27 November, 2012

Combining Drawing and Painting techniques

Done with a combination of colored pencils and acrylic washes on colourfix paper, which is a fine sanded surface for drawing.

 The line between "painting" and "drawsing" blurs sometimes!  Perhaps you like the fine point precision of a colored pencil, but the flowing coverage of a glaze or wash.  Or, maybe you just aren't satisfied with a drawing and want to experiment with it.


Most any heavy, good quality drawing paper, will work.  I've even used ligher weight drawing papers with success as long as I don't get too abusive with the wet stuff.  Lighter weight papers can buckle, but if it's not bad, it can be pressed out under a book. Once any paint is dry, sandwich a buckled paper between non stick paper like baking parchment, to prevent sticking, before pressing under weight.

Colourfix and similar "sanded" pastel drawing papers can be used with pencils too.  They do tend to eat up your pencils quickly. With or without layering clear mediums between "painting" and "drawing" media, the tooth is durable and you can both paint and draw back and forth on this paper.  The paper itself is heavy and takes a lot of abuse.  There are primers that replicate the same surface texture, that you can base coat other surfaces with, too.  I layer colored pencils and acrylic paints often, and the finished pieces, if not painted thickly, have a nice even sandstone-like texture.

Because drawing can involve putting pressure on the surface, I like the rigid surfaces rather than stretched canvas, when I'm combining drawing techniques with painting.  Besides paper, I use canvas panels, (usually linen as I find them smoother and of good quality), or the wood type panels.  Avoid bargain canvas panels, as they are prone to warping, but if you're just going to practice, cheap ones are fine for temporary experimental work.  You can even practice on cardboard, particularly the kind cereal boxes etc, are made of as it's fairly dense and consistent.


Fluid acrylic matte medium is a product that helps to layer pencils, pens, and acrylic glazes to build up images. Acrylic mediums are a great adhesive in collage work. The matte finish is similar to paper in look and feel. Golden makes both a fluid type and a heavier type, (as well as gels).  I also use Liquitex and Tri Art. (Tri Art is available from Dick Blick in the USA.)  Not saying other brands are bad, these are just what I can get and I like them.

Matte medium has a slight tooth to it that very much resembles smooth or vellum bristol board, or Strathmore 400 series drawing paper, to work on. 

I am not sure what India ink would be like on this surface but it works well with ballpoint pens, one of my favorite tools.  Below is a collage with colored pencils, ballpoint pen, acrylic washes, and my own drawings cut out of paper and adhered with matte medium. There are coats of the medium on this, and they help retain the look of paper throughout the work no matter what media I used.

I like to use materials that are not water soluble when re-wetted, most of the time, because when I brush a layer of matte medium over work, I don't want it to smear. 


Other mediums that can be drawn on are fine pumice gel, and certain gels or primers that mimic the surface of watercolor paper or sanded pastel paper.  Most of these are opaque or at least semi opaque, and dry to an off-white or very light gray color.  I have used various crackle products to get that effect on my work, and some of the crackle pastes are similar in texture to the pumice gels, with a little tooth.  (Not to be confused with crackle medium which is usually clear. Always read the label and be willing to experiment w/the product.)


Clear gesso is usually slightly gritty and makes a good drawing surface for colored pencils.  It is not quite as clear as matte medium and tiny flecks of grit are noticeable, but can be brushed off.  Work done underneath clear gesso will still show through, but there will be a bit of haze. Several of the well known acrylic paint makers make a clear gesso now. The most readily available brand I see in stores locally is Liquitex.  You can paint over or under clear gesso, and tint it slightly.  (Too much paint will make it loose the toothy quality.)  I have layered colored pencils and acrylic paint, using clear gesso, in "Duke, Portrait of a Cockatiel," below. (5 x 7 inches on canvas panel.)


Colored pencils come in both regular and water soluble.

When working with the wax or oil based pencils that are water resistant, you can build up colors and blends by adding light layers.  If you get a very heavy burnished-down coat of the waxy pencils, it is harder to add more material over it, but a coat of matte medium can help restore a little tooth.  Let the matte medium dry well before continuing to work.  Too much wax can cause adhesion problems and make for a more fragile surface but still not unworkable. In fact, you can use scratching techniques, etc, to remove material and let a waxier under coat show through. Wax and oil based pencils can create an interesting "resist" effect when thin washes of paint are applied over them.  I use many brands of colored pencils, and some art stores now have their own brands which are nice.  I tend to buy the good kind as they are much more richly pigmented and soft. But harder ones, and even cheap kids' versions, have their uses for fine detail, burnishing, etc.

There are even colorless blenders and burnishers in several brands now.

Inktense is a water soluble version I like a lot. The colors are intense, make great washes when worked with a wet brush on paper.  On paper, they become fairly water resistant once dry and absorbed into the paper, so you can often do quite a bit of work over them without them redissolving like some water soluble materials.  You will need to experiment, and sometimes, you will need to take a risk!  Below is an Inktense sketch, finished off with a wet brush.


My favorite kind of acrylic paint for this is the liquid or fluid acrylics sold in small squeeze bottles with a flip cap.  Golden and Tri Art are my most used brands, and again, that's due a lot to availability in stores or online sources.  I've used the really thin airbrush paints, too, but prefer the slightly more syrupy consistency of "fluid acrylics." The more transparent colors make great washes and glazes.  Airbrush colors seem less water resistant when dry, more like true watercolor. That can be a problem, or a desirable effect, depending on what you want!  Or, you may be into acrylic inks.  Either way, you want something that won't be hard to mix with water or medium to make your glazes and washes. Tube paint is usually too thick, but there are exceptions.  Matisse Flow is very soft but comes in a tube.


