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Blog Category: Step-by-steps

“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!

 

Canvas and the Icarus Board: Final Post

"Symbiosis"

Below are the steps I followed to mount my artwork on canvas and varnish it.

Trimming the canvasTrimmed canvas

 

Left - after spraying the canvas with 5 coats of Prismacolor Final Fixative Gloss, and letting it cure overnight, I trimmed away the white boarder.

Right - the canvas is now trimmed and ready for mounting.

Mounting toolsPressing with a brayer

 

Left - for mounting I used Frank's PH Fabric Adhesive (purchased from my framer) and a foam roller. I apply this type of adhesive only to canvas or fabric in general. When mounting paper I prefer to use Grafix Double Tack Mounting Film (for more on this subject please visit my post on Glassless Framing).

Right - after mounting the canvas on my Ampersand Claybord with 3/4" cradle, I rolled a brayer all over the surface, paying particular attention to corners and edges.

Under books overnightTrimming the edges

 

Left - I then placed the canvas-mounted board upside down under heavy books overnight.

Right - in the morning I carefully trimmed the canvas around the edges of the board. I had originally extended the drawing a quarter inch all around to account for possible misalignment during mounting.

Left-over stubbleCleaned-up edges

 

Left - as you can see some stubble was left over after trimming.

Right - I cleaned up the fuzz with a fine grade sandpaper.

Painting the sidesPainted sides

 

Left - I finally began to paint the sides of the cradled board with acrylic. I applied three coats.

Right - the sides are all painted.

Varnishing toolsRaised board

 

Left - here's everything I used for varnishing: Golden Polymer Varnish with UVLS Gloss, a container for mixing the varnish, a small measuring cup, a wide brush for the top surface, and a smaller brush for the sides. I mixed one part water to two parts varnish.

Right - after elevating the board from the table I began varnishing the top.

Wet varnishVarnishing the sides

 

Left - notice how the first coat of varnish looks while still wet. I painted four coats, waiting three hours in between.

Right - I used the small brush to spread the varnish drips all over the sides. I like the sides to be as glossy as the top surface.

Varnished and framedClose-up

 

Left - after curing for a week, the panel was finally framed without glass.

Right - Here you can see a close-up of the frame and panel.

CONCLUSIONS:

Why did I do all this? Well, I wanted to experiment with canvas and the Icarus board. I clearly could not have used stretched canvas and did not want to use 1/8" canvas panels. These panels are a good option for artists who work with the Icarus board. However I like my art to be mounted on panels with at least 3/4" cradle so I needed to use canvas by the yard.

The best discovery I made during this experiment is to apply one coat of Art Spectrum Colourfix Clear Primer on the acrylic painted canvas. This establishes an amazing ground for any type of drawing medium so that it can strongly adhere to the canvas. Colourfix primer can be applied directly to the canvas without an acrylic underpainting, if one chooses to do so. (edited 10/9/11)

Perhaps in the future I will experiment with artist crayons and oil pastels on canvas and the Icarus board. These mediums lend themselves to larger and looser applications.

I'm very happy with my finished artwork. Coming from an oil paint background I can tell you that it looks better than any of my old oil paintings. These were never varnished (who wants to wait six months?) and appear blotchy and uneven.

To read the two previous posts on "Canvas and the Icarus Board", please click on the following links:

Canvas and the Icarus Board
Canvas and the Icarus Board: Part 2

If you are interested in how I mount and frame my artwork on paper without glass, please click on this link:

Glassless Framing

Thank you for reading my blog! Feel free to comment or ask questions.

 

Canvas and the Icarus Board: Part 2

Symbiosis

As you can see, I'm finally finished with my experiment on canvas (16'' x 24'').

It hasn't been an easy ride. While family and business obligations kept interrupting my creative process, the other reason it took me so long is that I chose a very complex subject in addition to a brand new technique.

If you need to refresh your memory, you can review the first blog post here: Canvas and the Icarus Board.

