Today, I want to talk about the things artists tell themselves. Those preconceived notions that hold us back.
Let me explain by using myself as an example.
The Things Artists Tell Themselves
I spent over forty years drawing and painting portraits of horses. I was confident doing head studies, full body portraits, and action scenes. There wasn’t a horse I didn’t feel capable of drawing.
But put a rider in the saddle or add a buggy or carriage, and I was a bundle of insecurity!
In reality, I should have been able to draw the person or equipment with the same confidence with which I drew the horse. I had the skill to draw horses, so there was no reason I couldn’t also draw people or equipment.
So I avoided drawing people or equipment whenever possible. When I had to include a person or a buggy or whatever, I struggled.
The Big Lie
In novel writing, one of the things the novelist must decide is what lie each character believes. Often referred to as The Big Lie, this belief keeps the character from achieving a goal.
The Big Lie might be something the person heard as a child. It may be the result of a failure or misunderstanding. The character may realize it’s a lie, but more often, it’s subconscious.
Artists are the same way. Actually every person is that way. There is something I believe about myself that’s not true, and there’s something you believe about yourself that’s not true.
As I get older, I can more clearly see my Big Lie was that I couldn’t draw people or technical things. I’ve done both, now. I know I can draw people, and I can draw technical subjects.
They are more difficult because I’m not familiar with them, but when I apply the same skills that help me draw horses to these other subjects, I can draw them.
Big lies apply to what we think we can draw and what we think we can’t draw.
They apply to what we think we can and cannot accomplish with our art. They also apply to turning hobbies into businesses, or any other worthwhile endeavor.
What’s the Solution?
My husband has cited Henry Ford to me often enough that I sometimes hate the quote I used below. But it is true. That’s another thing I’m learning as I get older (and hopefully wiser.)
Whether I think or can, or think I can’t, I’m right.
And so are you.
The solution is two-fold and both parts can be difficult. Very difficult.
The first step is to be totally honest with yourself and identify the Big Lie you believe about yourself or about your ability. Get past the things that are skills you have yet to acquire.
For example, if you believe you can’t shade smooth color, that’s a skill you can acquire with time and practice.
But if you believe you can’t learn to shade smooth color, that’s a lie you’re telling yourself.
Do you see the difference?
Back to my example, I believed I couldn’t draw people or equipment and that was a lie. I proved it was a lie by drawing people and equipment.
The truth was I didn’t have the skill or determination to draw those things. Another truth was that I didn’t want to try drawing them because they were hard.
So ask yourself the following questions and fill in the blanks as they fit you.
I believe I can’t draw ___________________.
I believe I can’t draw ___________________, but I can learn how.
The first is the lie. The second is the truth and a plan of action.
If you don’t think you believe any Big Lies, then you’re either miles ahead of the rest of us or….
…maybe that’s the Big Lie you believe about yourself.
Think about it.
The Things Artists Tell Themselves
I decided to publish this post today because I’ve learned over years of blogging that if I struggle with something, some of my readers also struggle with it.
Self imposed obstacles and the things artists tell themselves (that aren’t true,) are some of the biggest hurdles we have to get over if we really want to succeed.
As with most things, when you first begin, the world is at your feet. The sky’s the limit! Colored pencils are the best art medium ever and you’re going to create great art from the start.
Then reality hits.
You’re much better equipped for that reality if you remember these eight things.
Colored Pencil Tips for New Artists
1. Colored Pencils are S-L-O-W!!!
New products are being developed all the time that can speed up the drawing process for colored pencil artists. Watercolor pencils. Sanded art papers. Great new blending tools.
But colored pencils are still a naturally slow medium, and if you prefer traditional colored pencils on traditional papers, expect to spend hours and hours on each piece.
Especially if you prefer producing realistic work. Take your time and enjoy the process.
2. Not All Colored Pencils are the Same
Aside from variations in labeling and exterior treatment, most colored pencils look the same. Yes, some are round and some are octagonal. Most are wood-encased, and others have no casing at all. And they all look like pencils!
But they don’t all perform the same way. A set of cheap pencils purchased at the local craft store do not perform the same as a set of high quality pencils purchase from a dedicated art supply store.
