First Attempt at Art with Color
This may be a little surprising, but I’ve never really worked with color. Well, back when I was a kid in school I’m sure I painted something. But, in terms of art as a hobby, I haven’t branched out at all from my basic graphite pencil. Exploring other websites via the WordPress Reader has really opened my mind to it though, because I’ve seen so many amazing artists sharing paintings, sketches, and other mediums that exist beyond black and white. I really like what I’ve seen from watercolor artists, but having zero experience with paint, that seemed like a huge step. I decided to take a crack at colored pencils, since that’s in theory closer to what I already do.
I found what looked like a pretty decent deal on Amazon for 132 pack of Prismacolor soft core pencils for $53. According to the box, they are “artist quality” with “soft, thick cores to create a smooth, rich color laydown.” I’ve seen these things for a couple bucks per pencil at Hobby Lobby, which makes $53 seem like a bargain for so many. And according to camelcamelcamel’s Amazon price watch, that’s a great price historically speaking.
So, I placed my order and received the pencils a couple days ago. They came in a really nice tin, and…well…there are SO MANY PENCILS. It’s actually pretty overwhelming, and as I started working with them, I wondered if perhaps I should have gotten a smaller set. But, I suppose having options is a good thing. Even though I still can’t figure out which color blue my hoodie is.
I decided to go back to a scene I already did, which is of me, my wife, and our two little ones. Before jumping in, I watched a couple of YouTube videos to get a feel for how others use these soft core Prismacolors on people. There are some amazing artists out there using these; for example, here’s a lady named Luisina Juliete doing an incredibly lifelike portrait of Emma Watson. I got some great tips from videos like that; specifically, how to blend colors using white. Here’s a clip of me blending sort of successfully:
My primary takeaway from this experiment? Working with color is hard. Very hard. And it’s extremely time-consuming, requiring tons of patience. I’m used to being able to knock out a sketch, if it’s relatively basic, in an hour or two. But you really have to take your time applying color, and for me it requires a lot of focus. Sketching with a regular ol’ pencil is more of a mindless activity. Much respect to the artists out there who create beautiful things in color, because it’s quite challenging.
The final product I think turned out okay. For a first time dealing with color blending and matching, it’s probably the best I could have hoped for. One issue for me was that I might have some small degree of color-blindness, possibly in the blue-purple range. I struggled selecting the right colors, and I think I botched the coloring around everyone’s mouths. Also, some skin coloring around the eyes ended up making us look really tired. Which, honestly, we probably were in that scene. I was surprised that, with 132 colors to choose from, there weren’t a dozen or so dedicated to skin tone variants. I guess I took for granted that individual people actually have many different colors represented in their skin, especially in the face. So, that was an unexpected challenge, and a ton of blending practice.
Now that I’m a bit more familiar with some of the colors, I think the next one might involve a little less guesswork. Also, that very skilled colored pencil artist I linked before (Luisina Juliete) sometimes uses a bit of paper as a color palette, similar to a painter. She scribbles a little color to get a feel for the right tones, which I didn’t do for this one, but I think it would probably help. I also wonder if the baseline sketch should be lighter, with no standard pencil shading. If I’m going to work in color, the shade should probably come from the colored pencils. I’ve also wondered what it would look like if I did the sketch in pen, let it dry, then added color using the pencils. I’ve seen some people do that with water color, and it looks awesome. I doubt you would get the same effect with colored pencils, though.