In this project we will learn how to combine coloured pencil with solvent to create a more painterly eff ect. Solvent melts the wax binder in the pencil,
eliminating pencil strokes and smoothing out the surface of the drawing. This technique also helps make the layering of colours much quicker.
I have drawn my outlines using a white erasable pencil so they will show on the red-toned paper. Sanded paper helps the pencil to blend and layer much easier but it will wear down the pencils faster. I test my colours on a scrap of the same coloured paper I am working on, as colours will appear different on a dark-toned surface such as this red.
Colouring the toffee apples will be similar to the Glass Bottles project, as we will be drawing shapes that are reflected in the apples. But as these shapes are opaque, rather than transparent, we will also round them with tonal values. And remember, you don’t have to be very particular when laying down colour, because the solvent will smooth everything out later.
I begin by drawing the white highlights in the apples, where the light is hitting the fruit’s shiny surfaces. Colour the refl ections at the top of the apples with Blush Pink, Pink and Ultramarine Pink. For the larger reflections on the lower half of the apples, use Clay Rose and Ultramarine Pink, Blush Pink and Carmine Red.
Now work on the sticks. First, apply Cream where the light is catching the side edges of the left and middle sticks. Add a bit of Carmine Red to the bottom side edge of the middle stick. Colour all three sticks with Beige but as you near the bottom use Nectar, Clay Rose and Spring Green on the left stick, as shown. The bottom of the middle stick is coloured with Nectar and Clay Rose and use just Beige on the right stick. For the shadowed area under the apples, use Blue Violet Lake and Black Grape.
Sanded paper is a good choice when you want to lay down colour quickly.
Now the reflections are drawn, you can add red tones to the apples around
the reflected shapes using the picture as a guide. You’ll notice that the red-coloured pencils are softer and crumble more easily than other coloured
pencils. We will be blending edges of colours placed side by side into one
another in order to have a soft transition of tones. There isn’t much layering
here, more placing colours next to one another.
We will use Poppy Red, Scarlet Lake, Crimson Red, Crimson Lake, Process Red, Tuscan Red, Black Grape and Indanthrone Blue to add colour to the rest of the apples. Apply Poppy Red to the lightest areas. Use Scarlet Lake, Crimson Red and Crimson Lake for areas that turn into shadow. Add Tuscan Red, Black Grape and Indanthrone Blue to the dark shadowed areas between the apples and at their bases. Use the dark pink colour of Process Red for accent.
Add or readjust colours in any of the refl ections drawn in Stage 1, then carefully blend their edges into the red colours you have just applied. Complete the surface on which the apples sit by applying Luminance White to the lighter areas between the fruit, then add Cloud Blue and a little Luminance White around the shadows.
Advantages of using solvent
Adding a little solvent to a layer of coloured pencil with a soft bristle brush will break down the wax binder and allow you to move pigment around the paper. Solvent fuses the colour into the paper and the layers of pencil become thick and opaque. After it dries, you can apply more layers of coloured pencils and solvent if needed. I enjoy this technique because I can create rich, vivid colours and make my drawing look more like a painting. It also means I can apply the coloured pencil more quickly and less evenly because I will smooth it out at a later stage.
Choosing the right materials
The best pencils to use with solvent are those that have a soft wax base and blend more easily than harder pencils. Practise with different brands to determine which will work best for your type of drawing application.
Choosing the right paper is also a factor. I like a sturdy paper or board that will withstand layers of colour and solvent, and won’t buckle or disintegrate when solvent is added. I often choose a sanded paper surface because the rough tooth holds the pencil, blends and builds colour quickly, but keep in mind it will also wear down the pencils faster. For this project I chose a warm red-toned sanded board, as the red background complements the apples so I could allow it to
show through in some areas.
A word of warning when using solvent: even though it is considered odourless or natural, all solvents release some toxins into the air. We will only use a small amount of solvent for this project, but be sure to work in a well ventilated area. Odourless mineral spirits and natural turpentine are the safest to use.
It’s a good idea to practise working with solvent and coloured pencil on a scrap of paper first to understand the results.
All the colour is in place, so we can start adding the solvent. Dip your brush in solvent and lightly blot on a paper towel before applying it to the paper. You want the brush to be damp but not overly wet to avoid it creating a puddle on the
paper. Lightly brush very small areas of colour, staying within areas of similar colour, and be careful not to brush colours into the white areas. Notice how the solvent begins to melt the pencil and make it move around like paint.
Lights and darks should be done separately and with a clean or separate brush. Take the same coloured pencil as the area you are working on and draw into the solvent area while it is still damp. This will build a bright and opaque layer of colour. The tip of the pencil may start to mush from the solvent, so clean it with a paper towel, then lightly wipe away any crumbs of colour with a soft brush.
Take the damp brush and go over each colour again, smoothing it out and blending it with the solvent. I sometimes blend with my fi ngertips too. If the solvent area is too wet to add more pencil, let it dry for a few minutes. Solvent stays moist for about ten minutes.
Blend the surface with solvent using two brushes for the light and dark areas or clean your brush well in between working the different areas. Notice how the Cloud Blue area is a little more difficult to get smooth, as you are blending a very light colour into the dark-toned paper surface. You can also add lighter colours over darker colours while the solvent is wet or after it has dried. For instance, I have put Crimson Lake over the darkest areas blended with Tuscan Red, Black Grape and Indanthrone to lighten them a little and give them a red glow.
Add a layer of Black Grape to the background, but don’t worry about applying it evenly, as it will be covered with solvent in Stage 4. I chose a dark-toned background to make the apples stand out.
Add solvent to the drawing by lightly brushing areas of colour with a damp brush.
Now you can add solvent to the background, working on small areas at a time with a fl at brush (I like to use a .in soft flat brush for this), perhaps using a 1⁄2in brush to smooth larger areas. Apply solvent as you did in Stage 3, making sure the brush is damp but not overly wet. Use strokes in different directions to even out the background. After applying solvent to an area, add more Black Grape and smooth out again with the brush. If it gets too wet or pencil colour starts to move around, let it dry for a few minutes and go back over it. You can also add more solvent after the background is dry and rework it with the brush and the pencil.
To finish, accentuate the large reflections in the apples with an outline of
Tuscan Red, then reapply any colours where needed.
Apply solvent to the background base colour, working small areas at a time. I have added more Black Grape pencil and am smoothing it out with the brush.