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Work In Progress: Louisiana Iris

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Work In Progress: Louisiana Iris

Postby RichardDevine » Wed Jun 17, 2015 9:33 am

Work In Progress: Louisiana Iris, Update 1
This summer I’m teaching a number of classes in colored pencil technique at On Top Of The World, a community in Ocala, Florida. The classes are part of an adult education program called Master the Possibilities that features hundreds of classes on a myriad of subjects such as the arts, politics, health, finance and history. I’m proud to be a part of this exceptional program that imparts a wealth of knowledge to individuals eager to never stop learning. I will be teaching introductory classes as well as more advanced classes on colored pencil painting.
One of the classes I will be leading this summer involves the painting of an Iris – a Louisiana Iris to be exact – in colored pencil. It is a plant that I grow in my garden at home. I felt that it was not only a good subject for a painting but would be wonderful vehicle for teaching more advanced classes in the medium of colored pencil. The number of colors involved is not very large, there’s some complexity, but it can be broken down into nice bite size pieces, the basic techniques I’ve been teaching in my introductory classes can be used to complete it. Any students who are taking the class can get some fore-knowledge of the project, and anyone who might be interested in taking the class can get an idea of what we’ll be doing. So, for the next few weeks I’ll be taking you through the development of a colored pencil painting of a beautiful flower.
After settling on the subject, the first step in the process is figuring out the colored pencils to use. Even though there’s a variety of values from nearly white to deeply dark, the colors are all in the violet group. As I look over the flower, looking at all those values, I look through my colored pencils to find ones that will match the colors I see or pencils that, combined, will yield the colors I see. I will be using Prismacolor Premier colored pencils for this project. The ones I pick out are all in the violet – lavender spectrum: lavender, hot pink, lilac, mulberry, violet. I add white because I’ll be using that in the lightest areas, helping to blend in the colors. Near the throat of the iris, on the lower falls, and the style just behind it, is yellow, and yellow is also evident as a yellowish glow on the inner parts of the petals near the throat. For the yellow I choose canary yellow. The yellow on the falls and especially on the style gets dark, a grayish yellow, which I think can be produced by using yellow and its complement, violet.
With these choices of colors as a start, my next step is to reproduce all the colors and values in the flower. I might have to add more, or remove some, but I start with these. It’s best to work out all the colors and values prior to painting the flower because guessing as I go can lead to mistakes that can’t be corrected. Wasting paper and time is costly. On a separate sheet of paper I draw a lot of squares. Then, after I pick an area of the flower I want to reproduce, I choose some pencils that, combined, I think will reproduce the color and value I want. For instance, the leftmost petal has a rich variety of colors, probably most of the ones found in the flower generally. For the lightest area, I choose white and lavender and fill in the first square. Since there are transition areas in the flower, going from near white to near lavender, I blend it that way in the square to see if it matches. In other areas there’s more lilac in the mix. In others, I can see some pink. So, I work out squares with these combinations to see if they match. I’m careful to record my colors and their placement. The darker areas run into the mulberry and violet.
In this manner I continue to fill in squares with different combinations of pencils to match what I see. Some combinations don’t work out, others do. But in this manner I’m able to eventually arrive at combinations that will reproduce the flower – even the areas suffused with yellow, as well as the yellow in the throat. As I suspected, a combination of violet and yellow gave me the dirty yellow needed for deep in the throat. There are always unexpected turns that I didn’t see in the beginning, but working out as much as possible before hand eliminates most surprises and makes for a much easier experience.
The colors used for this project are white, lavender, lilac, mulberry, violet and canary yellow. I’ll be doing this painting on Stonehenge paper. Next week we’ll get started coloring it in.
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Re: Work In Progress: Louisiana Iris

