Bet Borgeson Enlivens the Mood of her Art with Colored Pencil and Ambient Texture
Drawing and painting offer many chances for textural effects besides those that are drawn to represent the surfaces of objects. These special textures-sometimes called ambient textures because they surround subjects, sometimes even cover them-can play an important part in enlivening an artwork's mood. They also can enhance color, suggest tactile sensation, and act as a compositional unifier. In all media, texture is seen as a principal player. In colored pencil artwork there are three ways of creating these kinds of additional textures:
One is by using the paper's own built-in textural character and allowing it to show. Another is by drawing repetitive marks or lines as texture directly onto the drawing sheet. And a third method is to distress a paper's surface in some way in order to manipulate or physically change its character. It is in this third category of textures that the technique of "impressed line" belongs. As a simple and ingenious technique, it has also become one of colored pencil's most popular practices because it is useful for so many situations. It is especially useful when tiny, precise linear details are needed, such as eye highlights, fine netting, or hair-like roots. But it also can be used more broadly to develop a very dramatic ambient texture.
Here's How it's Done
Impressing is accomplished by placing tracing paper over a clean area of drawing paper where the effect is to appear. Then a graphite pencil is used to draw lines, details, or even random marks on the tracing paper, firmly impressing them into the drawing paper beneath, taking care not to tear the tracing paper. When the tracing paper is removed, and colored pencil hues have been tonally applied to this area on the drawing, the impressed lines will reveal themselves as white in contrast with the surrounding hues. Impressed lines can be modified or darkened by using a very sharp colored pencil in the impressed troughs.
My idea for this illustration is to draw two cat shapes that seem like islands in a river of flowing white lines. Impressed line will be used later, but now the first task is to establish the positive shapes of the cats within a rectangular frame of reference. Only one colored pencil will be used in this illustration-Prismacolor 931 Dark Purple-and it was here applied loosely. The cats will be tightened and refined later. As the cat forms take shape, the shape of the negative space also becomes apparent.
To impress the white lines into the drawing's negative space, the area was first covered with a piece of tracing paper. Then, with a graphite pencil-using fairly firm pressure-lines were drawn, sending their impressions into the drawing paper's surface beneath it. There is a temptation sometimes to draw with less finesse when doing this through a tracing sheet. Just knowing this usually helps to avoid it.
After removing the tracing paper, Prismacolor 931 Dark Purple was tonally applied across the impressed area. Its point skips over all of the impressed troughs. The white lines are now revealed as they meander around the cat shapes.
I finished this illustration by tightening and refining the cat forms again using the single 931 Dark Purple pencil. But also exploited now was the paper's own inherent grain to create the cat's two different values. For the illusion of a lighter cat on the right, the paper's white flecks were maximized by using a flat-ended pencil, which leaves the paper's valleys uncolored. To suggest a darker cat on the left many of these flecks were minimized, refined away by using a sharper pencil and making sure the valleys were colored with pigment. So even though only one colored pencil was used, texture was brought into the mix as an important surrogate for colors that weren't used. Three kinds of texture can now be seen at work here: minimized and maximized paper texture, and the texture generated by impressing lines.
Raised and educated in Southern California, Bet Borgeson began her first serious art studies at UCLA. Early in her marriage to photographer Edwin Borgeson, they founded and operated a popular boating publication at Marina del Rey, California. After 11 years they sold the newsmagazine and moved to the Pacific Northwest, where Borgeson completed her art education with a degree in painting from Portland State University.
She was by this time working mostly in colored pencil, exhibiting and selling her work in various Oregon and Washington galleries. Although colored pencil as a fine art medium was not then generally familiar to the public, it became increasingly clear that its unique handling characteristics and potential were also not well understood by other artists. Since Borgeson was already teaching oil painting, she felt that she should additionally be spreading the word about colored pencils.
To further explore the techniques of this medium, and to devise new ways of using it, she began contacting other artists throughout the U. S. who worked with colored pencils using different styles and techniques. A three-year effort led to the development of many new and vital techniques for colored pencils. It also led to Borgeson's and the colored pencil medium's first book, The Colored Pencil. This proved to be a groundbreaking book.
The wide and international distribution during this book's first year, a second book the following year--Color Drawing Workshop--plus a pivotal interview by Susan Stamberg of NPR's "All Things Considered" in 1985 have since been credited with ushering in an explosion of worldwide interest and enthusiasm for colored pencils as a fine art medium.
Bet Borgeson has continued her pioneering work with additional books, with colored pencil exhibitions, by consulting on a major Prismacolor Art Pencil reformulation, and through her teaching. For over fifteen years she conducted seminars and workshops at many universities including Rhode Island School of Design, University of Washington, University of Oregon, Portland State University, and at nationally known art centers.