Just before Christmas, my family, back in the UK, sent us a lovely festive flower arrangement. It was quite a surprise, and I photographed it, in order to let them know just how it looked, and how pretty it was. Other friends suggested that it might make a nice artwork; I rather put it on the back burner but a few days ago I thought I’d give it a go-especially since I’ve only just had to throw away the original. It lasted over 3 weeks, pretty good going! Also, as per my ‘next season’s Christmas cards’ venture, this might also work out for one of those!
So, this was the original basket, very nice. Carnations, roses, alstroemeria, little white flowers and candy canes, with a big red bow. Rather than do the whole basket, I thought I’d focus in on just one section, the right-hand section as you look at this photo. A zoomed-in shot gives the basic idea.
Lots to go at, there, and a chance to use those red and pink pencils! I decided on coloured pencil, for the vibrancy, and the Strathmore Bristol vellum paper. I decided also to ,pull, the bow further into the picture, as I liked the way it balanced out the candy cane at the opposite diagonal, whilst the flowers, themselves, have a nice diagonal line upwards towards the rose. I left out the small white flowers above the rose, as I wanted this one to be the focal point of the art. I didn’t realise that there was a stray alstroemeria petal lying on the rose, until I came to draw it. I didn’t want to include that so I had to make up the rose structure where the petal was hiding it. I think it looks ok, though.
I was lucky that much of the foliage was made up of pine fronds, because these were relatively quick to do. Pencils were predominately Pablos (especially for the greens) and Polychromos (especially the reds). I recently obtained a ‘how to’ book (Botanical Portraits in Colored Pencil by Ann Swan), as I’m interested in getting better at these (although I’m really bad at doing exercises-I like to do new stuff!), and the author makes the same point about Polychromos, as to the greens being limited. She suggests using only 6, and includes none of the ones labelled with ‘plant-ey’ names, i.e. May Green, Earth Green Yellowish, Earth Green, Olive Green Yellowish, Chrome Green Opaque, Chrome Green Oxide. When I looked at my set, these are the ones I tend to use too. She does not appear to have heard of Pablos, so doesn’t recommend any of those (I like the wide range of olive tones in this set) but recommends some Prismacolors. Now, I tend to shy away from the Prismas, although I do have a set of 80, because they can be iffy in regard to lightfastness (they don’t publish their lightfastness ratings, which I think is quite poor), and I’m not that keen on the feel, they are very waxy. But maybe I should give them another go? She points out that Prismacolors are quite rich in darker purples, plums and reds, and these are admittedly lacking in both of my main sets (but the Prismas I have are also missing most of her suggested colours). Armed with this thought, when I was in Michael’s during a recent Halifax trip, I took a look at their open-stock Prismas. There was only one of her suggested reds, Black Grape, in stock so I bought that and thought it might do for deeper shadows on the flowers. It is a very nice deep purple, and proved very useful for shadowed areas on the roses, in particular.
In addition to the Black Grape, I picked out a couple of reds from my original set, Crimson Red and Crimson Lake, and used these, along with a couple of Polys, for the ribbon. I wanted this to almost come off the page, thereby giving some perspective to the picture, and these pencils really did make it do that. The very waxy Prismas gave the ribbon a satiny look, which is true to life since it was a satin ribbon.
Another pencil that proved very useful on this piece was the Luminance Grey-Violet. This is another pencil type I don’t use much, although I don’t have a full set of these. Instead I have purchased open stock and have about 15 shades. I used this extensively, especially on the small white flowers and some of the alstroemeria petals, where the shading had a pinky tinge. I think this is a really good colour to have in the pencil box.
All blending was done using Gamsol. I tried a colourless blender pencil on the ribbon, to try and keep the shiny surface, but it wasn’t doing it for me, so reverted to the OMS. Finally, I filled in the background with a gradated shading of Derwent Drawing pencils, beginning low down with Crag Green, then Pale Cedar part way up, moving onto Wheat and then finishing at the top with Pale Sienna. I’m pretty pleased with that effect, and overall, the picture works for me.
‘Festive Flowers’, 9 x 12 inch coloured pencil (Faber-Castell Polychromos, Caran D’ache Pablos and Luminance, Prismacolor Premier, Derwent Drawing) with OMS to blend, on Strathmore 300 Series Bristol vellum.