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Blog Category: Icarus Technique

“River Pebbles, No. 12”

Title: River Pebbles, No. 12

  • Size: 6" x 6"
  • Medium: Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils (Verithin and Softcore), Caran d'Ache Luminance Colored Pencils
  • Tools: Tortillions, Paper Stumps
  • Surface: Extra Fine Texture Canvas primed with several coats of clear Art Spectrum Colourfix Primer
  • Technique: Icarus Drawing Board
  • Mounted on a 6" x 6" x 2" Ampersand Claybord and varnished
  • To see how I mount and varnish my artwork, please refer to my post on Glassless Framing.

The outline was accomplished with Prismacolor Verithin on the cool zone of the Icarus board.

In this step I blocked-in the main colors on the warm zone with very low heat, just enough to soften the waxy pigments.

After setting the temperature control at medium, I began adding pigment until the canvas was completely covered. I then blended the colors with a tortillon or a paper stump.

I really enjoyed this piece. However, now that it's finished, I wish I made it larger. The swirls of colors would have looked even better on a 12" x 12". It probably would have taken me the same amount of time had I incorporated wax pastels (Neocolors).

I just mounted the canvas on a 6" x 6" x 2" Claybord. Soon I can varnish it, photograph it, and put it for sale on my website.

 

Open Studio Announcement

My next open studio will be Saturday, March 22nd, from 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM, four spaces available.

This is an opportunity to meet and share your artwork in progress, ask questions, watch me demonstrate the Icarus technique and try the Icarus board.

I will have boards set-up for all attendees, plus some basic supplies and refreshments. To sign up please email me at: [email protected]

This event is on a first-come, first-served basis, and if you don't make this one there will be more announced regularly on this blog and on Facebook.

Please bring:

your artwork, finished or in progress
your questions​
your curiosity

I'm looking forward to seeing you on March 22nd!

 

“Beneath the Blue”

Title: Beneath the Blue
Size: 15" x 20" - after framing 26" x 31"
Medium: Prismacolor Premier, Caran d'Ache Luminance, Derwent Coloursoft, Faber-Castell Polychromos colored pencils
Tools: tortillions and paper stumps
Surface: Art Spectrum Colourfix Supertooth board
Technique: Icarus Drawing Board
Presentation: mounted on a 3/4" Ampersand Claybord, varnished and framed

Getting back to flowers after a long hiatus was exhilarating. As you can see, Beneath the Blue, as all my flower paintingsis depicting a daisy below the water surface.

Here's an excerpt from my artist statement that gives you some insight on my vision: "Water transforms everything it touches: hard lines become soft, warm colors cool, solid shapes break down into parts. Realism evolves into abstraction and the ordinary becomes extraordinary. The interplay between these realms is an endless source of inspiration for me."

For original and giclee information please click here.

 

Open Studio Announcement

On Saturday, January 25th, from 9:00 am to 12:00 noon, I will host my first free "Open Studio" for a maximum of four artists. This is an opportunity to meet and share your artwork in progress, ask questions, watch me demonstrate the Icarus technique and try the Icarus board.

I will have boards set-up for all attendees, plus some basic supplies and refreshments. To sign up please email me at [email protected] com.

This event is on a first-come, first-served basis, so if you don't make this one there will be more announced regularly on my blog and Facebook.

Bring:

  • your artwork, finished or in progress
  • your colored pencils in use
  • your questions​
  • your curiosity

I'm looking forward to seeing you on January 25th!

 

“Unveiled”

Title: "Unveiled"
Size: 24" x 48"
Medium: Prismacolor Premier, Caran d'Ache Luminance, Derwent Coloursoft, Faber-Castell Polychromos, Caran d'Ache Neocolor I and II, Holbein Oil Pastel
Tools: Tortillions, Paper Stumps and Colour Shapers
Surface: Extra Fine Texture Canvas primed with several coats of clear Art Spectrum Colourfix Supertooth Primer
Technique: Icarus Drawing Board
Presentation: Mounted on a 3/4" Ampersand Claybord, varnished and framed

I'm very proud to have completed this piece, if nothing else for its size alone. It has accompanied me through the trials and triumphs of this past year. It's been a faithful companion even though I neglected it for long spells, at times in favor of other artworks, and later during the long months of my youngest son's illness, surgery and recovery.

