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Blog Category: Icarus Technique

“River Pebbles, No. 7”

River Pebbles, No. 7

Title: River Pebbles, No. 7

Outline - Cool Zone

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

Color Mapping - Warm Zone - Low Temperature

In this step I blocked-in the main colors on the warm zone with very low heat, just enough to soften the waxy pigments without melting them or blending them.

Burnishing & Blending - Warm Zone - Medium Temperature

After setting the temperature control at medium, I added additional color until there was enough pigment to obliterate the paper. Then I began blending using the point of a tortillon or the side of a paper stump with a very light touch.

Colorless blenders were used to soften edges and details.

 

“River Pebbles, No. 6”

River Pebbles, No. 6

Title: River Pebbles, No. 6

In preparation for the upcoming Laguna Beach Festival of Arts I've been working on small and large pieces concurrently and I haven't had the time to scan and put together the step-by-steps and videos. However I've been jotting down all the interesting technical aspects that I encountered so that I won't forget to share them with you when time permits.

In this particular piece I struggled a bit with the surface. Colourfix Supertooth is very rough and, although it's well suited for rocks and pebbles, it might be an overkill. The bigger issue with Colourfix paper is that the texture is inconsistent, sometimes it's toothier than others and I don't like surprises.

Priming my own paper gives me much more control over the final results. It's very easy to do it and also less expensive than buying already-made Colourfix paper.

 

“Poppy, No. 3”

Poppy, No. 3

Title: Poppy, No. 3

Outline - Cool Zone

The outline is accomplished with Prismacolor Verithin on the cool zone of the Icarus board. I don't like to add too many details at this point, only the principal lines.

Color Mapping - Warm Zone - Low Temperature

I'm blocking-in the main colors of the poppy on the warm zone with very low heat, just enough to soften the waxy pigments without melting them or blending them.

Burnishing & Blending - Warm Zone - Medium Temperature

After setting the temperature control at medium, I add additional color until there's enough pigment to obliterate the paper. Then I begin blending using the point of a  tortillon with a very light touch.

Sometimes I smooth out the color gradations with the side of a paper stump if the area in question is large enough. The very small veins are created with a white Verithin which lifts and lightens the original color underneath.

Burnishing & Blending - Warm Zone - Medium Temperature

Burnishing & Blending - Warm Zone - Medium Temperature

Burnishing & Blending - Warm Zone - Medium Temperature

Refining and Polishing - Warm and Cool Zones

The last step includes refining the edges (cool zone), polishing the color gradations (warm zone), adding the fuzz on the stem (warm zone), filling in the white speckles of paper that are still showing (warm zone), and the signature.

I like to sign my name with a Verithin pencil on the warm zone. I use a lighter color than the background and press enough to create an indentation which is visible even after varnishing.

 

“Poppy, No. 1” - Learning from my Mistakes

Poppy, No. 1

Title: Poppy, No. 1

I need to produce lots of small artworks for the Laguna Beach Festival of Arts (by the way, I'm finally on their website) so I started a new series on poppies. With each piece I will post something interesting about how I made it.

I had never painted a small poppy before, only medium or large ones, and decided to make this a 5" x 5" project. After priming the paper with a thin coat of regular Colourfix Primer, I began to draw. It didn't take me very long to realize that this was not going to work.

A sanded pastel surface like Colourfix is perfect for pebbles and rocks and it helps to emphasize their natural texture. However it's not the best choice for smooth, flowing, transparent flowers. Stonehenge is much more suitable especially for fine details and sleek color gradations.

I resized my project to a 6" x 6" Stonehenge paper, still small but big enough for the intricate poppy. I  worked on the Icarus board at medium-low temperature and burnished all the way through the end. This time I didn't use any tools, just the pencils themselves. I blended no more than two layers and selected only colorfast colored pencils, hence the use of Polychromos when certain colors weren't available in the other brands. Oil based colored pencils like Polychromos are affected by heat if layered on top of wax-based colored pencils.

Well, this was definitely a learning experience!

 

“River Pebbles, No. 4” - Stumps & Tortillions

River Pebbles, No. 4

Title: River Pebbles, No. 4

Color Mapping with Artist Crayons - Cool Zone

After drawing the outline with Verithin colored pencils on the cool zone of the Icarus Drawing Board, I proceeded to map the main colors of the project with Neocolor artist crayons on the cool zone.

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

Artist Crayons Melted - High Temperature

With temperature setting at maximum, I melted the artist crayons using a clay shaper (color shaper).

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

Orange Pebble Finished in Colored Pencil - Medium Temperature

With the temperature set at medium I developed the colors, values and details of the orange pebble by layering colored pencils and blending them with a tortillion.