As I was layering the colored pencils on the acrylic-painted canvas, I became increasingly unsatisfied. The waxy pigment wasn't adhering nor covering as well as I had hoped. After many hours of trials and errors I finally came to an acceptable solution (see red type below).

Following are steps and suggestions:

  • Purchase acrylic gesso primed cotton canvas by the yard - tightly woven is best suited - do not use coarse textured canvas.
  • Cut a piece of canvas about an inch wider on each side than the final size.
  • Trace your drawing with colored pencils using a light box or a window.
  • Extend the drawing a quarter inch all around to account for possible misalignment during mounting.
  • Block-in the colors using acrylics - make sure to cover the whole canvas with paint.
  • With a sponge roller apply an even layer of Art Spectrum Colourfix Clear Primer. This simple step will help colored pencil adhere well to the acrylic painted canvas.
  • After the primer is completely dry (I waited 24 hours), you can begin layering your wax-based colored pencils on the Icarus Drawing Board at medium heat. High heat will help you blend large areas.
  • As a last step, clean up all your whites, edges, and details on the cool zone.

Below is a picture of all the colored pencils that I used in this project:

Colored Pencils Used

I'm planning to spray fixative, mount the canvas on a cradled board, varnish it, and frame it. I will have more images and give you my final thoughts on a third blog post.

For more on "Canvas and the Icarus Board" please click on the following links:

Canvas and the Icarus Board
Canvas and the Icarus Board: Final Post

 

Canvas and the Icarus Board

I'm experimenting with canvas and mixed media using the Icarus Drawing Board.

I purchased a few yards of primed cotton canvas (very inexpensive) from my local art supply store .

Then I cut a piece of canvas about an inch wider on each side than the final size (artwork will be 16" x 24", canvas is 18" x 26").

I enlarged my original graphite drawing with this free program: PosteRazor. I love this make-your-own-poster program!

After assembling the poster together, I taped it to the canvas. I then traced the drawing with colored pencils using a light box. I extended the drawing a quarter inch all around (16.5" x 24.5") to account for possible misalignment during mounting. Yes, I will eventually mount the canvas on a cradled board.

Finally I blocked-in the colors using acrylic paint. I wasn't very meticulous in this phase because I knew I would develop a second layer with colored pencils. However I made sure to cover the whole canvas with paint, even the white areas.

In the example below, you can see a close-up of the first layer (this section is about 3" x 9"). Of course there's no need for heat when painting in acrylic unless you want it to dry even quicker.

First Layer: Acrylic

The second and final layer was accomplished on the Icarus board with wax-based colored pencils using medium heat. See image below.

Second Layer: Colored Pencil

The colored pencils blended effortlessly on the warm canvas. I was also surprised that I was able to obtain pretty fine details in relation to the size of the artwork.

In the picture below you can see what colored pencils and tools I've been using so far.

Colored Pencils & Tools

I'm really having fun with this project but I don't know how it's going to turn out yet. I will post the finished artwork in about two weeks. I'm sure I'll be able to share a lot more about the experience of working with canvas on the Icarus board.

For more on "Canvas and the Icarus Board" please click on the following links:

Canvas and the Icarus Board: Part 2

Canvas and the Icarus Board: Final Post

 

Media Organizer Step-by-Step

I promised to some of you to put together the step-by-step directions for building a media organizer like mine. Please refer to my previous post for images and description of the unit. Following are detailed instructions on how to build it.

Materials:

  • 6 sheets of  foam board 30" x 40" x 3/16" thick
  • 1 piece of plexiglass (clear acrylic) 12" x 24" x 1/8" thick (0.125")
  • glue gun, acrylic cutting knife
  • white artist tape
  • non-slip liner (optional)

Steps:

  1. Cut the foam board
  2. Build the main structure
  3. Build the trays
  4. Cut and glue the plexiglass
  5. Cut non-slip liners to size (optional)

1. CUT THE FOAM BOARD

Use the four drawings below as guidelines. The white areas represent all the foam board pieces that you'll need for this project, while the gray areas are the left-overs. Remember that if you use smaller foam boards (20" x 30") you will have a lot more waste. Be very precise when you measure, draw, and cut your pieces.

