Based on a True Story
Step by Step – Luminance pencil and Neocolor II drawing from October 2014
I lied. I am happy to admit it. Or more to the point, I bent reality. Artists do this just like novelists, poets, politicians and screen writers do. You know at the beginning of a film you sometimes see “Based on a true story” – what does this mean? How much is true and how much is invented to create a watchable two and a half hours at the cinema?
You can see what I wrote about the above drawing in my post of several weeks ago called “Step by Step“. I was describing the picture you are looking at – describing my invention. The reality? The old lady in the background is not nearly as stooped as you see. There was a third person in the scene who was bowing at that second to her. The old lady was bowing to this (now) invisible person. Immediately afterwards she straightened up and strode forth with as much vigour as the young woman in the foreground. Also there was some building construction happening so there were bits of timber and orange cones littered about.
I wanted to tell a story as well as create a respectable pictorial composition. So I took out the bowing third person and the construction materials. I bent reality my way. Out of true events, I created my story.
I remember years ago showing a gallery owner some of my oil paintings. The guy barked at me, “Why did you put that in?” while looking at something I had painted in one of them. “Because it was there!” I indignantly replied. He went on to have an apoplectic fit at my answer. “Because it was THERE? That is the worst thing you could say! You’re an artist for goodness sake…” etc etc – something like that. Of course I was offended but I do get his point. He was saying LESS IS MORE. If it isn’t essential to the story; if it actually gets in the way of the dramatic essence, then it shouldn’t go in from the start.
These days, every time I consider a photo I am going to use as source material for a drawing, I ask myself, “What do I want to convey here? What is my point? What is my story?” I employ what is called artistic licence.
Less is more. I don’t know who came up with that statement however I endorse it. And a little redistribution/embellishment of the facts doesn’t hurt either!
two drawings with extensive use of black
Many artists and art tutors will tell you that it is a golden rule NOT to use black in drawings and paintings. All darks should be made by colour mixing as it makes for a cleaner result. Black can deaden colour. Ugh! Who’d want that? But as dear old Doris Lusk told us at art school, (New Zealand artist and our drawing tutor in 1978; bless her heart and may she rest in peace), “Art rules are made to break”. Amen to that!
I love blacks and I have a treasure trove of them. In the two drawings above I have slathered on black with great force in some areas. In other areas I have gently hinted with it. Sometimes I use it as an underlay – used very lightly – so that the colour on top will be influenced by it. For example black under a bright purple makes for a grape hue.
What do I use white for? Certainly not for white areas. My whitest whites are nothing more than untouched paper. In the top drawing I wanted the orange/red of the lantern to pop so I began with a gentle coat of Holbein Artists’ Pencil Soft White before I put on any reds. The white undercoat means that the colour placed on top, right from the start, has a different look than if it was being applied straight onto paper. It encourages the colour to glow.
Funny but with pencils, white UNDER a colour will give a different effect to white OVER that same colour. Try it for yourself.
I have recently come across a very strong black; so strong that it can still make its mark over layers of saturated colour. But be warned it is permanent! If you put it in the wrong place, nothing on earth will remove it. It is called Staedtler Lumocolor Permanent: glasochrom 108 20-9. My favourite black is Stabilo Softcolor 1500/750. Next come the Holbein Artists’ Pencil Lamp Black OP 511 and Black OP510. I don’t get much call to use either the Luminance or Polychromos blacks (the former is a little scratchy and the latter I find a bit insipid). My favourite white is Holbein Soft White OP 501.
I love the drama of black – “Awesome Power” as they say on “The Simpsons “(“Mr Sparkle”). If I can’t convince you that black has its place in pencil work, I’ll send you my address and you can post your unwanted black pencils to me.
NB: My computer died recently. When my new one comes I will be able to photograph these two new drawings properly and upload them. Till then I must use my I-phone to take photos which isn’t quite the same.
(ps: I did a lot more work on the bottom drawing after I photographed it for this blog post. The lower right hand blue panels looked dirty so I took as much colour as I could off with a putty rubber and then carefully put ultramarine blue down. Later in the week (hopefully) I will re-photograph and post.)