I like to keep a damp rag, or paper towel, (one of the fairly sturdy kind that won't shred), very handy. This helps me to quickly wipe away things I don't like before they dry, or to blend, alter, or add texture, to glazes before they dry. A small damp sponge is nice, too.


I love to work in thin colored glazes and scumbling, so I can build up layers of color to deepen shadows and tone areas.  This is a very workable technique that can be wiped off immediately before it dries if you don't like it

Most of my work calls for transparent colors that won't obscure the line work, cross hatching, or shading, that I've done with pencils or a ballpoint pen.  But I also use Titanium white to make opaque colors when I need it. Some colors come in both a transparent and opaque version, e.g. Golden's iron oxide and transparent iron oxide.

When I do collage, I tie all the components together with pens, colored pencils, and washes, after they are adhered down and dry. Some of my collage elements are on very fragile paper and if I draw on them wet, they shred.

Even faint marks incised in paper can show up really well after glazing.  Texture, scratches, incised marks, can all be used to enhance the texture of a piece.

A small amount of rubbing alcohol on a rag or paper towel can remove paint or glazes to interesting effect, as well as to correct mistakes that dried. But use carefully...the fumes as well as it's solvent nature can be too much.  Though advice to use 90% rubbing alcohol to dissolve paint is the norm, I use 70%. I don't know why but it seems to work better for me, perhaps because our air is so dry the 90% dries too fast to work.  I never use it around our pets.  Small creatures can succumb to fumes we barely notice.  Likewise if you use solvents to work colored pencils...use with caution.

Years working in theater arts and commercial faux finishing made techniques like aging, glazing, spattering, and working fast, second nature.  My best advice is to get some inexpensive surfaces to work on, even cardboard  or wood scraps, and experiment til the cows come home!  Try different materials together, layer things, mix things, and see what happens.

Don't worry about the final result, just enjoy the effects, remember what you liked and what happened.  Nearly every effect can be turned into a purposeful one later, when you want that look, once you have practiced and enlarged your bag of tricks.


If your work has no water soluble materials on it that would smear, by the time you're done, you will probably want to put a coat of acrylic on it. Because our air here in Arizona is very dry and usually warm, I water down Liquitex gloss medium and varnish quite a bit more than they recommend, so that it floats out when applied rather than leaving brush marks.  I have not had a problem watering it down.  When I want a matte finish, I use matte.  If there is a need to put many coats of finish on a piece, I use gloss, up until the last coat. The last coat can be whatever gloss level you want. But, too many coats of matte can be hazy looking.

Gloss clear coating will often deepen colors a bit, usually in a very nice way. 

If the piece is on paper it will likely be framed under glass. In that case, I work in thin layers and use matte medium, and treat it like a drawing, when I frame it. That means using glass and a mat, (or a mounting backer board and spacers), so the artwork never touches the glass.  Acrylics dry fast but they continue to CURE for weeks, and are always plastic. So don't be in a rush to seal acrylic work on paper under glass. Acrylics can stick to glass even when completely dry.


"Cradled" panels are wood products with a framed out edge. Ampersand makes a wide variety of them and there are other brands, too. They come in different types of surfaces and different depths of the 'cradling.'  Paper,and for that matter canvas, can be adhered to the panels with gel medium.  Small pieces are easy to manage. The larger the piece, the more labor intensive it seems to be, requiring some babysitting to get it to dry without wrinkles or air bubbles.  Practice on some small pieces and test scraps first.

The process is to adhere the paper or a drawing to the board with acrylic medium, weigh it down enough that the medium sets up without wrinkles or air bubbles under it, then let it dry.  A print maker's brayer (roller) or rolling pin that is level, not curved, helps.  Non-stick paper is helpful, to lay it face down on.  I like to use baking parchment.  A demonstrator at an art store used the gray palette paper. I don't recommend waxed paper. You'd think that'd work but it didn't, it stuck.  The demonstrator weighed hers from the back with bags of rice. I use books and weigh from front or back, depending on which I think will work best on that piece.  I usually finish mine with either gloss or matte acrylic medium. She used Dorland's Wax Medium.  I have used the wax on a few things, but don't think it'd be the best choice for everything.  Just my opinion!  Experiment on small scraps and find a method you like.

Every so often, an attempt to mount something fails.  It might be that the handmade paper was different than last time, or you forgot to check on it before it got too dry...either way, risk is inevitable in art.  If you are not comfortable committing a finished piece to this process, then frame it.  But you can also mount paper to the boards before you draw and paint. The risk then, is that if you don't like the art, you have a lot of material and time invested in just the surface, let alone the art.  You could mount or paint over it in most cases, though, just as most of us do on canvas, when there may be two or three paintings there.

I like the mounting method for some pieces, but not all.  Some things really call for a frame or are too fragile to risk, like thin paper or inks that might dissolve. The real benefit for me in mounting pieces has been that it's still rather unique, it is a nice look for some pieces, it's durable, and it's cheaper than a good frame.  Below is "Chick," a miniature piece on papyrus, that was very easy to mount to a panel I'd base coated black.  I then applied some crackle medium to the edges.  Some large pieces using the same technique were harder to do, (fair warning), but I like the look.  This particular piece is 5 x 5 inch, and 1.5 inches deep. It sits on a shelf as nicely as it hangs on a wall.