Work in Progress 1: “Mameyuri-san”

Work in progress 1

Work in progress 1

NOTE: all the images can be enlarged (so you can see the details better) by clicking on them.

work in progress 2

work in progress 2

work in progress 3

work in progress 3

work in progress 4

work in progress 4

"Mameyuri-san" The finished drawing.

“Mameyuri-san” The finished drawing. 385 x 410 mm. 2012

I photographed the drawing “Mameyuri-san” in stages, starting from soon after I began the drawing until the work was completed.  I spent about three weeks on this work during November 2012.

The drawing began, as all my drawings do, as a photograph taken by me.  The photo was taken in 2007 in Kyoto however I have only just done the drawing from it at the end of 2012.  (I always draw from photos and they are always my own.) Oops – except for one where I got special permission from the photographer, Onihide-san, to use his photograph for a drawing.

I do not tweak my photos on photoshop.  I usually click ‘enhance’ but other than that, I do not manipulate them.  Sometimes I take unwanted elements out of the compositions but I do this in pencil on the drawing itself, in other words I have to use a bit of imagination and ‘make up’ what I think would have been behind the unwanted objects.

Next I make an A4 sized print of the photo.  Then I use a photocopier to make a huge enlargement of that photo.  From the photocopy I trace the outlines onto my paper.  Once this is done, I remove the photocopy from the back of my piece of paper and use the A4 photo as my reference.  (You can see some of the traced lines on the first photo.)  As I put on the ‘under colour’ (a pale layer of colour) I simultaneously rub out the 2B lead pencil outlines.  Putting on the under colour is like making my map.  It is just a rough guide – simple colour which I will later build on.  (It can take a week or more, depending on the size of the drawing, just to put on all the under colour.)

I then begin to build up the colours, once the under colour is finished.  I start with the area surrounding the Maiko (apprentice geisha) Mameyuri-san.  No area of colour is ever one colour only.  All my colours are layers upon layers of different colours.

If I am drawing a portrait, I start working on the face very early on and then over the period of the whole drawing I keep adding to and improving the features and skin colours.  I don’t leave the face until last as it is the most important part so it needs a lot of time and consideration to build up.  Also, as the colours get more intense around it, the face needs on-going alteration of tones. In fact I’m adjusting every bit of the drawing as I am building up the colours.

Because I am layering colour upon colour, I really need to understand colour theory.  Without it I could not have any understanding of what results one colour added to another will achieve.  How do colours set one another off?  How do I make a colour really stand out?  Answer: surround it with its complementary colour.  One needs this knowledge.  Everyone working with coloured pencils needs to study colour theory for this reason.  Without knowledge of colour theory, layers of random colours may easily turn to mud.

I mostly work close to my drawing but I need to see the work from afar to know what needs pulling together.  So, especially in the latter stages, I work from far away, working from across the room, stepping back to look, stepping forward to make a mark, stepping back, considering again and stepping forward again.  This latter stage can take several days until I am satisfied with the result.

Related page:  Subject 2:Geisha

10 Responses to Work in Progress 1: “Mameyuri-san”

  1. Linda says:

    This is so helpful …you should write an article for Ann’s magazine.

  2. Virginia Benker says:

    Excuse my ignorance…what is an A4 sized print?

    • Hello Virginia, A4 is 210 x 297 mm. In other words, using my printer, I have printed a photograph on 8.5 x 11 inch photographic paper. I need to enlarge my photos as my eyesight is too poor these days to work off a very small photograph.

  3. Janet Pantry says:

    Great to read about the process of your drawing, Julie, and really nice finished portrait! I so agree with you about building up all the elements in the picture together rather than, say, leaving the face until last. I just looked through your gallery to remind myself of your terrific work! All the best x

  4. bcbgarcia says:

    Happy New Year, Julie!
    So this is your official blog. Thank you for your invitation. As you may know, I am chronos of Flickr. But you can call me Bea.
    So this is how you did the color drawing of Maiko Mameyuri. It’s very intricate work! The color theories and all, I love how you can put the colors in harmony. Thank you for your sharing your works here.

  5. Brigitte Shaw says:

    Hello Julie,
    I am so happy to be seeing more of your beautiful work. You are such an inspiration to me that I can’t help but pick up my coloured pencils again. I agree with you that a knowledge of colour harmony is most important as I do feel a little lost with regards to colour and layering but somehow (with my pastel work) feel my way to create something reasonable. Although I may buy “The Art of Colour” by Itten is this the only book that you recommend?

    Love your blog: LOVE your drawings, Julie.
    All the best,
    Brigitte from Dromana x

  6. Hi Brigitte,
    The book by Johannes Itten “The Art of Color” is the best book on the subject that I know of. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t other good books out there. It just means that for myself, having read it, and owning it, I don’t feel that I need to read other books on the subject as this is my reference book. The version I have is quite big and expensive (I bought it years ago) but I’m pretty sure that there is a student edition available which is much more reasonably priced.
    Whichever book you buy, you want one which has practical exercises in it. Doing colour exercises helps tremendously in understanding the language of colour.
    LATER: Found a new book on colour which I recommend: Colour: A workshop for artists and designers (second edition) by David Hornung.ISBN: 978-1-85669-877-1. Published by Laurence King, 2012.

  7. Lynette Hobcroft says:

    Hi Julie,
    I’m new to colour pencil work and found you on the Aust Coloured Pencil Facebook page. Absolutely love your work, especially as a fan of most things Japanese. I spent a year there as a child in Tokyo and remember it fondly. Can I ask a question? When you blow up your A4 image of your photograph on the photocopier, what size do you usually go to? I had the impression that your drawings were quite small, probably due to viewing them on a computer monitor. I’ve been sorting through some of my own photos to work with over Easter and have just realised the error of choosing something small and ‘bitty’ if I want detail.

    Can’t agree more with you about understanding colour theory. Luckily I had a rather strong minded colour theory teacher when doing fine arts. The knowledge has never left my side and I own the small student version of Itten.

    Thanks for sharing your work and knowledge with us. Love your work enormously! What brand of pencil do you favour? Questions, questions… sorry!

    ~ Tig
    (in Goulburn, NSW)

    • Hi Tig, thanks for writing to me. I am in Russia right now and just checking in using my husband’s laptop which is so slow to respond to me! The answer about my favourite coloured pencils is on the ‘Art Materials’ page. I’ve written quite a lot about it. So please have a look there. I will be back in Australia on April 17th so will be able to answer any more questions you have in much more detail. Right now it is very rare that I have access to a computer so I will keep this reply short. All the best, Julie

  8. Thankyou for taking the time to reply!!
    ~ Tig

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