Each drawing is a scaled representation of a 30" x 40" foam board. Drawing A needs to be repeated on three separate foam boards. Drawings B, C, and D are only used one time each (six boards total).

The media organizer is composed of two parts:

  • the main structure, made of 15 shelves, two sides, and one back
  • 14 removable trays, each one made of one bottom, one back, two sides, and a plexiglass front

Main structure dimensions:

  • 15 shelves: 22 3/4" wide x 7 3/4" each
  • 2 sides: 15 3/4" high x 7 3/4" each
  • 1 back: 15 3/4" high x 23 1/8"

Trays dimensions:

  • 14 bottoms: 22 1/4" x 7 1/2" each
  • 14 backs: 22 1/4" x 11/16" each
  • 28 sides: 7 1/2" x 1/2" each

Drawing ADrawing B

 

Drawing CDrawing D

 

2. BUILD THE MAIN STRUCTURE

This is the most challenging part of the project. I hope that by explaining how I did it, I can make it a little easier for you.

First you need to draw on both sides and on the back of the main structure the guidelines for the shelves.

Please note that the 15 shelves are a little less than one inch apart from each other. Sorry, I don't have the measurements for this step; you'll have to do the math.

When you have all your guidelines drawn, you can start gluing.

Gluing technique:

  • place a strand of glue at the seam where the two surfaces meet
  • do not place the glue directly on the foam of the board - the heat will melt the foam
  • hold the foam board pieces in place until the glue cools down and feels solid

Begin by gluing together the two sides onto the back of the main structure. Then move on to the shelves.

Proceed by gluing one shelf at a time. Make sure the shelf is in the right position. Place your glue strands on the three seams. Wait for the glue to cool down and move on to the next shelf until you are finished. Remember to place the glue only on the top side of the shelves, not the bottom (see picture #1 and #2).

Picture #1: Main Structure Close-upPicture #2: Main Structure

 

3. BUILD THE TRAYS

Glue the back of each tray to the bottom. Then glue the two sides over the bottom. See pictures #3 and #4.

Picture #3: Tray Side ViewPicture #4: Tray Top View

 

4. CUT AND GLUE THE PLEXIGLASS

Do not remove the protective film from the plexiglass. You need 14 strips, each measuring 22 1/4" x 11/16". Draw your guidelines directly on the film.

If you have never cut plexiglass before, please practice a little before cutting the strips. I use the "score and snap method" with this type of knife.

When you glue a plexiglass strip to a tray, it will look as in picture #5 where the glue is completely visible. I hid the glue with white artist tape for aesthetic reasons (picture #6).

Picture #5: Tray Front Showing the GluePicture #6: Tray Front with Tape

 

5. CUT NON-SLIP LINERS TO SIZE

This is an optional step but I highly recommend it. I purchased the non-slip liner from my local home improvement store. It keeps pencils and other media from rolling even if the tray is on a slant (see pictures #7 and #8). The measurements of each liner are: 21 3/4'' x 7 1/4''.

Picture #7: Tray with LinerPicture #8: Close-up

 

Last but not least, turn your main structure upside-down so that the glue strands of the shelves are on the top, not on the bottom of the slots. This way there's no interference with the sliding of the trays.

After filling your trays with colorful media, from pencils to crayons and pastels, you can place them inside their slots (picture #9 and #10). Now you can finally enjoy your creation.

Let me know if this was helpful. Feel free to ask any questions along the way.

