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!

Paper – Searching for a Back-up

Pastel mat by Clairefontaine has been my preference for color pencil work. It allows a lot of layers and you can work in a lot of detail but I don’t want to rely on just one type of paper from one particular supplier. What would I do if something happened to that supplier and that type of paper was no longer produced?

Therefore, I have been experimenting with other papers such as Hot Press watercolor paper by Arches, a Bristol board by Strathmore and a drawing paper by Canson. So far they have all produced mixed results. I still need to do more experimenting with the Bristol board and the watercolor paper.

Most of my experimentation  has been on the Canson paper with the production of a Gorilla that I was quite happy with which l repeated on pastelmat. Although both produced different results I had no preference as they were both equally appealing for different reasons. Although sketchy the Canson one had a hairy charm that was appealing while the other had a much more refined look.

One gorilla drawn on pastelmat and the other three drawings on Canson a grain
The gorilla on the top right drawn on pastelmat and the other three drawings on Canson a grain

After that experience I continued with the pastelmat for a while then I had another go at using the Canson… first with a fox which was completed earlier in the year and then more recently with a Badger.

The fox has worked well while the Badger is OK . Then I started on this Tawny Owl mixing pan pastel and colour pencil. It was then I remembered why I liked Pastelmat. The way you can blend colour pencil and pan pastel on Pastelmat is just perfect.

Collage showing the work in progress of a Tawny Owl drawing
Collage showing the work in progress of a Tawny Owl drawing

In my view the pastel does not work so well on the Canson as I did try it on the gorilla drawing. It is not really designed for that. The pastel mat is far better but of course that is what it is designed for.

Clearly the paper you choose depends on the type of drawing you want to produce and the materials that you want to use.

While I will still use Canson as I do like the texture… it will be for specific projects where I feel the structure of that particular paper will enhance the drawing.

With regard to my main body of work, I will continue using the Pastelmat as it is still my preferred choice for projects that involve the use of pan pastel.

That then brings me back to my initial quest… the search for a back-up paper with similar properties to Pastelmat.

The search continues…

Flower Conclusions

I like flowers particularly wild flowers. There is nothing better than to go for a walk in the summer months and spot all the different plants as they each take their turn to come into flower before disappearing for another year.

Collage showing nine different images of wild flowers
Collage showing nine different images of wildflowers

Drawing them forces you to focus in on the details such as whether they are hairy or not, how many petals they have and whether there leaves are arranged alternately up the stem or are opposite to each other. It is definitely a good way to get to know them better.
But the drawings I am currently producing… while useful for identification are at this point just sketches.

Collage showing sketches of flowers
Collage showing sketches of flowers

It will be sometime before I can represent them in a way that I am really happy with.

I still spend a lot of time photographing flowers. Most of them are just snaps as represented in the gallery above. These are OK for recording purposes but I really want to capture the subtlety of texture.

Photographing them out in the field is hopeless… particularly if like me you live in a windy part of the world!

The other option is to bring the flower inside and while it is useful in terms of having full control, the downside is that it wilt fast so you have to be quick to capture the moment. Also, you are in effect destroying the flower in the process of photographing it. Is that right?

I did for a while buy interesting flower shapes from florists but that was proving to be expensive! Although, I did produce some pleasing results as illustrated in the gallery below.

Cut- flower collage showing 4 different flowers
Cut- flower collage

They are of course not the wild flowers that I really wanted to capture.

Capturing that delicate subtlety of wild flowers will take a lot of photographing and a lot of playing about… but hopefully I will get there.

In the meantime I am starting a nocturnal theme.

Portrait of Tawny Owl work in progress
Portrait of Tawny Owl work in progress