Postby RichardDevine » Wed Jun 24, 2015 10:41 am

Work In Progress: Louisiana Iris, Update 2
Colored pencil painting is, by its nature, a slow process, especially if the goal is a lot of detail and density of color. Teaching a class in colored pencil painting, limited to a set number of hours, has to take these qualities into account. The Intermediate classes I will be teaching this summer and in the fall, twelve hours in length, go beyond the basics of technique to produce a painting of higher quality. However, even at twelve hours, there are limitations to the depth of detail and complexity that can be attained in a painting in the allotted time. And still have the students learn more than they would in an Introductory class.
When I first started this painting, I assumed it could be completed in twelve hours. It didn’t take long for me to realize that, at the level of detail I normally put into my paintings, it could never be completed in that short amount of time. I was committed to the Iris as a project for the Intermediate Class, so I had to re- think the level of detail to include. I’ve posted here two Works in Progress on the Iris. Both show about the same amount of flower completed, but one shows a great deal more detail than the other. The one with the higher detail took about twelve hours to complete, while the one with less detail took a little more than two. Since I won’t have the time necessary to complete the more complex painting in the next two and one half weeks, I’m going to continue on with the less detailed painting so that I can have it finished up by the time I’m scheduled to teach the class. I will finish the more complex version at later date. I will serve as a good example of what can be achieved with more time.
The progression will be from lightest color to darkest color. And, I’ll be doing one petal at a time, carrying each from the beginning stage on through to completion before starting the next petal. First a layer of the lightest color, then the next darker color, then the next, and so on to the darkest color being used. Then, I’ll repeat the process again and again until I’m satisfied with the depth of color and detail on that petal or flower part. Then, I’ll go one to the next flower part. For this demonstration I’m using Strathmore 300 series Bristol Vellum. It’s a good acid free, neutral paper that serves well for demonstration purposes. The first step in the process was to apply a light layer of lavender over the leftmost petal, leaving only the brightest areas white. I kept the point sharp by frequently sharpening the pencil. Next I added hot pink to just a couple areas near the middle of the petal. Again with the lavender, I put just a bit more pressure to define the shadows, darker areas and folds in the petal.
With the lilac, the next darker color, I put in more of the darks, though at this stage, the pressure is still light because I want to build layers slowly. The lilac allows me to define more shaded areas, more folds and veining.
Mulberry is a much darker value and found only in the darkest areas – in the shadow under the over lying petal, and at the rightmost side, again in the shadows under one of the upright petals. I also added it to the ribbing on the left, near the edge of the petal. Violet, the darkest color, was next applied over the areas with mulberry.
I then repeated the sequence of colors a couple more times to add more depth and intensity, bringing out the shadows and adding definition. Finally, I looked over the petal, adding one color or another as necessary make adjustment to bring the petal into agreement with the photo.
Keep in mind that the level of detail and intensity of color must be tailored to the skill level targeted for the class. Once that level of skill is achieved, the next higher level can be taught with longer and more focused classes. This class makes use of the skills learned in an Introductory Class to achieve a painting with greater detail.
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Re: Work In Progress: Louisiana Iris

Postby CarlOwen » Thu Jun 25, 2015 7:23 am

I just love your stuff. I read your detailed descriptions, look at your painting progress and kind of understand your thinking processes from your writings. You are truly a world class artist and teacher. I only have one question at this point. Do you ever sleep?
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Re: Work In Progress: Louisiana Iris

Postby RichardDevine » Thu Jun 25, 2015 9:06 am

Thanks for the wonderful compliments. I try not to let sleep get in the way, only when necessary! There is still so much more room for improvement.
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Re: Work In Progress: Louisiana Iris

