Tools.

© C. Ford, all rights reserved. Bad flash, sorry. Click for full size.

© C. Ford, all rights reserved. Bad flash, sorry. Click for full size.

Good tools are important. Having the right tools is very important too. I can highly recommend the Staedtler sharpener (mine is in obvious need of a clean). It works beautifully and renders a very sharp tip. Speaking of sharp tips, everyone who has worked with pencil, colour or not, is familiar with point breakage during drawing. This sends tiny bits of core all over the place. If you’re working in ordinary pencil, it’s not a major deal if it smears, as it’s easily erased. That is so not the case with colour pencils, Prismacolor in particular. Normally, I use a fox tail brush to clean, but these can cause problems with colour pencils, in that no matter how lightly you wield one, it’s still heavy enough to cause many a smear. The solution? Feathers. I use 3 types of feather. Not only can you pick up minuscule bits of pencil with them, they are very good to brush an area of your work without smearing.  The turkey feather is the lightest, and excellent at picking up bits; the other two are stiffer, with more weight, and good for an overall sweep. If you have a bunch of bits and dust, gently press the feather down on them, and it will pick them up. Don’t forget to clean your feather after. Just using your fingers on the feathers works fine.

Living rural, I don’t have to go far to find feathers, but if you’re deep in an urbanscape, feathers of all types are easily found in craft stores. The benefit there is that you can buy feathers by the bag, so you’ll have more than enough for your needs.

ETA:

22 seconds in the microwave, kept all the info. Just sharpened it, seems to have worked. This was also a sharp reminder of a major failing on my part – not paying attention. I’m so colour focused, I completely ignore observing the condition of the pencil. Now that I had a very good look at this one, there are a number of gouges and scores, particularly on the ‘back’ of it, and there was a suspicious piece transparent tape, too. So, while it’s good to know you can fix your pencil up, it pays to be very observant of the pencil itself before you bring it home.

Stupid Is…

The Problem [right} and the New Choice [left].

The Problem [right} and the New Choice [left].

Right. Stupid is choosing a very hard to find colour in pencils, and compounding that stupidity by choosing a pencil out of gift set, which means no identifiers on the pencil. No number, no colour name. Now, before I got absurdly attached to this colour, I could have engaged my brain for a moment, and focused on the fact that I have a very large piece to do, and only one pencil. This should have called for patience enough to see if I could at least find a colour match. Did I do this? Oh no. Just started drawing, and it wasn’t until my pencil was diminishing at a rapid rate that I realised I was in trouble. Then I started looking for a colour match. Couldn’t find one. The Prismacolour Pourpre Foncé was in the range of my original pick, so I went with it, and bought two pencils. I’ll probably buy another one next week, just in bloody case.

I tried to make it work on the piece, but it just didn’t come together, so I got to start all over again. If, like me, you tend to get abnormally attached to a certain colour, get as many as you can, it will save you much aggravation in the long run.

Starting Over. Bad Flash Photography.

Starting Over. Bad Flash Photography.

Getting To The Point.

I don’t know what possesses me to work in colour pencil now and then, but it happens, and as usual all the frustrations and annoyances of working with them set in. You need to get your pencils sharp, while at the same time there’s always an anxiety over just how much pencil you’re eating when sharpening. There are many ways to sharpen a pencil, and everyone has their fave method. I’m not overly skilled at hand sharpening with a knife, so I save that one as a last resort. If you’re like a whole lot of people and use Prismacolor pencils, you’ll find the frustration levels to be very high indeed. A lot of people settle on Prismacolor because they are in the higher range of quality, and somewhat affordable. That said, they are extraordinarily fragile. Being quite soft, it doesn’t take much to break the core, and when a core is broken, you end up with: sharpen, core breaks. Sharpen again, core breaks. Lather, rinse, & repeat until you have about two inches of brand new effing pencil left. When a pencil costs you around $2.00, that tends to make you yelling angry. Some retailers have a specific policy on Prismacolor, such as Dick Blick, where they will replace your stub with another pencil.  This does not take away the sheer inconvenience of this little problem. If you’re doing a return and replace at a store, you’ll need your receipt, so it’s always good to hang on to Prismacolor receipts until you go to sharpen them.

