Can black be too black?

After having been out enjoying the warm weather, I have now finally finished my Tawny Owl and very close to finishing the Barn Owl but I have another dilemma. As both owls are nocturnal, I decided to use pan pastel to create a night time background for the Tawny Owl. Despite the use of several layers of the black pastel the background has come out a bit too patchy for my liking. I am considering whether it is worth going over it again… but would a uniform black be authentic as the night air is not a constant black. Should I just leave it patchy?

Coming to a decision has implications for how I decide to finish the barn owl. I am now wondering if I should just leave the barn owl on the dark grey which is the colour of the paper!

Is a very black background too black and a dark grey more accurate?

What is worth pointing out is that looking at both images of the owls on my screen it would almost seem as though there was no difference…it may vary with different viewers screens… therefore perhaps I am worrying about nothing and the important outcome is that whatever I decide… I should be consistent!

The Right Background

Until recently I have not been big on backgrounds!

Also, very rarely have I used colored paper preferring to keep things simple!

That was until I was given some A4 black paper. The first sheet was used to draw a deer using just a white pencil and occasionally a black pencil to go over areas where I was perhaps a bit too enthusiastic with the white!

I enjoyed the simplicity of the process.

Portrait of a Deer using a white pencil on black paper
Portrait of a Deer using a white pencil on black paper

Then after that positive result I plucked up the courage to use some anthracite colored pastel mat for the Tawny Owl. The dark color as well as reflecting the nocturnal nature of the bird certainly creates impact that a white background fails to do.

Having been pleased with the results of using a dark color, I have now started on a Barn Owl using the same anthracite colored paper …although looking at the images below you would not think that!

The Tawny Owl is nearly finished but the Barn Owl has still got quite a bit of work to do before he is finished.

Work in progress of a Barn Owl and a Tawny Owl
Work in progress of a Barn Owl and a Tawny Owl

One drawing that I did finish recently was this Badger… I wonder what impact a dark color would have had on him!

Portrait of a Badger
Portrait of a Badger

Too late unless I decide to draw him again… which I probably will at some point but in the meantime he will be my next study using mainly a white pencil on black paper!

Filling the tooth

My favourite subjects to draw are birds and animals. I use mainly colour pencils but occasionally dabble in pastels, graphite and charcoal. Layering the colour is important to build the texture whether it be the fur in an animal, the feathers of a bird or the skin of a rhino. To achieve this a paper with some texture is required.

Cartridge paper was the surface I started with. It has a bit of texture or tooth as it is sometimes described. I found that the depth of colour in a bird’s plumage could be rendered reasonably well as in this Coal Tit.

Coal tit
Coal tit

Drawing animals with thick fur did, however, require something with more tooth. Pastelmat was the paper I started using with pastels but I have found it works equally well with colour pencils. That is so long as you are happy to use a lot of pencils.  This black German Shepherd dog is drawn on an A3 sheet and there is a lot of red, blue and even purple in the fur.  It took a lot of time to get to this stage but having looked at it again, I think it could do with some more layers of colour to the fur around the neck. So far it has been worth it and hopefully, with the addition of some more layers, it will look even better.

Black German Shepherd Dog, Original image supplied by Art by Law
Black German Shepherd Dog, Original image supplied by Art by Law

In contrast,  I will not fill all the tooth of the paper completely for this drawing of a rhino as the roughness coming through in my opinion contributes to the texture of the animal’s skin.

Rhino to be completed
Rhino, a work in progress

A few weeks back I did try a velour style of paper using pastels. It was a drawing of an otter that I never finished as it just seemed odd drawing on what felt like a carpet tile.  Now with a bit more experience of filling the tooth of a paper, I will go back to it. On reflection, the drawing does not look as bad as it did a couple of months back.

Otter drawn on velour - a work in progress
Otter on velour – a work in progress

The main challenge will be to complete it in such a way that the fur looks wet as if the otter has emerged from the water. At the moment, it looks like a dragon with scales.  That will be the next challenge.