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Sharing my art journey with you.

Why Coloured Pencils?

As I took my first images to be scanned for prints, my now-fiancé asked me quite unceremoniously whether I really thought it would sell. Not because he doesn’t like the art or believe in me – as a matter of fact I think aside from my mom he is my biggest fan, always encouraging and somehow believing I can draw things I am not even sure I can – but because it is coloured pencil. “Is it even commercial?  Why don’t you rather consider oil paints?”

I had to ponder my answer. In my experience people often have a tendency to reply to seeing my work with a statement like “You use colouring-in pencils?” or “Ok, you use crayons” (insert my wide-eyed horror here!).  We seem to have gotten bogged-down in our primary-school definition of coloured pencils, labeling them only as a tool for kids and colouring.

And right there, in that simple presumption, I realised, lies the beauty of the medium. It is that simple – not only can even kids use it, but it is versatile enough to colour with, draw with, and yes, make art with.

Let’s look at coloured pencils from the point of view of an artist then.  Why – as an artist wishing to sell your work – would you choose this medium?

Maybe your definition of art refers to Renoir and Van Gogh and the classic masters whose paintings have endured for hundreds of years. Well, the great news is that coloured pencils can be as long-lasting. Companies like Caran D’Ache and Faber Castell have poured their passion and expertise into creating pencils that are lightfast, superbly blendable and highly pigmented – ensuring you have artist-quality tools to create with.

Coloured pencils are easy to travel with, enabling you to create your art anytime, anywhere. With handy sets of every size in durable travel-friendly cases you can simply pop your paperpad and pencils into your suitcase and ferry them wherever you go. Inspiration strikes in exactly those places where you least expect it, and this handy medium will be right there at your side without the fuss of needing an easel, multiple brushes and the odd bits you require for other mediums.

Versatile does not even begin to describe the scope of the medium. A choice of everything from charcoal pencils, to watercolour, pastel pencils, oil-based pencils and ink-based pencils mean there is truly a brand or style that will suit everyone.  You might prefer a more painterly approach – then use watercolour pencils or simply use a solvent to blend your oil-based pencils.  Maybe you love the bright vibrancy of ink – then try Derwent Inktense.  The subtle shades of the Derwent Graphitint might appeal to you if you love natural muted shades – and they are water-soluble too!

I personally fell in love with the ability to easily create fine detail (my go-to pencils for this is Faber Castell Polychromos and Caran D’Ache Pablo), but the chunky thick creamy Derwent Drawing pencils are so amazing for backgrounds.  I have seen the most amazing wildlife and animal portraits in coloured pencils, but the astounding range of colours available means you can also create stunningly accurate skintones, and finely detailed landscapes.

Using Coloured Pencils is really childs-play (don’t tell anyone I said that!) and the techniques involved are simple and easy to master.  YouTube offers a vast array of tutorials by excellent artists.  From shading to cross-hatching and layering, the information is endless.

In the end, as an artist, you might want to sell your work.  The secret here is that with millions of people out in the world, there truly is a place in the sun for everyone.  People do not share the same aesthetic tastes, and the person who walks into a gallery to buy the oil painting, is not the same person who would necessarily walk in and buy the sketch.  But someone will appreciate it – and as the lovely people over at the fine art printing company who do my prints say – it sells exactly for the reason of being different.

It is therefor no secret that I am a big Coloured Pencil fan and should I decide to broaden my horizons and venture into something different, I might just try Pastel Pencils.  How is that for being adventurous?

Go on – buy a set…try it out… You know you want to!

Pencil-blessings…

Drawing Tips: Pencil Facts | Part 2 – Faber-Castell Polychromos

If you’ve been following my blog you would have read my first blog entry on drawing tips dealing with pencils in general.  If you’ve missed it – have a look here.

In this post I will start dealing with specific pencils I use or have tried out.  Please note that I am in no way affiliated to any of these brands, neither do I get compensated for a positive review – this is merely my own experience and opinion as a coloured pencil artist.  I am also not claiming to be an expert – just enjoying the medium and sharing the love!