To keep frustration levels to a minimum, start with the best pencils you can afford.
3. You Don’t Need a Full Set of Pencils
Despite all those lovely, beautiful, enticing colors, you can make a good start with just a few colors. Small sets force you to learn how to layer colors to mix new colors. You may not like all the new colors you make. I can just about guarantee you’ll hate a lot of them.
But that’s all right. Most artists learn more from their mistakes, than from the things that go right.
Smaller sets are also less expensive. If you make a few drawings, then decide you prefer another medium, you can give that small set away without guilt. Or regret!
4. Sharp is Good, but Not Always Best
You won’t have to watch many videos or do many tutorials to start hearing how important sharp pencils are. For many applications, that is true.
But dull and even blunt pencils are also useful in some applications. Try them for putting thin, nearly transparent color into larger areas.
5. You Don’t Need Solvents to Get Smooth Color
For years, colored pencil artists created wonderful works of art using nothing but pencils and paper.
Then someone discovered colored pencil layers could be dissolved and blended with solvents. Solvents allowed color to “soak” into the paper and fill in the tooth of the paper without damaging the tooth.
That meant artists could add more layers, get smoother color, finish faster, and even work larger.
That doesn’t mean you have to solvents. A lot of artists prefer the way their work looks if they don’t use solvents.
So if you don’t like the look of solvent-blended color, or are allergic to solvents, don’t worry! You can still make great art the old-fashioned way.
6. You Don’t Need Fancy Tools
There are a lot of new tools, gadgets, devices, and other accessories for the colored pencil artist in today’s market. All of them are useful to someone.
Most of them are fun to try.
Some of them may even help you.
But beginners don’t really need them. As a matter of fact, adding tools to your toolbox before you know how to make the pencils and paper work together causes confusion and maybe frustration.
Don’t be afraid to make bad art. All of us have done it!
When you wonder if two colors work together, the best way to find out is to try them together. If they do, great!
If they don’t, then you’ve learned something not to do.
8. Have fun.
I can’t mention this often enough.
That’s because it’s so easy to get caught up in the creative process that you forget to have fun. Especially after you’ve been drawing for a while and you really want to improve.
The best way to improve is to do a lot of drawings. The best way to do a lot of drawings is to have fun with every drawing.
Those are My Tips Colored Pencil Tips for New Artists
Keep them in mind as you begin exploring your colored pencils and your art journey will get off to a much better start.
They also work for those of us who have been making art for a while.
After much thought, soul-searching, and input from loyal readers, I’ve decided it’s time to do more than just think about leaving social media.
It’s time to act.
Before I do that, though, I want to answer the questions most likely to arise at this news.
Why are you leaving social media?
From my first Twitter account years ago, my primary goal has been promoting this blog. I followed the advice of bloggers and marketers who said I must be active on social media in order to direct traffic to this blog.
That goal has motivated every subsequent decision about the venues I’ve chosen, the ways I’ve used those media outlets, and how I’ve interacted with followers through social media, this blog, and my weekly newsletter.
And the response has been good in some ways.
The problem is that although a lot of people follow me or like me, very few actually make the leap to the blog. That means that the return on investment of time, creativity, and persistence has been very small.
Almost nothing, in fact.
Putting that time into blog posts or the weekly newsletter would provide more and better content to you as a reader for a couple of important reasons.
Content on the blog is easier for you to find, and much easier for me to update than content on social media.
You can read articles and posts here without worrying about disagreeable ads popping up or being told what you’re interested in.
I also have control over what I publish and how long it stays published. No banned posts. Nothing marked as spam by an unseen authority.
Besides, as a writer as well as an artist, I’ve just always been more comfortable blogging than trying work around the limitations of social media.
So it makes sense to stop doing what isn’t working so I can put more time and energy into what is working.
Which social media accounts are you closing?
I closed my Twitter account in August 2020.
My Pinterest account was also deactivated in 2020.
In early 2021, I closed my YouTube account, and on April 18, 2021, I deleted my Facebook account.
But I follow you on social media? What do I do now?
