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Colored Pencils on Colored Paper for Quick Results

Colored Pencils on Colored Paper for Quick Results: A Step-by-Step Demonstration by Vera Curnow, CPSA

Layering the translucent pigments of colored pencils can take time, but you can speed up the process - and create dramatic results - by working on colored paper. Simply choose a surface that's the same hue as the dominant color of your subject. This establishes an underlying unity in your work and creates the optical illusion that you're seeing something that is not actually there. By using a black surface in creating "Toucan Charley" (7x10), I was able to imply features in the beak and body without laboring over minute details.

completed artwork

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Step 1
Compose Begin by drawing the basic composition on a sheet of tracing paper. If you sketch your subject directly onto your colored paper, erasing can alter the surface. Worse yet, corrections can leave permanent impressed lines. These "ghost" lines are invisible until you add color; then they become prominent and permanent.

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Step 2
Transfer Use white transfer paper to trace the finished drawing onto your dark paper. To do this, place the transfer paper between your sketch and working surface, and then draw over the lines of your original sketch. A "slip sheet," such as a piece of acetate or clean paper can be used under your drawing hand while you work to minimize smearing. To remove any unwanted shards of pigment, sweep your work frequently with a drafting brush and use a kneaded eraser to lift pigment.

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Step 3
Undercoat Keep colors glowing with an undercoat of several lightly applied layers of white. For a tonal application, apply the white with even pressure to avoid prominent strokes or streaks. Don't be concerned if flecks of paper show through these layers-they help unify the subject with the background.

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Step 4
Layer Next, add layers of key colors. A light touch is best - heavily applied pigments can produce concentrations of wax, known as "wax bloom," that make it difficult to blend colors. A very sharp pencil point helps control pressure. Start with the top beak and, following the contours, begin with the lightest colors and work up to the darkest hues. I began with canary yellow, working through the spectrum of yellows and oranges and up through the reds. Leave the paper exposed in any black areas of the subject.

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Step 5
Continue working with the same layering technique in the beak band, eye area, and then the bird's chest and feet using appropriate colors [Step 5]. Remember to leave any black areas untouched. When you are finished you'll see how the dark background suggests the presence of the bird's body without actually showing any details.

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Step 6
Finish "Toucan Charley" (10"x7") Colored Pencil on Black Letramax Board.

About the Author
Verna Curnow, is a national award-winning artist, the author of eight art books, and the Founder of the Colored Pencil Society of America. The Society has 1,700 members in 16 countries with 21 District Chapters in the United States. Curnow conducts art workshops locally and nationally. Custom Portraits Painted from your Photographs.