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  • Writer's pictureKevin Roeckl

"Mini" portrait in progress 2

All the outlines of Mini and the flowers have been drawn out in detail on a sheet of Canson “moonstone” paper, a beautiful art paper with little flecks and fibers in it. My strategy for this portrait is to put an underpainting of translucent black watercolor (watercolor thinned with water, or a “wash”) on all the flower petals and all of Mini, a black cat. Why? Because colored pencil leaves tiny gaps in the pencil work where the paper color shows through. This is a pale paper, and the flowers and cat are black. I don’t want any light “specks” in them. Often I do black Dobermans all in pencil, by heavily coloring in the solid dark areas. But there will be some subtle shades of colors in the blacks in this portrait that will be easier to do working on top of a darker background. So it will save me a lot of work to turn the background paper to a dark grey in just those areas where the black cat and black flowers will be.

Since the details of Mini’s face are drawn so precisely in grey Prismacolor pencil, putting a grey wash on top of them, those pencil lines will no longer be visible. So I am going to put in a framework of the solid blacks FIRST.

First I cut a large sheet of white paper to cover the portrait, and cut out just the area of Mini’s face. That will protect the rest of the beautiful “moonstone” paper while I’m working.

Portrait of Cat in progress, with paper mask cut out

Portrait of Cat in progress, with paper mask cut out

Now you can see how I am indicating the details of Mini’s face. When I put the transparent black wash over all of Mini, these black pencil lines will show through. The only area where I won’t put the black wash will be her gold eyes. I definitely don’t want to darken the light paper there. I want to be able to get the most brilliant golds with my pencils by working on light paper, not over dark background paper.

I continue on, indicating the rest of Mini’s body as well. I’ve rolled the white paper back rather than cut a bigger hole because I’ll use this protective mask again as I’m working on the details of Mini’s face. By then there will be a lot of colored pencil on the flowers around her which will need to be protected.

Colored pencil portrait of Cat, in progress, with paper mask cut out

Having the experience of many years of creating different artworks, I’m able to plan ahead for the most efficient use of my time, energy, and materials. I know that a few steps down the line I’ll wish I hadn’t cut a bigger hole in the paper….and I’ll have to cut a new one.

This shows how I’m being guided on the details of Mini’s face by Emily’s photos on my studio monitor.

Portrait of Cat in progress in Kevin's art studio with reference photos on the monitor

The center cat face is the main photo I’m using for Mini’s portrait. Unfortunately that photo is low-resolution — when I zoom in to see details, it’s very pixelated. So I’m also using more detailed photos of Mini to guide me.

The other two faces on either side of Mini’s main photo are two photos (out of 29) that Emily sent which show Mini’s face at a similar angle, and have very crisp detail, even though her expression is not as good. So by having them next to the main photo on my monitor, I can check all the detail of her nostrils, whiskers, hair pattern, etc., which I can’t see very well in the main reference photo.

The next picture shows how much detail I’m getting out of them.

This is the whole portrait, on moonstone paper, ready to add the black wash in strategic places. The flower petals are outlined, and the black details and guiding pencilwork which will show through the transparent black wash are added to Mini’s face.

Prismacolor pencil portrait of Cat in progress

I stuck a piece of adhesive masking material, cut to the shape of the eye, over each eye before doing the wash over Mini’s face with a large “mop” brush.

I mixed the black watercolor with just a touch of blue in it, to compensate for the slightly pinkish tone to the paper. Otherwise, transparent black over pinkish-grey would have given me a black with a brownish cast to it.

Prismacolor pencil portrait of Cat in progress with watercolor wash

Now I have a nice flat black (grey) background in the areas where I need it and can put the details over that, and a nice clear “road-map” of Mini’s features.


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