If you’ve been following my blog you’ll know I have been involved in racing fashion for the last two years as a judge at my local Fashions on the Field. To be honest I don’t know an awful lot about “racing fashion” but I know what I like and it is always great fun to be part of these events.
There are so many fabulous artists attending racing events here in Australia and live sketching the fashions. This is such an incredible skill and I’m a bit jealous truth be told. I am dead hopeless trying to draw anything under pressure let alone in a few minutes or even half an hour. I don’t think I’d be able to draw anything that looked even vaguely human in a few minutes!
So I’ve taken the luxury of time (its been over a month since the Melbourne Cup!) to sketch the national winner of the Myer Fashions the Field 2017: Crystal Kimber. Crystal is a Fashions on the Field enthusiast and designer from Melbourne. She also has a great website where you can follow her fashion adventures: www.seekimber.com. This particular outfit that won her the National title was originally her grandmother’s skirt which was refashioned into a stunning dress.
Image credit Getty images for the VRC
What comes first: the chicken or the egg?
I’ve drawn with colour pencil ever since I can remember. I think one of my aunts or cousins gave me a second-hand set of Derwent pencils when I was about 12 and I loved those things. Having 72 “Derwents” in a box, felt so grown up. Strangely, nowadays I have the opposite feelings about colour pencils. Whenever I pull them out I start to feel quite amateurish – I guess it stems from the presumption that they are just for children to colour in with.
Either the subject matter I choose dictates what medium I use or the medium I want to try out dictates what my subject matter will be. In this case I knew I wanted to draw this particular outfit and I felt like colour pencil would be the best medium in which to capture it.
I am a self-taught artist so I tend to just apply whatever medium I am using in a way that feels intuitive. I know that’s not particularly helpful to you or me! Part of the purpose of this blog was to educate myself a bit more about drawing methods by actually doing some research and testing out new techniques. To be honest, more often that not, what I read confirms what my intuition was telling me to do in the first place. It is, however, really helpful to know the logic behind why certain things works and then apply that knowledge to another drawing and (hopefully) get consistent results.
Its all about the layers
Shrek: NO! Layers. Onions have layers. Ogres have layers… You get it? We both have layers.
Donkey: Oh, you both have LAYERS. Oh. You know, not everybody like onions. CAKE! Everybody loves cake! Cakes have layers!
Colour pencil drawings have layers too!. So MANY layers. I’ve read between 20 and 40 layers go in to a good colour pencil drawing! Crap! I naively though this colour pencil drawing would be fairly quick one ha ha!
But where to even start? I normally work dark to light so from the shadows to the highlights. Shadow are not black, they are generally shades of blue. But what if I want a shadow on blue fabric? Just use a darker blue? Hmmm? That would probably work okay but not be particularly interesting. Shadows can also be created using a complementary colour. So in this case orange.
I applied a couple of light layers of a burnt orange in the shadow areas on the bodice. I followed this with numerous layers in blue. I pretty much stuck to 3 blues (Cerulean Blue, Copenhagen Blue and China Blue) plus a bit of Blue Indigo in the shadows and Light Cerulean Blue in the highlights. I kinda figured any more than this was going to look a bit messy and risk muddying ups the colours.
The Various Stages of Shit
I feel like colour pencil more so than any other medium goes through that phase of this looks like… well … shit before it gets better. With other mediums like watercolour or gouache if it looks like shit – it is generally shit and its going to stay shit or (in the case of watercolour), get more shit.
Colour pencil seems to have this unavoidable and inevitable “shit-stage” that you just have to accept and keep going! Carrie Lewis at http://www.carrie-lewis.com is a bit of a colour pencil bible for me at the moment. She, much more eloquently says:
“every pieces goes through an awkward or ugly phase. At some point, a drawing starts to look hopeless”.
The tip from Carrie: just keep on going. And it’s true, a few more layers and you can come out the other side.
(Note: I am just telling you this to prepare you for the large number of shitty photos you are going to see.)
I was feeling a bit so-so about the bodice. Moving on to the skirt I did a bit more research and consulted Carrie Lewis again (if JD is the Godfather or Graphite she’s now my Queen of Colour). One of the methods she suggests is creating an underdrawing in a complementary colour (you can read exactly how this is done on her website).
I thought I’d give this a go on the skirt. Why I decided it would be a good idea to start a new method half way through something I don’t know!. This time, instead of just doing the shadows in Pumpkin Orange, I did the whole skirt (except for the highlights) in Pumpkin Orange and Orange.
Now you see what I mean about here various stages of shit! It looks pretty bad and looking at it now I can see that I need to take much more care in how I apply even these early layers of colour. I have developed a bit of a tendency to apply my pencil every which direction! Either stick with going the direction of the fabric (i.e. all horizontal) or in small overlapping circular motion. The reason why it is all over the place is I was working in such small cut out areas it was almost impossible to not change direction just to be able to get the colour in there.
Are we there yet?
I find it tremendously difficult to decide when enough is enough with colour pencil. At this point I really quite liked it with a bit of white paper showing through on the skirt. I know some colour pencil artists would advise to keep going with the layers until all the white is gone and a burnished effect is achieved. But I like the white! It seems to give it a more luminous effect. I suppose it could be the orange underdrawing that is giving it that glow. In any case it does looks a bit different to the bodice where there is no white showing. So I have no choice really but to add at least a few more layers.
I created a watercolour background and then used Photoshop to place it behind the dress, just to ground it a little bit rather than having her float in space.
I’m not sure I’d do another colour pencil piece. I found it really difficult to get a crisp, sharp, edge, especially in a piece like this with small detailed work. Not only that, it is incredibly time consuming.
Maybe in retrospect colour pencil wasn’t the best choice of medium for this dress but I just really wanted to use them! Now I’ve got colour pencils out of my system for a while at least!
Arches Drawing Paper 185gsm smooth A3
Tombow mono drawing pencils
Winsor and Newton Artists Water Colour
Prismacolor premier color pencils