2 min read
22 Apr

For the past few weeks I've been working on this coloured pencil drawing. The above short video goes a little way towards showing how I work. 

I spent an entire session on the initial pencil drawing, which has to be spot on before I can progress. I work from top to bottom and left to right as I'm right handed, thus preventing the risk of smudging. I usually set myself a target for each session of work, working the drawing up almost to completion before moving on. This is not how other pencil artists go about it as far as I know, but it works for me. I do constantly go back over completed areas to adjust tones and details as I move on. The last thing I do is to tidy it all up with a final layer of colour, enriching the highlighted areas and adjusting the shadows where necessary.

 I don't create very many coloured pencil works as I find them quite demanding and extremely time consuming. My hands are a bit of a state now I'm older, having broken at least half of my fingers and both wrists over the years, they are riddled with arthritis, so it can get quite painful during long sessions.  However, I stumbled across some fabulous reference photos on Unsplash.com and was drawn into the subject matter and composition straight away. 

So many textures to work with. Fur, feathers, fabric and battered leather as well as human features, masses of intricate detail, glorious colour and strong contrasts. Perfect. Coloured pencils seemed the best way to go.

 I was attracted by the shadows on this girls face and the way she is leaning back slightly to counteract the weight of the magnificent eagle on her arm. I love a picture that suggests a story and with this one you can let your imagination run riot.

I decided to do a little more research before beginning. The Kazakh eagle hunters of Western Mongolia live in one of the most remote regions of one of the most remote countries in the world. For centuries they have used golden eagles to hunt prey during the bleak winter months, usually from horseback, an extraordinary example of a relationship between humans and semi wild animals. The hunters take female eaglets from the nest and train them to hunt foxes and rabbits. When the raptor reaches sexual maturity at the age of about six years, she is released back into the wilderness, thus there is no impact upon the wild population of eagles. She is left with the gift of a fresh carcass to feed on and help her begin her transformation into life as a wild eagle.

I chose to work on the ultra smooth Bristol board because it does allow for extremely fine detail and photo-realism, which is what I was after with this drawing. The downside is the difficulty in building layers that give the depth of colour I prefer. My solution to overcome this is by blending the pigment on the paper's surface taking great care, using white spirit and a variety of small tortillons and cotton buds, before adding the next layer while still damp with spirit. Very time consuming but worth the effort I think.

I've used a mixture of brands of pencil, mainly Caran D'Ache Luminance and Faber Castell, both of which are top quality (read expensive), rich in pigment with silky smooth texture. The secret to achieving a high level of detail is to use very sharp pencils. It's a horrible feeling, constantly sharpening them away, watching my waste receptacle swiftly filling with shavings and pigment, but it has to be done.

Fortunately I was able to sell this piece before it was completed, for a very good price so I can afford to replenish my collection when I need to.

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