First of all, thank you if you’ve been following me anywhere. I do appreciate you!
The best option is to sign up for my free weekly newsletter. That way, you’ll get news about the latest posts, new products, and tips and tools to help you make the kind of colored pencil art you want to make.
How can I connect with you?
The best way to connect with me has always been by email through the contact page on this blog. I answer every email as quickly as possible and email correspondence comes directly to your inbox.
If you have questions or comments about specific posts, I encourage you to share them in the comment section for that post. I get notifications about new comments and respond to those too, usually within 24 hours or less.
My leaving social media doesn’t mean I’m no longer interested in connecting with you. There are alternatives to social media. At present, the most intriguing from my point of view is a member forum. There are ways to host a forum on this blog and for many of us, that may be the best current option.
But there is much to consider and investigate before any such decision is made.
I am currently active on a membership forum for colored pencil artists, Monthly Sharpener. Monthly Sharpener was founded by portrait artist, John Middick. It’s a two-tier platform with a free tier and a subscriber platform called the Member Circle with exclusive content.
Thank you again for your participation on social media if you have followed me on any of the venues mentioned above. I do appreciate you and your very kind support.
Each piece of art is accompanied with comment from the artist. If you’ve ever wondered what inspires artists to make the art they make, this is a great source for answers.
What About All Those Other Entries?
That’s where CP Hidden Treasures comes in.
Selected works from the remaining entries are featured in a second collection of work called CP Hidden Treasures. This year’s edition of CP Hidden Treasures contains 208 pieces of artwork of all subjects and styles and by artists from around the world.
And that’s where my piece, Spring Storm, enters the picture.
Spring Storm is my first piece on Clairefontaine Pastelmat, was the featured tutorial in the March 2020 issue of CP Magic, and is also the subject for an expanded, standalone tutorial.
Not bad for a “practice” piece!
Both books are now available in either digital or print versions. I love print books, so that’s what I ordered. They’re beautiful!
If you want to see cutting edge colored pencil work, these two art books are for you.
All of the original five cats still live with us. Basil, Bing, Bob, Bud and Lou have grown into fine, handsome cats. They are all healthy and happy, staying indoors at night, but getting outside as they wish during the day.
It’s been so hot the last few weeks that they’ve spent most of their days sleeping in cool, shady spots, but I have seen some chasing flying insects and hunting grasshoppers.
In other words, being cats.
We rescued poor Basil with bad infections in both eyes. His mother hid her kittens in a hollow of a tree, and dirt and debris was stuck to Basil’s left eye. When we cleaned the eye, the third eyelid appeared permanently closed. The eye eventually healed, but sealed itself, and we were never able to determine whether not there was actually an eye in that socket.
Basil still has a unique “air” due to the lack of a left eye, but that hasn’t hampered him. Much. He did have difficulty learning to climb and jump, requiring us to rescue him from high places a couple of times. But once he learned how to judge distance, he was fine. He now makes routine visits to the second story windows that overlook a low roof.
He’s grown into a lean muscled, long legged fellow, that doesn’t back down from opponents (even big dogs,) but is affectionate toward us.
One thing he hasn’t done is grow into his ears. They still seem too large for him!
Bing is a small dog in a cat’s body.
And a chatterer. He often greets us as the back gate when we’ve been away and escorts us to the house, talking all the way.
Pick him up and he automatically rolls over to have his ears rubbed. Sit down without him already on your lap, and he cannonballs into your lap. He is definitely not an old lady cat!
Bing went missing for two weeks in September 2019. We have no idea where he went or what he did, but he was in good shape when he returned. Maybe just a little lighter.
He now weighs in at around eleven pounds, which makes his floor-to-lap cannonball routine all the more startling for the unwary!
Bob, the first member of the Kitten Posse, looks a lot like his littermate Bing, but is much more reserved. He still has the dreamy-eyed expression that made him the subject of an old email drawing class.
He spent about a week as the only orphan. When the next two came into the house, he looked a little dismayed at having them in his overnight bed. Sometimes, he still looks that way!