Picture #9: Media OrganizerPicture #10: Trays Pulled Out

 

 

A Shortcut for Details

I'm working on a very detailed pebble piece. I'm combining Prismacolor colored pencil, Neopastel oil pastels & Neocolor artist crayons on Colourfix paper. I'm eager to show you a small (2"x2"), abstract close-up of my painting (18"x18") and explain the shortcuts I've taken to get around all the details.

1. Photo Cropping2. Line Drawing

 

1. This is a cropping of  the original photo. Even though it's very blurry you can still see all the intricate details.

2. On my line drawing I focus on the essential lines and not the confusing details.

3. Blocking-in Colors4. Melting

 

3. On the cool zone I block-in the colors with a combination of oil pastels and artist crayons.

4. I move my artwork to the warm zone of the Icarus board (high temperature) and melt all the colors with a color shaper. The waxy pigments settle into the hills and valleys of the paper, leaving plenty of texture for further layering.

5. Preparing Eraser6. Lifting Color

 

5. I'm preparing my Sakura battery-operated eraser by cleaning and flattening the tip on sand paper.

6. Here you can see how easily the pigment is lifted from the surface. By using the flat edge of the eraser point, I can achieve a very fine line.

7. Lifting Color8. Finishing

 

7. I lift all the waxy pigments until the white of the paper shows through.

8. I can now develop the colors and values and finish the details with colored pencils. During this phase I lower the Icarus Board temperature to a medium setting.

This shortcut allowed me to work from "large" to "small" without getting bogged down in details too early in the process.

 

Time Saving Tip on Blending

Blending artist crayon or oil pastel with colored pencil can be broken down into four steps.

  • Step 1 - Layering artist crayon on the cool zone
  • Step 2 - Melting artist crayon on the warm zone with a color shaper
  • Step 3 - Layering colored pencil on the cool zone using side of pencil
  • Step 4 - Blending artist crayon and colored pencil with a paper stump

1. Layering AC 2. Melting AC

 

3. Layering CP 4. Blending AC and CP

 

In the two examples below, you can see that this process can be reduced to two simple steps. While the colored pencil is blending with the crayon, it is also functioning as a melting tool.

This is a nice shortcut that works well for small areas. When blending large areas, I prefer to first melt the crayon and then layer and blend the colored pencil.

1. Layering AC 2. Melting and Blending

 

 

Sanded Pastel Paper and the Icarus Board

I love working with sanded pastel paper. My favorite is Colourfix Coated Pastel Paper by Art Spectrum. It's a wonderfully versatile archival surface  that "withstands all manner of artistic experimentation." One of these, and not the least in order of importance, is the application of heat.

In the examples below you can see how I develop a flower petal with Prismacolor Colored Pencils and Caran d'Ache Neocolor II Wax Crayons.

Step 1Step 2

 

Step 1: After finishing the first petal, I'm getting ready to begin the second one.
Step 2: On the cool zone and with sharp Neocolors, I block in all the local colors of the petal. The tooth of the paper easily captures the waxy pigments.

Step 3Step 3 - detail

 

Step 3: After moving the paper to the warm zone, I begin melting the waxy pigments with a taper point color shaper. It's a simple process that can also be accomplished with a flat chisel color shaper (use the side of the tip for melting). This approach is much faster and gives you more control than adding water to Neocolor II. First of all there is no wait for the paper to dry - the melted pigments solidify as soon as the paper is removed from the heat - and the intensity and hue of the color do not diminish. Besides, it is so much fun I just can't get enough.

Step 4Step 5

 

Step 4: The petal is now covered by a thin layer of melted pigments that I like to call "wax foundation."
Step 5: On the warm zone, with a sharp white Verithin I penetrate the previous layer and create fine ridges that will become the petal's veins.

Step 6Step 6 - detail

 

Step 6: Here I'm developing the colors and the details of the petals. The layering of colored pencils is accomplished with Prismacolor Premier using the side of the pencil point. On the warm zone the waxy pigments melt and blend in with the foundation; on the cool zone they will sit on top for optical mixing. Sharp Verithin pencils are used for details and fine lines.

