Exercise Exploring coloured media

Aims of the exercise: To try out coloured media to get a feel for what they can do, what kind of things they handle well and what kinds of things they do not seem quite so suitable for.

Completed 13/08/12. I decided not to try and draw anything specific but to just try and enjoy ‘playing’ with the different media. I found it surprisingly hard to relax at first, considering that I wasn’t trying to produce anything in particular.

What I discovered:

I find oil pastels quite difficult to use. A4 sketch book, p.54 (please see figure 1).

Figure 1
Gallery oil pastels

They appear to only lay down so much colour before the paper is saturated. I was using just ordinary sketch paper so that may not have helped, but I have used pastel paper previously with oil pastels in my sketch book, A4 sketch book, p.14 and still found that the paper rapidly became overloaded with colour. They are a very messy media with tiny bits of pastel lifting off the paper and getting everywhere. They do not appear to be particularly suited to hatching or indeed fine detail of any sort. The colours appear to vary in softness, some laying down much more colour than others with the softer colours tending to lay down a thicker line as well. Colour could be blended with my finger to a certain extent but did quite rapidly start to drag and catch. I tried blending some colour using Zest It and this dissolved the colour enabling it to be spread with a brush etc. Scratching into the surface revealed the colours underneath when one colour was layered on top of another. The colours are bright and quite ‘solid’ giving a bold effect.

Soft pastels blend very easily when rubbed with a finger. A4 sketch book, p.55 (please see figure 2).

Figure 2
Soft pastels

The pastels also create a lot of dust which gets everywhere. I will need to be careful of my colour choices as I found that it was easy to end up with muddy colours, it was also possible to make some very nice natural grey’s. The pastel can be brushed over with water which dissolves the colour to a certain extent. How much the colour is blended depends on how much it is rubbed. Dragging the pastel over the paper leaves some white areas showing as it skips over the grain of the paper. The sticks blunt rapidly when hatching, resulting in thicker lines. It was very easy to smudge the colour that I had put down. They appear to be versatile media and would appear to be suitable for a wide range of images but I would imagine that small, very fine detail could be quite difficult.

FW acrylic inks and Winsor and Newton inks, A4 sketch book, p.56 (please see figure 3) gave bold bright results.

Figure 3
FW acrylic inks and Winsor Newton inks

The FW inks have droppers and these can be used to draw with which I have previously tried for the first time in my A4 sketch book p.49. Blowing, blotting and dragging with a plastic card all gave interesting effects. The inks are transparent and water resistant when dry and colours can be layered over each other with the ink underneath showing through, the colour affected by the ink on top. Appear to be good for a wide range of techniques and can be used with dip pens to achieve fine lines etc or brushes for more calligraphic results.

Neoart Aquarelle water-soluble wax pastels, A4 sketch book, p.57 (please see figure 4) blend well with water and have a shift in colour between wet and dry, the colours appearing to brighten when wet. Scrapping into layered colour did not seem to give as clean an effect as with the oil pastels but I was able to then go over these scraped lines with a wet brush followed by a damp brush, to clean off any of the black that had been picked up, and it gave quite an interesting effect and could be good for an abstract.

Figure 4
Neoart Aquarelle water-soluble wax pastels

The colours appeared to break up more over the grain of the paper than the oil or soft pastels and left more of the white paper showing through. Previously have tried the Neoart on a drawing of a red pear, small square sketch book, p.27.

Figure 5
Stabilo 68, Berol fine liners and Tombo brush pens

Stabilo 68, Berol fine liners and Tombo brush pens, A4 sketch book, p.58 (please see figure 5) gave precise control, a variation in line depending on the angle of the nib and pressure applied. They could be washed over with water to give a water colour effect. Shaded areas showed a darker line where the patches of shaded colour overlapped.

Promarkers also gave good control. A4 sketch book, p.59 (please see figure 6). The inks did appear to bleed a little on the paper and if the pen paused I got a darker dot of colour where it started to bleed into the paper. The colours appeared to be transparent but varied in how transparent between colours.

Figure 6

Zest It did not blend the colours at all. A blending pen did not appear to blend the colours but did appear to lift the colours when drawn over them. I have previously found that if dry colour is coloured over it can result in some of the colour lifting. Having dual tips was useful as the chisel point could lay large areas of colour rapidly as well as give varying results depending on the angle of the nib, the fine nib gave good control, although the lines did bleed a little to a certain extent. With both these and the water based fibre tips I quickly lost definition when hatching. I am going to need to practise using these for hatching. I have only done one drawing previously using Promarkers, a drawing in preparation for assignment one, and this lacked definition in tone due to a lack of experience on my part. I need to practise more with these pens to see how to make the most of what they can do.

Inktense blocks, A4 sketch book, p.60 (please see figure 7) gave lovely effects reminescent of charcoal when turned on their side and dragged.

Figure 7
Inktense blocks

With the addition of water the colours became more vibrant and once dry were permanent and could not be lifted, so colour could be laid cleanly over the top. They would be good for a wide range of effects. I have also, previously in my sketch book, found them good for printing from some vegetables and fruits as they can be rubbed over the surface of the object and when printed give an interesting effect, which can then be drawn into with intense pencils etc, small square sketch book pages 15,19,20 and 23. Using a brush to splatter gave good results and as as the colour is permanent when dry further colours can layer over the top.

I found Derwent artists pencils rather disappointing to use. A4 sketch book, p.61 (please see figure 8). It is the first time that I have used them and they seemed to be very hard and laid down quite weak colours.

Figure 8
Derwent Artists pencils, Coloursoft pencils, Cretacolor aqua monolith and Caran d’ache Neocolor II

This may just be the result of my lack of experience in how to use them. It may also be because of already trying out coloursoft and inktense pencils in my sketch books and they appear to give much brighter results. The coloursoft pencils as their name suggests are very soft and lay down rich colour. Creatacolor aqua monolith are very nice to use with the colours brightening when brushed over with water. I have not tried Caran d’ache Neocolor II water-soluble wax pastels before. They handled in a similar way to the Neoart aqualle although they covered the tooth of the paper more than the Neoart. They dissolved nicely in water and again the colours were bright.


I struggled to be inventive with the things I tried with the colour media and though it was good to try the media one after another I am not sure that I really am any more confident, following this exercise, in how to use the various media in the best way and I don’t, at the moment, feel any better equiped to tackle colour exercises using the various media. I think that this has been a useful introduction but I think, to a certain extent, it is only going to be trying various subjects with them that perhaps I will get a better idea on what works and what doesn’t. I have felt very tired today and I am sure that that has not helped but even so my lack of inventiveness is really causing me some concern at times. I think that the next part of the course it going to produce an interesting challenge and I am certainly going to learn a tremendous amount. With most colour media they tend to be quite permanent or totally permanent once they are down so I am feeling quite nervous. I have tried out quite a few of the media in my sketch books during the first part of the course but doing a small sketch of a single item is rather different to trying to do multiple objects in a composed drawing. I seem to be making only limited progress with hatching so that is definitely an area to look at and practise. Well, the only way to improve is to keep trying as many things as possible so here goes.

This entry was posted in Part 2 Observation in nature, Project 1 Exploring coloured media. Bookmark the permalink.

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