Blue Pebbles Finished in Colored Pencil - Medium Temperature

The blue pebbles were accomplished in the same manner as the orange pebble.

Red Pebble Finished in Colored Pencil - Medium Temperature

I finished the drawing by completing the red pebble in the same manner as the other pebbles.

Clean-up, Highlights and Signature

Finally I cleaned up the drawing and emphasized the highlights with a white artist crayon. I like my signature to blend in and I can achieve that by using a sharp, white Verithin on the warm zone. It lightens the colors underneath just enough to make the letters visible without detracting from the art.

Paper Stump and Tortillion

When I first started experimenting with heat I was always on the lookout for different tools that would work with my technique. I remember trying tortillions and disliking them. I found that I couldn't really use them by the long side of the point because they would leave indentations/ridges on the waxy pigments.

The paper stumps that I normally use for large artwork were too thick and soft for this small project. At the same time I was getting very frustrated with how inconsistent the various colorless blenders have been lately. Finally I decided to give the tortillion another try and, guess what? It works great! The point is very thin and sturdy, not as soft as the paper stump's, perfect for blending colored pencils. It's easy to clean with sandpaper and very inexpensive. If you're using it already, you're way ahead of me. If you're not, try one and you'll be pleased!

 

“River Pebbles, No. 3 - Melting Artist Crayons”

Title: River Pebbles, No. 3

Outline - Cool Zone

The outline was accomplished with Verithin Colored Pencils on the cool zone of the Icarus Drawing Board.

Color Mapping with Artist Crayons - Cool Zone

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

Detail View of Color Mapping

Here you can see the pigment density needed to achieve complete paper coverage after melting.

Melting Artist Crayons - Warm Zone

With temperature setting at maximum, I begin melting the artist crayons with a clay shaper (or color shaper).

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

Melting Completed

Artist crayons save me a lot of time. After they are melted, the paper becomes completely saturated with vibrant colors. The waxy pigments make an ideal substrate for layering colored pencils on top.

Finished Artwork

With temperature setting at medium, I finally layer and blend colored pencils to develop colors, values and details.

You can see a slideshow of this project on the following blog post: Slideshow of "River Pebbles, No. 3".

 

“River Pebbles, No. 2” - A Closer Look

This is a closer look at my second work in a new series of small art depicting some of my favorite subjects.

Title: River Pebbles, No. 2
Size: 5" x 5"
Medium:  Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencil (Verithin and Softcore) and Caran d'Ache Luminance Colored Pencil
Miscellaneous: Lyra Splender Colorless Blender, Gray Paper Stumps
Surface: Stonehenge Paper
Technique: Icarus Drawing Board

River Pebbles, No. 2 is mounted on a 5" x 5" Ampersand Claybord with a 2" cradle. If you are interested in learning how I mount and varnish my artwork, you can read the following post: Glassless Framing.

Outline - Cool Zone

I always use Prismacolor Verithin to draw the outline of my subjects. It's important for me not to add too many details at this point, only the principal lines.

I prefer the back side of Stonehenge paper because it has a little more tooth than the front. That little tooth makes a big difference in how pigments layer, mix and blend, especially on the warm zone. A paper surface that doesn't have much texture is difficult to handle with heat.

Color Mapping - Cool Zone

Color mapping on this paper is a little more time consuming than on a sanded pastel paper. I apply my Prismacolor Softcore and/or Caran d'Ache Luminance with medium pressure on the cool zone until 80-90% of the surface is covered with waxy pigment.

Burnishing and Blending - Warm Zone

Listed below are the main steps I follow to develop the colors and values on the warm zone (high temperature):

  • Burnishing: I saturate the paper with pigment until the white of the paper is completely obliterated (I even burnish white colored pencil over the white areas).
  • Layering: I layer the colors by using the side of the pencil.
  • Blending: when called for, I blend the base and top color together with a paper stump.

Burnishing and Blending - Warm Zone

I continue in the same manner as in the previous step until the whole drawing is completely burnished.

Refining and Polishing - Warm and Cool Zones

I'm adding more details to my drawing. I use the warm zone (medium to low temperature) to blend some of those details into the background, the cool zone to refine and polish with a colorless blender.

Refining and Polishing - Warm and Cool Zones

I continue in the same manner as in the previous step until the whole drawing is finished.

I need your feedback:

With my next small artwork I'm planning to start focusing on specific issues.

Do you have any suggestions? Are there any topics relating to my technique and my art that you would like me to address?

For example, Jill asked me to explain how I make my pebbles shine.

I'd love to get your input.