You can’t tell if a core is broken by looking. If you start sharpening, and start losing point after point, stop. Prismacolor recommends you place your pencil in a warm, sunny spot for up to 5 minutes, which repairs the break in the core. This is not exactly sterling advice for people who live in places which have 6 months of winter, and often have cool, overcast days in Spring and Summer. Some people swear by microwaving them, but this can be a good way to utterly destroy your pencil, with the often metallic stamping going up in a shower of sparks, and setting the wood casing on fire. There’s much debate about time, too – people say anywhere from 5 seconds to 25 seconds. Another method is using your oven, which is safer. The basic consensus seems to be 5 to 10 minutes @ 250 F. Some people insist the pencil should go in cold (on foil or a baking tin), but my oven takes its time heating, so I wait until it’s at temperature, then put it in for the least amount of time. You definitely should check on your pencil at least halfway through – if the point is bubbling, get it out! On the opposite end, some people claim freezing Prismacolor pencils makes them easier to sharpen. I haven’t tried this.

Storage is very important when it comes to Prismacolor, and all pencils should be treated well. Dedicated pencil holders are truly best, padded cases with elastic to hold your pencils. Tran pencil cases are quite affordable, and work well. I have this one, along with a number of smaller roll ups. If you keep your pencils in a cup or similar, generously pad the bottom with something soft, like cotton batting. Whatever you do, try to place your pencil container in a place where they will not get knocked over. When your lovely Prismacolors hit the ground, you can count on broken cores.

There is one thing which makes a massive difference when it comes to Prismacolor pencils, and that is how you sharpen them with a small, hand-held sharpener. It goes without saying that you should change your blades often, but what coddles your Prismacolor pencil is holding your pencil still, and turning the sharpener. This is counter-intuitive, but it will become habit soon enough. This applies a much lighter pressure, which is less likely to break the core, and it actually produces less waste. Give it a try, you won’t go back. I do this with all my different brands of colour pencils.

© C. Ford, all rights reserved.

Working On and Slobbery Dogs…

Lately, I’ve been working on the floor, so this is my fault, but slobbery dogs, aaaaauuuugh. One of the doors in my studio opens onto the lav, and the door was open. I go in for around 10 seconds, and Jayne promptly stands over the painting and drools. Now he’s sleeping the sleep of the innocent (What? I didn’t do anything! Why are you yelling? Can I have a treat?)

The Fight.

Finished! 18″ x 24″, pencil & marker on Bristol. Click for full size. I am so curious, so this is for everyone, not just fellow artists. For the artists, how would you depict cancer and chemotherapy? For all the non-artists, how do you picture things like cancer and chemotherapy? What shape do they take in your head? Prior to getting cancer, I can’t say I ever gave it any thought at all, and I’m not overly sure where the images in The Fight came from, they were just there. After trying to think about it for a bit, seems the main concepts in my head had to do with fluidity and a crackling electricity, mass power out of control.

© C. Ford, all rights reserved.

Not An Optical Illusion.

I’m working on First Reaction, and every time I use this one pencil, and it freaks me out a bit, because I keep seeing it crooked. It’s very easy to see pencils crooked though, you can make them all wavy on purpose. I finally paid attention and looked at the pencil, and it’s not me, damn thing is crooked. :D

© C. Ford.

Still at the egg market…

and having fun. :D I’ve gotten so accustomed to doing gum arabic watercolours, I don’t know that I can ever go back to plain.

Meeting at the Egg Market © C. Ford, all rights reserved.

ETA: I was still undecided on the body colour for the being on the left; I decided to go with Charly’s characterisation of pony, so dappled gray.

© C. Ford, all rights reserved.