Three for Five III

Why did I start drawing with coloured pencils?

I was tired of the politics involved with etching. I had to travel more than 90 minutes to the neighbouring city for one weekend every month to do any printing. That is far! That one month was long enough that the ground on my copper plates would degrade and then be eaten away in unexpected places when in the acid. (It took me years to figure that one out, since the ground was very different from what I was used to at university.) People pretended that they did not know what editioning was; people would either use my imported paper or get big black fingerprints on my paper when I was editioning. When I wanted to work hard, I was constantly being interrupted with requests to take a break and join people having tea. The French ink that was used did not suit my plates, so we imported some from the United States. Bad thing? People used to gouge out their ink leaving stiff peaks that would harden instead of taking the ink out carefully to leave a nice smooth surface. Entire cans would be wasted. I, who am not known to be a clean freak, was constantly scolding people to clean up after themselves. I was battling the people around me and the tools I was using. In addition, my large etching plates took a long time to complete, longer with all these obstacles.

One day when I was in a slump I thought about what I used to do for fun when I needed to jumpstart myself. I remembered abstract drawings that I did on canvas board that were based on an assignment in Diana Thorneycroft‘s class: the touch of jello, the sound of ice, and two more based on senses. For those, I laid down a watercolour wash and then added details with coloured pencil. I could not find any of those boards in the art-supply store so I had to think of something else. I wanted to avoid frames if i could, since they are heavy, expensive, and can destroy any artwork on paper if the glass smashes. (I learned that the hard way.) Paper also tears easily if you get too aggressive with it, especially with any wet medium. The wooden panels I started using are tough enough to take lots of abuse but light enough to be hung on a wall with only two or three pushpins.


This was the first one that I did on a wooden panel. Spring Sunshine was made for a friend who I thought needed a bit more sunshine in her life at that time. People rarely believe that it is drawn with coloured pencil, but it usually makes them smile.


I decided that I could possibly do something more painterly with water-soluble pencils. It got pretty sloppy there for a while, but I purposefully tried to be looser. Autumnal Bursts was the result. It is a little wonky here and there, but I do not mind. I do not plan these beforehand, so they grow in an organic way. Once again people do not usually believe that this is done with coloured pencil.

Autumnal Bursts – Detail 1
Autumnal Bursts – Detail 2
Autumnal Bursts – Detail 3

When  you see  the close-ups, you can see the pencil lines. Then it becomes clear that these are drawings, not tissue paper collages or paintings.


With this one, I decided to stay painterly but use more lines instead of large areas of colour and try something a bit more representational. Vegetation is a common subject, but that is about it. This one still does not even have a title!

All of these were done on wooden panels that are 73 cm wide and 103 cm tall. The panels were gessoed to prevent warping in the humid climate of Japan.

Coloured pencils look like something for children but are actually quite an advanced piece of technology. They are basically dried oil paint in a stick. Just like any other medium, lower-quality brands are for hobbyists, and higher-quality brands are for artists. Like cheap paint, cheap pencils have colours that will quickly fade and be harder to mix. Some are oil-based, and some are wax-based. With their fine lines, many people use coloured pencils to draw small, realistic drawings. Large abstracts like mine are a bit unusual. But  they have paint in them, right?

I hope this answered some of the questions you might have had. Be free to ask me more if you like.


2 thoughts on “Three for Five III

  1. These are wonderful! I love that they are done with colored pencils. Is the texture that I see created by a base layer of primer?
    My personal favorite is the first. I love its feeling of glowing light. 🙂


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