 

“River Pebbles, No. 2”

River Pebbles, No. 2

This is the second work in a new series of small art depicting some of my favorite subjects. The purpose of this series is to produce more regularly while also working on large pieces. Working small allows me to be more experimental with the Icarus Drawing Board. With each artwork I plan to share something interesting about how I made it.

Title: River Pebbles, No. 2
Size: 5" x 5"
Medium:  Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencil (Verithin and Softcore) and Caran d'Ache Luminance Colored Pencil
Miscellaneous: Lyra Splender Colorless Blender, Gray Paper Stumps
Surface: Stonehenge Paper
Technique: Icarus Drawing Board

My Set-up

Here you can see my set-up. I like to have everything close-by; the pencil tray sits on top of my Icarus board together with the Swifter Duster and the cotton towel. Taping the paper to the glass can be very helpful especially when burnishing on the warm zone.

My TimerMy Sharpeners

 

This yellow timer above is my constant companion. It helps me be more productive and more aware of interruptions. Once I got used to it, starting it and stopping it have become second nature.

To the right of my drawing board I keep two sharpeners: the X-Acto School Pro is electrical and works well with different diameter pencils; the Derwent is battery operated and, even though is made for pencils, I've used it to sharpen crayons for many months with no ill effects. The two sharpeners sit inside an acrylic photo frame together with a thick, moist sponge where I clean my pencils after I sharpen them.

The video above is a slide show of River Pebbles, No. 2. Please come back for my next blog post: River Pebbles, No. 2 - A Closer Look, where I will show you a detailed step-by-step of the project.

 

“River Pebbles, No. 1” - A Closer Look

Last week I introduced the first finished project of my new "small art series". This week I'm giving you a closer look.

Outline - Cool Zone

The outline was accomplished with Prismacolor Premier Verithin Colored Pencils on Art Spectrum Colourfix Supertooth Board. This is a very "toothy" surface without the gritty sandpaper feel. Supertooth Boards are made by coating a 500 gms acid-free, archival watercolor paper with a clear acrylic primer mixed with a blend of silica particles.

I have several large sheets of Supertooth and I was able to easily cut one down to the size I needed with an x-acto knife. I noticed that the texture is somewhat variable from sheet to sheet. Next time I will buy the Supertooth primer instead - it's a lot less expensive and will give me more control on the final texture.

"River Pebbles, No. 1" will be mounted on a 6" x 6" Ampersand Claybord with a 2" cradle.

Color Blocking - Cool Zone

In this step I'm blocking-in the main colors of the pebbles. I'm working fairly fast on the cool zone of the Icarus board (no heat yet) and I'm using Prismacolor Premier Soft Core and Caran d'Ache Luminance colored pencils. It's not important to be precise and detailed in this phase.

Burnishing & Blending - Warm Zone

After turning on my Icarus board (maximum temperature) I'm focusing on building up enough pigment so that  the white of the paper is completely obliterated. I've learned to not be afraid of this step - I know by experience that the more pigment is on the paper, the more malleable and workable the pigment becomes.

Burnishing & Blending - Pink Pebble - Step 1 - Warm Zone

Burnishing & Blending - Pink Pebble - Step 2 - Warm Zone

Burnishing & Blending - Green Pebble - Step 1 - Warm Zone

Burnishing & Blending - Green Pebble - Step 2 - Warm Zone

Burnishing & Blending Finished

Highlights - Cool Zone

As you can see from the images above, each pebble gets one or two passages on the warm zone. Most of the times I blend the pigments together without tools - on the large areas I've used a paper stump.

In the final step I reemphasize the highlights with a white colored pencil on the cool zone.

I will be posting a slide show of this project on my Icarus Art YouTube Channel sometime next week. Please subscribe if you haven't done so already.

If you have any questions about my project, feel free to ask them on this blog or make a comment. I'm always glad to hear from you!

 

“Four River Pebbles” Project on YouTube

Four River Pebbles

I've just posted the five part video series "Four River Pebbles" to our Icarus Art YouTube Channel. It's a collection of 57 video clips from my 2010 CPSA workshop "Wax and Heat, a Match Made in Heaven".

This project, which was accomplished on white Stonehenge paper with Prismacolor Colored Pencils and Caran d'Ache Neocolor II Artist Crayons, is divided into the following five sequential playlists:

1. Beige Pebble
2. Green Pebble
3. Yellow Pebble
4. Red Pebble
5. Shadows and Water

For my workshop attendees this is a great opportunity to review the techniques learned in Santa Clara, California. For everybody else it's like taking a workshop for free. All voiced-over video clips are available in high definition and come with a downloadable supply list, an outline of the project, and an image of the finished project.

I hope you will enjoy practicing and/or learning the Icarus technique. You are always welcomed to post comments and ask questions either on this blog or on our YouTube Channel.