First up then – Faber-Castell Polychromos.  Faber-Castell is a renowned German brand established in 1761 and the quality of the pencil speaks to the craftsmanship and experience they are known for.

The barrel sits comfortably in your hand and supports the 3.8mm lead in a strong, durable casing.  I personally love the range of 120 colours – they are vibrant and beautiful and lay down so smooth and evenly.  If you like fine detail these are the pencils for you – the oil-based lead is a bit harder and therefor keeps a sharp point really well, enabling those minute lines you need.  For someone like me who loves getting stuck in the fur and details of animals, they are amazing!  What makes them even better is that they are really lightfast and this means your work will last and last.  Each pencil is rated according to their lightfastness star-rating for easy reference.

Polychromos blends well with solvent and also with burnishing and recently I had the opportunity to test them with Derwent’s Blender Pencil and that worked great too.  I love doing lots of layers to get the right depth and texture to fur and these pencils layer effortlessly – just bear in mind not to start too dark or press too hard – the lighter colours are not very opaque and therefor lights do not go well over darks at all.  I prefer using either the Derwent Drawing Chinese White or Caran D’Ache Luminance White if necessary.  They do erase rather well depending on how hard you’ve pressed.

All-in-all – one of my favourite pencils and probably the one I use most at this stage, though I have been investing in Caran D’Ache’s range and I am also in love!

The Faber-Castell Polychromos is definitely artist-quality and comes with a slightly higher price tag, but in my experience they are worth every cent.  They are also available open stock which means if you run out of your favourite colour, you can simply buy the single pencil instead of having to buy a whole set.  I buy mine online from Art Savings Club – not only are their prices excellent, but their service is great and they always seem to add something a little extra in there!

I really hope this helped you – if it did, let me know!

Colourful blessings…

A Note on Making Time

This morning I was driving to Kaapsehoop for an early shoot, pondering the things I intended to accomplish today – a public holiday I might add.  And again it dawned on me: Life just gets in the way some days.

Aside from the art I have a photography business to run, the kids have schoolwork and activities, there is dinner to prepare and school lunches and errands to be run, not to mention the house that needs to be kept more or less presentable.  The fact is that life demands more time than I seem to be able to produce during any given day.

I chat to so many people with demanding jobs and schedules who wish to spend more time doing something for themselves – whether it be going to the gym or pursuing a hobby or maybe just getting out of the house.  As I was driving along, listening to cello music on my phone and admiring the lovely hillside clothed in green plantations with mist hanging low over the treetops the day felt so promising – just like every other beautiful morning.

But then Life happens and your intention of spending an hour drawing before tackling business emails slips away as the groom informs you he forgot to mention the horsefeed is finished. Yesterday.  And now pony needs to eat but has no food.  You dash off to the feedstore.  Crisis averted.  The clock chimes 10 and you jump into the emails, telling yourself you will grab an hour for drawing when the kids do homework.  With some work done you fetch them, watching the last moments of rugby practice and then as soon as your son gets in the car he hands over the notice – a school project due in two days.  The hour is spent trying to find sources on some interesting old thingy for history.  Then you rummage through the freezer trying to find something to cook because you had every intention of defrosting it, but its bursting out of its seems with bits and pieces of meat you were still going to prepare, and now you stubbornly refuse to buy anything before cleaning it out.  The stove’s gas lets you down about halfway through preparing dinner and then your child brings a letter from school reminding you of the swimming gala he needs a new swimcap for and you realise you only have tomorrow 7am to do it because its tomorrow and that is when the school clothing shop is open.

Believe me – even when this is something you decided to take seriously and do as a business, life still gets in the way.

So I made another resolution.  A middle-of-the-week-middle-of-the-day-nothing-special-at-all resolution.  The kind that you don’t write down, you just do it.

I stopped and told myself that being a better mom and better creative means that sometimes I have to allow the kids to mess the whole kitchen while preparing their own lunch, or that hubby-to-be needs to make his own coffee, or the horse needs to just eat the huge bale of grass obstructing my view of the dam for one more hour – so I can draw, or practice cello.  So I can find that peace in me that allows me to be the person I am.