Postby RichardDevine » Wed Jul 01, 2015 11:26 am

Work In Progress: Louisiana Iris, Update 3
After completing the leftmost standard (petal), I completed the smaller petal in front of it. It is very light in color and required much less work. As with the previous petal, I started with lavender and defined the contours, creases and shadows, applying a bit more pressure in the darker areas. I then went over the lavender with lilac to complete it.
The second standard, just to the right is a little more complex, with more value and color variation. But it, too, can be tackled in the same manner. Light to dark. I started on the inside of the petal, laying down a layer of lavender over the entire interior, pressing a bit more heavily in the darker areas, to get in the creases, puckers and shadows. I decreased the pressure on the pencil going down into the throat. Next, a layer of hot pink was layed down in the center of the petal, feathering it out to either side. I put a bit more pressure in the creases just to the right and left of the midrib. Lilac was added next, into the creases and into the shadowed area of the overlying curved portion of the outside of the petal. The center of the standard has much more red, so I put that in with mulberry, feathering it out to the right and left. The area in shadow required some mulberry as well, and just a bit of violet.
After laying down the basic colors and tones for the interior of the standard, I went over the area again with lavender, lilac and mulberry to darken the colors and tone. Finally, I added a little canary yellow and lilac to the lowest, left side at the base of the petal going down into the throat.
The outside of the standard was started with lavender again, first with outlining, then filling in, going heavier in the creases and shadowed areas.
The next standard to the right, pointing to about one o’clock was next. This one has more intense color and darker values but can be tackled in the same manner. Lavender was used first to cover the entire interior of the petal, then I went a bit heavier to define the midrib area and the creases radiating outward. There’s a bit more pink color to the interior of this petal, so I added a light layer of hot pink in the central third of the petal, letting it bleed out toward the sides. Mulberry was added next, over the hot pink in the center third, with heavier pressure along the midrib. I bled out the mulberry to the sides also, but not as far as I did with the hot pink, so the hot pink still showed up outside the mulberry.
Lilac was added to the right and left sides of the midrib, defining the shadows of the creases radiating outward and indicating the shadows created by the curving edges of the petal. More lavender then lilac again was used to fill in the petal. To get the central rib of the petal darker I used violet. Violet was also used just to the right and left, easing into the mulberry. I then went back over with lavender, lilac, mulberry and violet where necessary, to tweak and adjust the colors and values. The central area seemed to have a yellow glow, maybe from sunlight in the back, so I added just enough canary yellow to produce that bit of glow. The outside was completed with lavender and lilac in light layers. You’ll notice I kept a light edge to define them better.
On either side of the standard that points to eleven o’clock there are two small structures. The one on the left is triangular in shape, the on the right more elongated.
Both are similar in color. Lavender was used as base color, going a bit darker for the shadows. Just a hint of hot pink added as well. The structure on the right is darker behind the petal in front, so I added some mulberry and violet to the darkest area on top. The bases of each lose the violets to some degree, with more yellow appearing. The bases of each structure take on a grayish cast, especially in their shadows. That slight gray color was produced by using canary yellow and its complement, violet.
The style (the triangular structure in the center) and the signal (the upside down triangular structure below it) were done next. The top of the style is lavender and hot pink. A bit of violet under the edge indicates shadowing. The three gray patches on the lower part of the style were again produced by mixing the complements yellow and violet. Some yellow bleeds out around the edges. The signal on the bottom petal (the fall) is thought to be a landing strip of sorts for pollinators and so is colored brightly to beckon the insect. Canary yellow and a bit of violet is all that was needed to define it.
The bottom fall (the petal on the bottom) was completed next. It is very similar to the upper one and was finished in the same manner. Lavender was used first to give a base color and then to define all the creases, folds and ribs. Lilac was used to further deepen the values and shadows. I then added mulberry in the center, using a line stroke to color in the four ribs running downward from the signal. Violet was added to darken the central area further. I purposely left the mulberry color in the ribs and darkened around them. The right side of the petal seemed to be more pink, so I added a light layer of hot pink to that side. The left side was left with the lavender-lilac color. Now that the basic colors were down, I just continued back and forth with lilac, lavender, mulberry and violet to deepen the colors and tones and maintain the shadows, folds and creases. I used care to work the darker colors up into the signal to make it stand out, just as nature intended.
The outside of the petal required lavender and lilac on both sides, with a light layer of hot pink on the right, to continue the pink cast noted on the inside. That same pink was carried around onto the curved outer part. Once again, I left the edges more white to define them.
The last standard on the right was completed with mostly lavender and lilac, once again. The darker creases on the inside required some violet and just a hint of mulberry. The creases on the bottom part are deep and colored in with lilac, a bit of violet and hint of hot pink.

The Iris was completed in a little more than 17 hours. That’s a little more than the 12 hours of class time, and more than I would have liked for the intermediate level class, but within the range of capability of intermediate level students if they put a bit of time in on it at home in between classes. There is some detail in this flower but not too much. The number of colors used is minimal. By tackling one petal at a time, and using the same procedure for each, the coloring can be simplified. There are only a few layers of color laid down to accomplish this painting. It serves well as a next step toward more complex colored pencil paintings.
I have relatively few photos here. For more photos visit my website. You can see more stages in the progression.
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Re: Work In Progress: Louisiana Iris

Postby CarlOwen » Wed Jul 01, 2015 2:11 pm

Your level of realism is incredible. I hope you sell your stuff.
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