what colors I am using for each project.  so, if you want to just purchase one at a time at a local hobby store, you will eventually end up with a pretty nice set of the colors you will use the most.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The future of PencilPortrait.org

With the recent publication of my new book, The Real World of Pencil Portraits, I have decided to take this site in a slightly new direction.  For many years I have been working with colored pencil.  With the right techniques you can do some amazing thing with the medium.

The first few posts coming up will be mostly about the tools needed for vivid colored pencil artwork.  Then we will start with a small project to learn some basic techniques.  As we move into larger projects we will eventually get into stunning color portrait work.

Here are a couple of examples of my past art to let you know how powerful the colored pencil medium can be.







I want to thank everyone so much for all of the support you have given me since I started this web site. I look forward to hearing from each and everyone of you as we move forward.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Real World of Pencil Portraits

Since I created this site I have received countless requests to publish my lessons in a book that people could take with them or give to loved ones as gifts. You have all encouraged me with your feedback on my pencil portrait lessons, and as I result, I have given you what you have asked for. This is the first in an upcoming series of art instruction books.

Art doesn’t have to be difficult and complicated. Artistic ability doesn’t have to be granted from a divine being. This series of books will show you how to make art simple. You will be able to create wonderful works of art that your friends and family will cherish forever, and all you will need is to learn a few simple techniques and understand a few simple concepts.

So here it is! The first in the “Real World of Art” series: “The Real World of Pencil Portraits.


You can learn more about the book from either the publisher’s web site at Real World Book Publishing, or at Amazon.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Art of Art - A Search for the Definition

Over the years I have experimented with many forms of art. Invariably, I have had people say things like, "That looks really nice, but it isn't real art." For example, this piece was created by taking three different photographs, putting them together in Photoshop and applying some artistic filters. The complaints that I recieved were that I didn't create anything, all I did was put photographs together and apply filters.




So, I opened Photoshop again and I created this image. This was created entirely in Photoshop but I did not use any photographs, I simply used the software as my medium. Again I was hit with, "That looks really nice, but it isn't real art." Why? Because I didn't use physical materials. I was told that anyone can create images that look good on a computer, but not everyone can take pencil to paper or paint to canvas and come up with a work of art.



Pencil to paper! I went to work. I created these three images using graphite pencils and artist's paper. Surely no one is going to complain about this. "That looks really nice, but it isn't real art." What? What's wrong with this one? It seems that replicating an existing photograph without making any "artistic" changes to it, keeps it from being art.



Ok, so that leads to the question: what is art? What are the elements required to make something a work of art? I took a long voyage of research to come up with answers to those questions, and I found them. In fact, I found so many answers that there is no way I could possibly include them in this article. Besides that almost every single definition I found of art contradicted every one else's definition. It seems that discussing the definition of art is almost as explosive as discussing politics and religion. What a dilemma. How was I supposed to come up with a definition of art for my blog post in a situation like this?

Time for a trip to the St. Louis Art Museum. I spent a lot of time on the main floor studying the old masters. I marveled at the skill and talent that was on display. Then I went upstairs. One of the first things I ran into was the Rock Circle. Um....what happened to the skill and talent I marveled at on the main floor? This was just a pile of rocks in a circle, anyone can do this.




Then I came across Spectrum II. Well it looks really nice, but it isn't real art. I mean anyone can take canvases, paint them a solid color and then hang them all in a row....right?


Photo by Gabriel

Yeah, that's right. I had become the very person that was complaining about my own art. As far as I could tell, I was looking at things that took no skill whatsoever, it couldn't possibly be art. Yet these works were on display at one of the country's premier art museums.

I had decided that art could not be defined by skill and talent. As an artist I decided that it must simply be defined by the fact that the creator of the work declared it art. But as I looked at the world around me I came to the conclusion that there had to be a different definition. I started seeing buildings as works of art. Meals presented at restaurants, wind and water erosion, rust on old pieces of metal, the patterns of stripes on a house cat all started to appeal to my artistic senses. So, does that mean that art is in the eye of the beholder? Maybe, but that doesn't really sound right either.

Time to turn to the old standby...Wikipedia! Here is what they say about art:
Art is the process or product of deliberately arranging elements in a way that appeals to the senses or emotions. It encompasses a diverse range of human activities, creations, and modes of expression, including music and literature.
Ok, so that doesn't really work for me either, but it is the closest I have found yet. I have at least learned that I was as guilty as anyone else when it comes to being an art snob and I have broadened my appreciation of art in the process. The bottom line is this, don't ever let anyone tell you that your work isn't "real art." But at the same time, if you are quick to judge what others think is art, maybe you should take another look.