Reserved or not, he’s still friendly and often comes inside to help me clean litter boxes even on nice days. Quiet he may be, but he likes being outside and is quite often the last one to come in. Most of the time, I have to go and get him.
Once or twice, he spent the night outside after mysteriously disappearing at evening.
Bud was the smallest of the original five and had persistent respiratory problems. Despite that, he was playful. I have photos of him tussling with the others, playing around the keyboard while I worked, and napping with the younger kittens.
He was “best bud” to Ember, a young adult female about two years older than he. She was never well, and usually ate best when Bud ate with her. When she died early this summer, Bud seemed a little lost.
He continues to have respiratory problems, though they seem to have settled in his sinuses now. It amazes me that he remains so friendly after all the treatments he’s put up with it. He’s like a bucking bronco to medicate, and hides if he sees us with a pill popper or syringe (even if they’re not meant for him.) But through it all, he remains affectionate.
Lou is still the biggest of the five and tops out at twelve to thirteen pounds in the winter. During the hot summer months, he slims all the way down to about eleven pounds.
Despite his size, he’s pretty mellow with us. Definitely an armful when carried.
He behaves toward the non-posse-members as though he’s boss (or wants to be,) so he sometimes spends afternoons inside to prevent his running the older cats off.
Like Bud, Bing, and Bob, Lou suffers lingering respiratory problems, though nothing as severe or persistent as Bud. A little face cleaning now and again is all he requires.
As of the date of this writing, I’ve been unable to get a good photo of Lou as an adult, but will add one when able. Just imagine Bing mostly white, and you have the idea. They are built a lot alike and no wonder. They are litter mates.
Later Posse Members: Pee Wee and Her Siblings
After the original Kitten Posse was settled, we took in four other kittens. Pee Wee and her three siblings; cousins to the original five.
One of them, Brummel, is no longer with us, but the others are doing well.
Pee Wee is the smallest member of the Kitten Posse, though she’s grown more than I expected, given her poor health as a kitten. If there’s a “teacher’s pet” among them all, she’s it. At least in her own mind. If I happen to lean against the kitchen counter while talking to the chef (Neal,) it isn’t long before Pee Wee is as at my feet, gazing lovingly upward. If I pay no attention, it isn’t long before she takes matters into her own paws!
She also loves jigsaw puzzles, especially rolling around on partially assembled puzzles (while I’m working on them,) and loose pieces. She’s a good companion, but not much help.
Rebel has grown up to be as big as Lou, which is a surprise since he wasn’t remarkable for size as a kitten. He’s not the bravest cat in the pride, preferring to be safe rather than sorry. He gives the older neighborhood toms wide berth and sometimes also retreats from the three older females. He’s also cautious around strangers, though he’s friendly with us.
Make friends with him, though, and he’s all kinds of affectionate.
I’ve tried on several occasions to photograph Rebel as an adult, but he’s shy by nature and photographing a black cat in the shadows is challenging, to say the least!
Sorrowful is next in size to Rebel. She would like to be an outdoor cat, but is confined to the inside, because the outdoor cats simply don’t like her.
She also had one scare with a car (which I saw.) When she manages to sneak outside, she stays away from the street, but we keep her inside for her own safety.
Maybe, once the other Posse Members accept her, she can spend time outside. Until then, she gets time in her own upstairs room with an open window. Complete with all the amenities.
So That’s the Kitten Posse Update
Those orphaned kittens not only survived my mothering, but have grown into big, mostly healthy cats. For the most part, they grew up better than I could have hoped, given the rough starts a lot of them had.
Colored pencils have come a long way since I started using them in the mid 1990s. New brands have entered the market. When I started there was only Prismacolor (so far as I knew.) Now beginners can chose from dozens of brands.
And yes, most of them work well with all the others.
New Drawing Surfaces
Pencils aren’t the only things being updated and improved. Drawing surfaces continue to develop too.
As of the writing of this post, Brush & Pencil has launched a brand new, fully archival sanded art paper that takes sanded art paper to a new level. Lux Archival is the latest product from this artist-run company and it’s getting rave reviews.