 

Glassless Framing

Many artists have asked me how I frame my artwork on paper without glass so I decided to write a post about the process I follow.

1. FIXATIVE

I gently remove any wax bloom with a soft cloth. Edit (3/31/11): if I'm dealing with a lot of wax bloom, I blow some warm air over the affected area with a hair dryer or heat gun. The wax bloom disappears right before my eyes.

Then I take my piece outside and spray it with 5 coats of  Prismacolor Final Fixative - Gloss, waiting 15 minutes between coats. Edit (11/29/12): In place of fixative I now use Golden Archival MSA Spray Varnish - Gloss. After it's dry I run a white cotton handkerchief over its surface. If there is no color residue left on the handkerchief my artwork is ready for varnish, otherwise I spray more fixative. It's important to create a solid barrier between the pigments and the varnish. I let the fixative dry overnight.

2. MOUNTING

I mount my large pieces on Ampersand  Claybord with 3/4" cradle, the smaller ones on Claybord with 2" cradle. There are also 1/8" flat panels available. I like the Claybord panels because their surface is completely archival, lightfast and acid free. After dislodging any debris from the back of my artwork, I trim the extra white paper around it.

My artwork at this point should be a bit larger than the panel - to account for possible misalignment during mounting. I carefully mount it on a sheet of  Grafix Double Tack Mounting Film which I then mount on the panel. After turning the panel upside down, I trim the edges and put it under heavy books overnight. Please practice mounting before you do it with a valuable  piece of art.

More on this on the following post: How to Mount Paper on Board. Update (2/26/2013)

3. VARNISHING

I usually paint the edges of the cradled panel in acrylic and then begin varnishing with Golden Polymer Varnish with UVLS (Ultra Violet Light Stabilizers) - Gloss. This is a waterborne acrylic polymer varnish that dries to a protective, flexible, dust-resistant surface. It needs to be thinned with water, 2-3 part varnish to 1 part water. I apply at least 3 coats with a soft, wide brush and wait 3 hours between coats. The varnish cures completely in one week. You can then frame your panel or hang it without a frame.

This process, especially at the beginning, is a little time consuming but certainly worth the effort. I just love that my art can be exhibited along with the best oil and acrylic paintings and still generates the most curiosity. "I can't believe it's colored pencil" has become the standard reaction followed by numerous questions on my technique and presentation.

Into the LightAbove and BelowThe Butterfly Effect

 

If you you are interested in how I mount and frame my artwork on canvas without glass, please visit the following posts:

Canvas and the Icarus Board
Canvas and the Icarus Board: Part 2
Canvas and the Icarus Board: Final Post

 

Speckling Technique for a Starry Sky

The starry sky of "The Butterfly Effect" could not have been accomplished in colored pencil without the Icarus Drawing Board. The choices would have been to painstakingly draw the blue sky around the white of the paper or to paint masking fluid over hundreds of stars. Instead I came up with the following technique:

Step 1: I laid down several different blue Neocolors II on the warm zone.
Step 2: I used a gray paper stump to thin and blend the crayons on the warm zone. This is accomplished by making small circles with the paper stump while cleaning the excess wax with a paper towel.
Step 3: I kept on working until the colors were evenly blended.

Step 1 Step 2 Step 3

 

Step 4: I grated a blue colored pencil on a sand paper block.
Step 5: I shook the blue speckles over the crayon background.
Step 6: I grated a white colored pencil on coarse sand paper.

Step 4 Step 5 Step 6

 

Step 7: I shook the white speckles over the crayon background.   
Step 8:
After placing a sheet of tracing paper over the colored pencil speckles, I pressed down with a brayer on the warm zone.
Step 9:
The speckles melted into the blue background and created a starry sky effect.

Step 7 Step 8 Step 9

 

For another example of "speckling" see Snake River Pebbles.