A sticky situation: More colour pencil mishaps

I realise I am such a hypocrite, nay, more a liar liar pants on fire.  “I will never draw another smiley lady in a hat”… remember that!  Ha, ha, so what’s the first thing I choose to draw of my own free will… a chick in a hat!  To be fair it is a turban not a hat and I am utterly obsessed with turbans.  I’ve actually been asked to judge Fashions on the Field next month,(I know I can’t believe no one has figured out I don’t know anything about fashion yet either!) and it is expected that one wears a hat to such occasions.  I cannot justify the expense of buying a bit of pointless fluff to wear on my head that I will wear once and only once.  Turbans on the other hand really float my boat.  Turbans are a trend I can really get behind because with a turban I don’t even have to do my hair … did you hear me? I DONT HAVE TO DO MY HAIR! In fact I can see myself wearing a turban every single day.

So I have been searching obsessively online for a turban and they are everywhere and they are all so beautiful I decide I had to draw one.  A beautiful, bright, colour pencil one.

(WARNING: Expect to see plenty of work in progress photos this week.  I got me one of those fancy new Samsung phones with the top-notch camera in it.  To be fair, I don’t know exactly how to USE any of the fancy stuff  but it is nice and I feel like a proper blogger.)

turban work in progress 1work in progress 9work in progress 6

I am still feeling quite challenged by colour pencil and have a long way to go until I “perfect” it.  You can probably see in this last photo a bit of “graininess” happening.  Most online information regarding ‘grainy colour pencil’ advises it is due to:

  • not blending enough or carefully enough
  • laying down the colours too heavy too early
  • insufficient layers
  • using back and forth stroke rather than a circular stroke
  • using a blunt pencil

Not to brag but I know none of these things were really the issue.  I was getting so frustrated!  Finally I came across something that made sense.  What I thought of as grain was more accurately “grit”.  As you apply the colour pencil to the paper, bits of the lead break off  and fall on the paper potentially getting stuck or worked into the surface of the paper leaving you with the grainy effect.  This is exactly what was going on!

I pride myself of how freaking sharp I can get my pencils. I am so obsessed with it that I practically buy a new pencil sharpener every second drawing to ensure I have a needle sharp point every time.  Funnily enough I think this is part of the problem; a super sharp, long point is more susceptible to breakage.  As soon as you put pencil to paper the tiniest bits start to flake off the point.  Furthermore, this obsessive sharpening leaves residue on the lead which also falls on to the paper.

The solution is …a flight feather (so the internet tells me) to regularly whisk away the residue!  So I chased the hens around the yard for 30 minutes trying to snavel me a wing feather but they weren’t obliging (and our chickens can’t fly anyway).  My solution (until such time as an eagle flies overhead and drops a feather on my doorstep) is to keep my sharp point but I now wipe my pencil on a piece of tissue every time I pick it up just to be sure that its clean to start with and I use a fan brush to dust away any lingering/ falling grit.

work in progress 5work in progress 10


work in progress 14work in progress 15

(I did warn you there would be a lot of work in progress photos)

With the turban complete I moved on to the graphite, working as I usually do from the eyes outwards and this is where it all went horribly wrong!.  Just when I was priding myself on how phenomenally awesome my pencils skills are and I am absolute rock star etc etc… I stuffed up.  There are some mistakes you will (hopefully) only ever make once.  Using spray adhesive when you meant to use spray fixative is one.

The ironic thing is I don’t normally spray with fixative until I am completely finished but I was taking my time with this drawing and I thought it might be a good idea to attempt to protect what I had done already…..  Instead I practically glued my arm to the page 😭

(If you are wondering what fixative is – it is a spray which provides a clear, protective coating to graphite drawings to prevent smudging or dusting.  Great stuff.  Spray adhesive – glue in a spray can basically)

After blotting it with clean paper to remove as much of the tackiness as I could, I then left it with just a light sheet over the top to protect it from any settling dust.  After a week it was still tacky (which is probably a ringing endorsement of the adhesive quality of Nuart spray adhesive!).  I persevered and finished the graphite in the neck.  If you look closely you can see it is quite grainy.  The tacky surface seemed to grab graphite leaving me with a few little specks.

In a last ditch attempt  to improve things I  gave it a couple of coasts of  fixative (I triple checked I had the right can this time) in the hope that this would essentially create a “new” smooth surface.  It didn’t.

I had intended to blend the colour pencil a little more with either a blender or turpentine to see if I could remove a bit of that grainy look. But the persistent tackiness meant there was no way any kind of blending of the existing colour was possible.  I would have also liked to do a bit more work on the graphite to smooth it out but now that it’s all tacky I am stuck with it (pardon the pun).

I really loved/love this drawing.  I was so happy with it! I am just a bit disappointed that such a stupid mistake prevented me from finishing it as I had planned (she was going to have a colour pencil blouse) but I try to be philosophical.  It’s not a mistake I will EVER make again. Also it meant this piece, and therefore this blog post, was finished a week earlier than I had planned!  Every cloud has a silver lining.



11 thoughts on “A sticky situation: More colour pencil mishaps

  1. Thanks for yet another informative, entertaining and educational post. Don’t spray adhesive on half-done drawings – I’ll add that to the list.

    Looks like you saved it well !!


  2. Pingback: Mr Potato Head

  3. Sometimes we are so critical of our work, and new mediums are hard.. and we won’t always master them quickly. As artists sometimes we need to tell ourselves that this was the best we could do for now, and in another piece we can redeem ourselves and get better. Alas THIS IS an amazing portrait and not at all “lacking” anything particular. I’m sure you could of done more on this one and if only that mistake didn’t happen… but don’t dwell on that!
    At least nothing any worse happened. You still have a really beautiful image here and without you telling us- -we’d never of guessed a thing about your frustrations and mishaps with it 🙂

    Thanks for sharing your process and I hope you get further with your colour pencil work ❤


    • Thankyou Rae. I totally agree. I know I am way to hard on myself when I try something new. I think I have an expectation that because I am good at one medium I should be good at all others! And then I get frustrated when I’m not 😫

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ah, yes. We can have high expectations of ourselves and sometimes our materials. Everything comes in time and practice. Sometimes the first works are amazing but that is less common than we think. And yes, you have great talent and artistic skill.. Overall it does mean you should grasp a new medium quite well but give it time going from black and white art (like graphite) to a colour medium is so exciting but also very intimidating and different. Try not to think too much about how good you right now or “are not” but how fun experimenting is and soon you’ll find a perfect balance and start really enjoying it.

        Liked by 1 person

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