New Accessory Products
New products are now available that make painting with colors pencils more like painting with colored pencils. I refer, of course, to Brush & Pencil’s texture fixative, which is sprayed over a work in progress to restore tooth. Back in the day, there was only workable fixative and it was usually unsatisfactory.
Actually, Brush & Pencil has become one more reason to love colored pencils for a lot of artists. Their fully archival line of products transformed colored pencils in a big way.
(No, this isn’t a sponsored post. It’s just Brush & Pencil has developed so many great new products in the last few years that it’s impossible not to find one that excites you!)
Exploration is Easier
And usually more fun, too.
I’m not sure why that is. All those years (over 40) that I created horse portraits in oils, portrait work is about all I did. I had no interest in landscapes, still life paintings, or just playing with the paint. About the only time I did anything different was when I got so disgusted with a piece that I slapped paint all over it and made an abstract out of it.
But put a colored pencil in my hand, and all that changes!
In the last few years, I’ve drawn a still life or two, food, and fabric. I’ve drawn from life (something else I never felt the need to do with oils.)
I’ve even dabbled with mixed media by doing watercolor under paintings!
It’s Easier to Have Fun
It’s also easier to just have fun with colored pencils. I do understand that. It was next to impossible to carry oil paints, brushes, and cleaner with me all the time. Painting was always in the studio, so it was always work.
But I keep a few pencil stubs in my purse all the time and also have a field kit that’s more completely stocked. That means I can draw wherever I happen to be, and that makes it fun!
There’s So Much Great Colored Pencil Art Out There
Finally (for today,) there are so many wonderful artists creating great colored pencil art that it’s easy to be motivated to create my own. Subjects are as varied as the artists and so are their drawing methods. There’s always something to learn from each one, and that’s the most exciting reason of all to love colored pencils.
So there are a few more reasons to love colored pencils.
What are some of your reasons for loving colored pencils?
Today, I want to take a little time to share a message of encouragement with my readers; with you.
I don’t usually talk about current events here, because that’s not what this space is for.
I didn’t intend to talk about the present situation either. There’s already more than enough talk, and much if it is not helpful. I didn’t want to add to the hype, and I still don’t.
But I’ve been reading your emails and comments, and have decided it’s time to at least let you know I’m getting your messages and well wishes.
Thank you to everyone who has asked about our well being over the last few weeks and who continue to do so.
We’re doing fine and have actually seen very little change to our daily routine (other than shopping, of course.) I’ve been working at home for ten years, after all.
As a matter of fact, Neal and I have been busier than ever despite what’s happening around us and around the world. We’re both old enough to understand that nothing lasts forever, good or bad. The only thing to do is keep moving forward.
That may seem difficult these days, but it’s worth however much effort it takes.
My Message of Encouragement to You
I don’t know how bad this situation really is. I believe very few people truly know that. It’s next to impossible to accurately evaluate any situation when you’re in the middle of it. I know that from personal experience—recent and past.
It’s also difficult to maintain any sense of equilibrium during any kind of crisis. It seems like the situation will never end, and that life will never be the same afterward.
But nothing lasts forever. Not good times, not bad times.
And, all media hype aside, there have definitely been much darker days in this country (I’m writing from the United States,) and around the world. The fact of the matter is that for many people, the Coronavirus has taken a backseat to more personal life events.
There have been challenges for many of us in the last few weeks. Yes, some of us have lost loved ones or have loved ones who test positive. I have a niece, nephew, and sister working in healthcare, two of them in retirement facilities. My niece has been exposed, so I know how that feels.
But unreasonable fear does no one any good, least of all the one enslaved by it.
It’s in response to that overwhelming sense that the world is about to end that I am writing.
Things have been bad before.
You don’t have to go back very far to remember the Swine Flu, the Bird Flu, and any number of other seasonal flu events. It seems like there’s a new one every year.
Go back a little further and you find the Irish Flu and Spanish Flu, both of which were much worse than what we presently face.
Things looked bad then, but they passed and life resumed.
Things look bad now, but this too will pass and life will pick up pretty much where it left off.
So What’s the Bottom Line?
What I hope you realize is that this post isn’t about the Coronavirus. It’s about staying on an even keel and holding course no matter what happens.