It was born out of necessity. I sold its twin brother "In Between", before I had a chance to have it professionally scanned. I had many requests for giclees so I decided to redo it four times its size. Since I was familiar with the subject and technique, I thought I could concentrate on the challenge of working on a much larger scale.
 

Above is the enlarged drawing I used to trace the outline on the canvas with Verithin colored pencils. I like to use local colors to avoid erasing graphite. On this blog post you can see how I traced it.
 

Of course I made some changes along the way. This progress photo shows a large stone on the bottom left corner that I eventually replaced with smaller pebbles. I used an electric eraser to lift most of the pigment and then drew new pebbles on top. 
 

Here I mapped the area with Neocolors and oil pastels. Neocolors are very useful, especially around the edges, because they can be sharpened. Oil pastels come in such a wide selection of colors, I would be limiting my palette if I weren't using them. At this stage I set the temperature of the Icarus board to low. 

 

The photo above shows the results of melting the Neocolors and oil pastels. I normally melt at the highest temperature using a colour shaper. Then I blend further and pick up any extra pigment left on the surface with a paper stump. At this point the Colourfix primer's texture has resurfaced again, making the canvas receptive to colored pencils.
 

Here you can see how I further developed the colors, values and details using colored pencils, with the board set at medium-low temperature. The perfect tools for blending colored pencils are tortillions and paper stumps.
 

When blocking-in, it's not important to include all color nuances and details. These can be developed later with colored pencils. 
 

Melting the pigment is probably the most exciting application of this technique. Again, it's not necessary to create perfectly smooth blending at this stage; that's what colored pencils are for.
 

Above is another example of how I developed the colors, values and details using colored pencils.
 

In this third series of close-ups I’d like to talk about how to speed up the process. Mapping with Neocolors and oil pastels is much quicker than mapping with colored pencil. Some of these rocks can measure up to 12 square inches or more!
 

Melting the waxy pigments is a very effective technique for fast coverage of the canvas surface. It compares to dissolving water-soluble Neocolors with a brush, except there’s no color or value change with heat.
 

Another valuable time-saving technique is adding all the details at the end. Highlights are time consuming if you need to account for them from the beginning. I created all the thin highlights by subtracting the pigment with a Verithin white pencil and by going over with a softer pencil or with a sharp, white Neocolor.
 

In the photo above I’m showing how I devised an easier way to work with a large canvas. I placed a 20” x 20” claybord, 2” thick, along the side of the Icarus board, thus creating a larger surface for the canvas to rest on. 
 

What’s appealing to me about working on canvas versus paper is that I don’t have to worry about creasing or bending it. Canvas is very flexible and can take a lot of abuse.

 

I like to roll up my canvas so that it doesn’t hang over my knees. I use two binder clips to keep the canvas from unrolling.
 

Here is a close-up of the canvas fastened with binder clips.
 

The finished canvas is now taped to a cardboard and ready for spraying.
 

After mounting the canvas on a cradled board, I will then varnish it and frame it.

 

Pushing the Limits

Last summer at the Laguna Beach Festival of Arts I had the opportunity to talk to hundreds of visitors and many of them inquired if I had large-scale work available. This rekindled my longstanding desire to create bigger art.

After much experimenting I realized that the best way to accomplish this goal was to find a flexible surface that I could place on top of my Icarus board without damaging it (the surface). I knew that paper was not my best choice because large sheets tend to crease or bend when used on a desk.

I tested various substrates and found that canvas had the flexibility needed for my purpose. I purchased a roll of Caravaggio Extra Fine Double-Primed Cotton Canvas, the finest texture canvas available. Artists who would like to experiment with canvas and the Icarus board for the first time are advised to purchase a portrait-grade stretched canvas, unstaple it from the bars, and then, after the painting is finished, re-stretch it on the same bars.

