It is in the subtle gradations of layered tonal effects that colored pencils excel. The demonstration subject here is a flower a single peony. The artist wanted the flower to emerge from its foliage background. To do this she employed a finely grained and non-directional tonal technique.
1. The artist used a few thumbnail roughs to work out the composition's basic color scheme—a split-complementary of green, red-orange, and red-violet. This initial color scheme was, of course, tentatively dependent on what was needed later. The artist lightly blocked in the peony on a medium-grained drawing paper with an HB graphite pencil. The complex petals were only sketchily suggested at this point, and because its stem seemed too spindly to support the flower's head, a foreground leaf was added to lend visual strength. Background foliage was not laid in with graphite, but was developed as the drawing progressed.
2. With a 943 burnt ochre pencil—chosen as a near-complementary of the green that was later layered with it—a tonal layer was applied to the background. The artist kept the pencil sharp to produce a fine grain. For evenness of tone, she maintained a medium pencil pressure and varied her stroke direction frequently.
Applying the burnt ochre to the background firmly delineated the outside edges of the flower, the stem, and its leaf. The graphite contours were progressively erased as these contours were restated with color. This firming up of outside edges suggests additional inside contours for the flower, and these were lightly laid in with more graphite. A small sheet of newsprint under the artists hand protected the drawing surface.
3. At this stage the artist added a first underlying layer of tonal color to various parts of the flower. The pencils she used are: 933 blue violet, for that part of the flower that is farthest back; 931 purple, for the core of the flower; and a 922 scarlet red, for the area most forward. A 911 olive green was used to model the bud jackets.
Besides setting up spatial structure, these three underlying colors on the flower also delineate the contour edges of the individual petals. This multi-petaled flower is easier to draw than you might think. It is basically a matter of arranging a color's values to contrast light against dark. The darkest values, and consequently the tones made with heaviest pencil pressure, occur where each petal begins. The color then lightens in value as it spreads toward the petals' edge.
4. The top peony leaves in the background were delineated by creating a negative space around them with a layer of 967 cold gray, light. The bottom leaves, those farthest forward, were delineated in the same way with a layer of 968 cold gray, very light. The foreground leaf was also toned with a 911 olive green pencil to indicate a suggestion of modeling, and a few slight linear elements were added to denote leaf veining.
Evaluation: The artist paused to objectively evaluate her drawing's progress. She felt her main problem was the color of the peony—it looked as if it were made up of three different hues. Her solution was to work more 922 scarlet red into all the petal areas, so the red-orange color would dominate. Fortunately, the drawing seemed to have no "worry spot." But the linear veining in the foreground leaf was not working well—probably because it was too isolated, with no similar line work anywhere else. Lines of this kind are not erased with colored pencil, but are made invisible by toning around them with a matching value.
Some of the leaf tones also seemed too ambiguous in some places. The artist felt a slight crispening and darkening of edges could add the needed clarity without overstating them.
6. To complete the drawing more 922 scarlet red was integrated with all of the flower's petals. Some 933 blue violet was added in the area behind the left bud jacket for better modeling; and some 916 canary yellow was lightly applied to the flower's petals nearest the front to help project them forward. Tones were generally refined and evened out and. of particular importance, a firmer gradation of hues and values was made on the flower's two lower back petals.
The artist used a 931 purple pencil on the left bud jacket, but not on the jacket at the right. The core shadow of the flower's stem was also darkened somewhat with the same pencil, and leaf edges were darkened slightly where they merged too much with the gray. In the vein area of the foreground leaf, the artist used a 911 olive green pencil to effectively "blend away" most of the line work. Enough modeling was allowed to remain, however, to suggest this leaf's supportive function for the flower.
5. With the drawing's structure thus established, its additional layers of color were tonally added. A 909 grass green was carefully layered onto the leaves at the top. Again, the pencil was kept sharp and the artist moved it in various directions. She avoided abrupt changes in value, because she wanted the leaves to be somewhat indistinct and just faintly seen. A 911 olive green was applied similarly to the leaves at the middle and bottom of the drawing. This layering of greens with the original 943 burnt ochre constructed a natural looking green of low intensity.
A 931 purple was applied over the flower's blue petals to reinforce the value changes already established by the original blue. A small amount of 916 canary yellow was added to the center petal, and 922 scarlet red was applied over these petals previously toned with purple. Although colored pencils do not blend by rubbing, extremely delicate gradations of tone can be achieved by careful modulation of pencil pressure and by maintaining a sharp pencil point.
For the stem of the flower, a 911 olive green and a 931 purple were layered to suggest a core shadow.
Single Peony 2. 65/e" x 8%" (16.8 x 22 cm), by Bet Borgeson
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