Yes. Take reasonable precautions.
No, don’t let panic drag you under.
What I Plan to Do
Take Reasonable Precautions
That includes staying home, but also getting outside to walk and get some sun, washing my hands regularly, and guarding personal space for myself and the people around me.
Listen to Local Authorities
When I want or need information, I go to the local authorities. City and county first, then the state if necessary. If you need or want more information than that, skip the mainstream media and check out the Center for Disease Control for the latest updates in the United States.
Maintain the Regular Routine
I’m carrying on here in southwest Kansas just like I did before.
CP Magic will continue to publish each month.
I’ll publish new downloadable classes and tutorials to help you improve your skills and maybe learn new ones.
I’ll draw as often as I can, and I’ll take care of the family, the cats, take walks, and putter around the yard. I’m even considering some kind of sketching challenge to keep my pencils moving across the paper.
The most important message of encouragement I can offer is to have (or come to) faith.
The most important part of my daily routine is faith-based. On trying or frightening days, I spend more time in prayer, thanksgiving, and the Scriptures. My trust that God was not surprised by this situation (or any other,) that there is a reason for it (even though I don’t know what it is,) and that He has already ordained the restoration of life afterward is all that stands between me and total paralysis.
It’s all that keeps me putting one foot ahead of the other.
It can do the same for you, too.
That’s my Message of Encouragement for You, Dear Reader
What I’m encouraging you to do is be aware of the circumstances, but don’t let them paralyze you. Take reasonable precautions. Behave sensibility. Keep your head.
Time for another artist interview. This month, CP Magic is talking art with Carrie Lewis, discussing some of the challenges of being an artist.
Carrie has been painting and drawing since she was old enough to hold a crayon. In the late 1990s, she began doing more colored pencil work, which is now her primary medium.
She blogs regularly about all things colored pencil, and publishes the monthly e-zine for colored pencil artists, CP Magic.
She’s currently in the process of designing a new course.
Carrie is the featured artist for the March 2020 issue of CP Magic, where she talked at length about her art story, as well as presenting a landscape tutorial on Pastelmat.
For this post, Carrie talks about the things that have given her the most challenges as a full-time artist.
The Challenges of Being an Artist
CPM: Thank you for agreeing to share a little bit about what it’s like to be an artist. How long have you been an artist?
Carrie: I don’t remember ever not being an artist. I have a photo of a drawing I did in crayon on the bottom of a dresser drawer, but I don’t know how old I was at the time. The earliest drawing I have was drawn when I was 7-1/2 years old.
CPM: And you’ve been doing art ever since?
Carrie: Pretty much, other than two periods when I stopped. I’d say I’ve spent fifty years (more or less) making art. Mostly horse portraits, but some for myself, too.
CPM: And are you full-time now?
Carrie: As full-time as possible with so many other things also going on. To be more specific, I’ve not had an outside job since August 2009.
CPM: So you’ve been making art more than enough time to encounter some of the challenges of being an artist.
Carrie: Oh, yes! Even before I went full-time, I encountered challenges. Some types of difficulties were the same in both parts of my art life, but some where unique to each part of the journey.
The Biggest Challenge of Being an Artist
CPM: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced when it comes to art.
Carrie: That’s easy! Making time for creating.
I used to say “finding” time to make art, but then I realized that I had the same amount of time every day. Twenty-four hours. The trick was making the time for art by letting something else go.
CPM: Does that really work?
Carrie: Absolutely. When my husband and I decided by mutual agreement to unplug the television set many, many years ago, productive time suddenly seemed to expand. It may not seem like much, but an hour a night spent drawing instead of watching TV speeds up the drawing process significantly.
Even if someone gave up just one night of television, that’s an extra one to three hours of art time a week.
If they stopped TV altogether, like we did, that’s a week full of evenings to draw. Imagine what you could do with five to fifteen extra hours a week, not counting weekends.
The trick to making the time for art is letting something else go.
The Most Surprising Challenge of Being an Artist
CPM: What was the most surprising difficulty about becoming a full-time artist?