My first attempt to work large was a 28" x 48" piece, temporarily named The Quarry. I primed the canvas with three coats of Art Spectrum Colourfix Supertooth Primer, clear. This primer helps colored pencil and wax & oil pastel adhere well to the canvas. When I prefer a smoother texture I use the regular Art Spectrum Colourfix Primer, clear instead.

Below you can see the first two passages I accomplished:

First passage: blocking-in

Second passage: melting

Blocking-in detail

Melting detail

As I was getting ready to tackle the third and final passage to develop color, values, and details, I changed my mind about finishing The Quarry and put it temporarily aside.

One of my favorite artwork, In Between (see image below), sold as soon as I posted it on my blog. I had something special planned for that piece!

In Between

For that reason, after asking permission to my collector and changing its size, I decided to re-do it four times as big as the original. If you're interested in this topic of making repeats, I suggest you read Robert Genn's newsletter Identical Twins.

Soon I began working on the 24" x 48" twin of In Between. I'm only about half-way done because other more urgent, smaller pieces are taking precedence.

The strategy I'm following with the 'twin' is different than that of The Quarry. Since it's a re-do, I don't feel the need to block-in the whole composition and colors. As you can see from the image below, I'm completing one stone at a time.

Eventually, as I garner more experience with large sized artwork using the Icarus board, I will share with you all the tips and tricks learned along the way.

The 'twin' halfway done

When I was a little girl my father used to ask me: "Ester, why do you always push the limits?". He was naturally worried! I understand now, because I have a son who's exactly like me.

 

“River Pebbles, No. 11”

River Pebbles, No 11

Title: River Pebbles, No. 11

Outline - Cool Zone

The outline was accomplished with Prismacolor Verithin on the cool zone of the Icarus board.

Color Mapping - Warm Zone - Low Temperature

After drawing the outline I proceeded to map the main colors with Neocolor artist crayons on the warm zone of the Icarus board using a low temperature.

For more on color mapping with artist crayons you can view the following videos:

Melting - Warm Zone - High Temperature

With temperature setting at maximum, I melted the artist crayons using clay shapers (also known as color shapers).

For more on melting artist crayons you can view the following videos:

Tools for Melting Artist Crayons

In the picture above you can see the two color shapers I used for melting and the wet sponge for cleaning. For easier cleaning I spray the surface of the wet sponge with a little Simple Green.

Outline - Detail

Color Mapping - Detail

Melting - Detail

Refining - Detail

Refining with Colored Pencil - Medium Temperature

With the temperature set at medium I developed the colors, values and details of the pebbles by layering and blending colored pencils with a variety of tools like tortillions, paper stumps and a Caran d'Ache blender.

Mounted on 2" Thick Clayboard

I finally mounted the canvas on a 2" thick Claybord and painted the sides with acrylic. The artwork is now ready for varnishing.

 

“River Pebbles, No. 9” - Where’s Waldo?

Original Photo Reference

When I look at a reference photo like the one above, the question I always ask myself is: where's Waldo?

Waldo, for an artist like me, is a good composition hidden in the randomness of nature. Even when I'm the one setting up the still life, I try not to interfere in the way pebbles fall into place. I just take many pictures while anticipating the game I will play later on my computer.

Waldo can be elusive at times. I have images taken years ago that never produced a single Waldo. But my ability to "see" is constantly evolving; I know there's a Waldo waiting to be found even in the most hopeless image.

Composition

Meet Waldo! I found him in the center of the image. Now that I have him, I want to show him off but, as you can see, he looks a little drab. Light and color will do magic.

Values

Here's what he looks like in black and white.

Values Adjusted

Much better - Waldo is coming to life. I just lightened the top left quadrant and pushed the overall value contrast.

Colors Adjusted

Now we're talking!

River Pebbles, No. 9

And here is my finished piece - in honor of Waldo of course!

Title: River Pebbles, No. 9

For techniques used in this artwork, please see blog post River Pebbles, No.3 - Melting Artist Crayons

 

“Poppy, No. 4”

Poppy, No. 4

Title: Poppy, No. 4

 

“River Pebbles, No. 8”

River Pebbles, No 8

 

Title: River Pebbles, No. 8

For techniques used in this artwork, please see blog post River Pebbles, No.3 - Melting Artist Crayons