Carrie: It was quite a shock to discover that I couldn’t paint or draw eight hours a day!
You see, I’d always had to work around a full-time job. The job was necessary to pay the bills and support the art habit. I’d been successful painting portraits most of that time, and was able to do one a month around my work and family schedule.
But when I became a full-time artist, I really expected to double or triple production. It would be easy! I’d just have several pieces in progress at the same time. I was doing oils then, and would move from one painting to the next while the others dried.
So it was something of a stunner to discover I had, at best, five hours of productive creative time in me. After that, the battery ran dry. Most days, I could work four hours before running out of energy, no matter how many paintings were in progress.
Creating is a very mental exercise and if you work standing as I did and often still do, it’s also physically taxing.
The Most Persistent Challenge for the Artist
CPM: What challenge has been the most difficult to overcome?
Carrie: As a one-artist-show, there are also other things to do. Blogging. Bookkeeping. Inventory control. Customer fulfillment. Marketing. It’s all my responsibility. Until I’m making enough to hire someone to do some of those things, I have to do them.
In one way, I haven’t really given up the “outside job,” because I consider all of those things to be my day job. I just don’t have to leave home to do it.
The real difficulty is not that they have to be done. That’s just a fact of life if I want to earn a living with my work (which I do.) The real difficulty is that I so often find myself back in the position of having so little time for creating art.
And I can’t give up TV, because we’ve already done that!
CPM: LOL, I hear you on that.
Thank you to Carrie for being so open about the challenges of being an artist.
Thank you, Reader, as well. I hope you enjoyed the conversation. You can read more about Carrie and her life as an artist in the March 2020 issue of CP Magic. She’s also provided a stunning and dramatic landscape drawn on dark Pastelmat.
Guess what? I’m appearing on John Middick’s popular Sharpened Artist podcast today! How exciting is that?
Cincinnati, Ohio artist, John Middick created the Sharpened Artist Podcast in the summer of 2015. A weekly audio show dedicated to colored pencil, the podcast reaches artists of all skill levels across the country and around the world.
“The biggest reason I started the podcast is to help encourage new colored pencil artists, and provide tips and techniques to learn this new medium,” Middick says. “I was also able to give a voice to many colored pencil artists through artist interviews.”
Middick interviews colored pencil artists who are working on their art in isolation. The public sees their work and knows them by name, but rarely gets to meet them. And they don’t often get to meet each other.
“Hearing their voice created an intimate experience for the listener,” Middick goes on to say. “I quickly started getting listeners emailing me talking about how they felt like they were getting to know the artist’s behind the artwork.”
I’ve listened to the podcast for a long time, and have been encouraged and instructed by many episodes. So it’s a special treat to be able to give back to the podcast and its listeners.
John and I talked about my artistic journey, colored pencils in general, and the artist’s life. I hope you’ll join us. I’ve designed a very special and hopefully helpful giveaway to accompany the podcast.
There’s been a lot of discussion on this blog about the best pencils to use and the best colors to use. Most of the discussion has been about issues with fading. So I thought I’d start 2020 by sharing with you the Prismacolor colors I use and why I use them.
I’m very particular about the colors I use. As a portrait artist and an artist interested in selling my work, I want buyers to get the most for their money. The idea of selling a piece at any price and having it fade away in any length of time is not a pleasant idea.
Yes. I know there’s no way to make most things 100% permanent. Even granite wears away.
But I can select supplies to help my work last as long as possible. Consequently, I’m careful about the colors I choose. They must fit my subjects (landscapes and animals,) AND be as lightfast is humanly possible. It doesn’t matter what brand I use, every color must meet these two qualifications.
That usually means I work with a limited palette. That’s definitely the case with Prismacolor pencils.
The Prismacolor Colors I Use (and When I Use Them)
Prismacolor rates their pencils on a scale of 1 to 5 based on American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) D6901 standards. Each pencil is labeled with a Roman numeral to indicate its lightfast rating. Roman Numeral I equals 1, Roman Numeral II equals 2, Roman Numeral III equals 3, Roman Numeral IV equals 4, and Roman Numeral V equals 5.
I (1) is the highest rating. V (5) is the lowest.
I do not use Category III (3), IV (4) or V (5) colors for anything but fun stuff, sketching, blog illustrations, or anything else for which the drawing does not need to be archival.
But this is an entirely personal choice on my part. A lot of artists whose work I respect use every color available to them, so the final choice is yours.
Prismacolor Soft Core Colors Rated I (57 colors)
These are the most lightfast colors Prismacolor produces. They are rated as Excellent and “exhibit no appreciable color change after being exposed to the appropriate equivalence of 100 years of indoor museum lighting.” American Society of Testing and Materials., D6901 Standard
The important phrase is “indoor museum lighting.” It not only includes the type of lighting artwork is exposed to, but the framing materials used. Proper framing, including UV resistant glazing, helps preserve artwork.
It’s also important to let clients and buyers know they should not display artwork in direct sunlight for any length of time.
ASTM D6901 indicates that these colors can be used on artwork meant to be displayed outdoors, but I’m not sure I’d go that far. Any artwork displayed outdoors is more likely to fade more quickly than artwork in museum conditions.
Fifty-seven colors are Category I colors, but I don’t use all of them. My go-to colors are:
Artichoke, Beige, Bronze, Burnt Ochre, Chocolate, Dark Brown, Dark Umber, Goldenrod, Light Umber, Mineral Orange, Sandbar Brown, Sepia, Sienna Brown, Terra Cotta, and Yellow Ochre.
Greens & Blues
Dark Green, Green Ochre, Jade Green, Kelly Green, Parrot Green, Peacock Green, and Yellow Chartreuse. Powder Blue.
Black Cherry, Black Raspberry, and Crimson Lake.
Lemon Yellow, Nectar, and Spanish Orange.
I also have a full complement of cool greys, warm greys, and French Greys but don’t use them very much.
These colors are used with almost everything I draw. They produce natural looking landscapes and are perfect for drawing realistic scenes and animals.
I don’t use all of the Category I colors because they don’t fit my palette, but there are several new colors I hope to try this year. Some of the new earth tones are especially tantalizing.
Prismacolor Soft Core Colors Rated II (26 colors)
ASTM D6901 standards categorize these colors as Very Good, and suitable for fine art uses where the artwork will be displayed indoors. They are not suitable for any work displayed outdoors, or anywhere in which exposure to high levels of UV light is possible.
No direct sunlight, in other words.
There are 26 Category II colors, but my palette is currently limited to about half that number, as follows:
Beige Sienna, Chestnut, Cream, Ginger Root, Pumpkin Orange, and Sand.
Greens & Blues
Chartreuse, Grass Green, Kelp Green, Olive Green, and True Green. Indigo Blue, Mediterranean Blue, and Slate Grey.
Black Grape, Crimson Red, and Scarlet Lake.
As with Category I colors, there are some Category II colors I don’t use.
And as I add other brands of pencils to my stash, Category II colors will become fewer and fewer. Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils include several good matches for Prismacolor Category II pencils, so I now use those before reaching for any Category II Prismacolor. I can see the day coming when I no longer need Category II colors.
The yellows, greens, and blues are used as needed on landscapes and, less frequently, animal portraits.
The Bottom Line
I’ve discovered over the years that I can do almost everything I want to do with Prismacolor Category I colors. Those generally more muted colors are enough to draw most animals and landscapes.
The Category II colors are a nice supplement, but unless I’m drawing a still life (which doesn’t happen often,) or adding bright accents to a landscape or portrait, I don’t need them. Since most of my subjects don’t require bright colors, there’s simply no need for a lot of bright colors in my pencil box.
When combined with other brands such as Polychromos, Derwent and others, the Prismacolor Category I colors provide an excellent color base.
Does this mean you can’t use all of Prismacolor’s colors? No. Deciding which colors to use and which to avoid is as personal a choice as deciding which brands of pencils to use.
A complete list of Prismacolor Category I and II colors is available as a free, PDF download, so you can print it and take it with you on your next in-store shopping list. The list downloads automatically, so check your download file if it doesn’t open for you when you click on the link.