So I can allow Life to not get in the way, but be lived.

I will not try and tell you this is easy, or even possible every day.  But I will tell you that its a decision and not something that happens by itself.  To put time into the thing that keeps you passionate and happy about Life, you sometimes have to put Life aside for a moment.

So draw.  Or run.  Or play cello. For yourself.  Now – while you have a moment.

And me?  I am busy drawing this little waterbuck duo – they’ve been shouting my name for a while.  The reference photo comes from a dear friend who has been kind enough to send me a heap of reference photos for drawing.

And when I am not drawing?  I am trying to learn to play the cello, and horse-permitting I might spend an hour or so practicing this week.  It really calms me and its great to just do something that occupies my mind fully.

Watch out for another post on tips and tricks soon.

Thank you for reading my musings…

Much love

Drawing Tips: Pencil Facts | Part 1

I have had a few enquiries from people on Facebook requesting drawing tips.  So I decided to start a series of posts sharing some things I have learned.  Let me just state that there are much smarter people out there in the world than I, but I love what I do and I don’t mind sharing some knowledge.  So here goes!

It is no secret that not all pencils are created equal, and while most people don’t realise this – there are a myriad of different types of pencils.  Walk into any local art store and you are bound to see a vast array of sets of variable sizes.  You can buy anything from watercolour pencils to pastel pencils, ink-based pencils, wax-based pencils and oil-based pencils.  Some are coloured, others graphite, some in bright colours, others muted – the range is endless it seems.

I won’t pretend to know everything there is, but I can share my experience with brands I have tried and am using – therefor I will mainly discuss some wax- and oil-based sets.

Classifying them as oil- or wax-based is actually a bit of a misnomer as all oil-based pencils are a combination of wax and oil.  This obviously refers to their core and classification merely depends on the ratio wax to oil.  The more wax, the softer the lead and the easier the pencil will lay down colour.  The negative side is that a lot of wax means that layering ability is affected by the wax bloom a pencil will give off as it lays down colour – after a while its simply not possible to layer more colour on top.  Oil-based pencils tend to have a harder lead, is better for detail as they sharpen to a finer point and doesn’t wax bloom so quickly, but they might not lay down as easily as wax-based pencils.

So what do you choose then?

It really depends on your subject.  With a fine point an oil-based pencil is great for finer details, but with colour laying down vividly a wax-based pencil might be great for layering to achieve bright patches of colour.

At the moment I am working on a commission for a client of some ducklings, and I am actually using a combination of wax- and oil-based pencils.  The great thing is that you can use them together to achieve exactly the look you want.

Pencil quality also depends on a lot of factors aside from the type of lead.  Ideally you want a pencil that is manufactured well, doesn’t break easily and that blends and layers well.  If you are only drawing for yourself and not aiming to sell, you can settle for a less lightfast brand, but a professional artist will need professional tools.  Lightfastness refers to the colour being fade resistant and basically means that the image will last a lifetime instead of fading to a light miscoloured version.  Most pencils do come with a lightfastness rating and I for one only purchase brands that are renowned for this trait.  Sometimes this means purchasing pencils individually or cutting certain individual colours from a set.

I hope this quick introduction to pencils helped a bit – watch out for more posts discussing the specific sets I’ve tried, and covering other topics such as paper, solvents, tools etc.

In the meantime – just keep drawing!

What If?

Last night I sat until late packaging prints – I am delivering a whole batch tomorrow and I am very excited, but its been a lot of work trying to get the packaging, labels and certificates done and signed.  In the background I had music playing and while I worked I pondered.

What If? What if – just like the other times – I had set the proverbial pencil down again?

People often ask how the ‘drawing-thing’ happened.

“Did you always draw – from when you were a child?”

No, not really actually.  Though I distinctly remember being twelve and sitting at my desk in the corner of my room with the afternoon sun on my back and looking up at a photo of myself as a baby, and the sudden urge to draw it.  Using my simple HB pencil and a sheet of printing paper, I drew what could be deemed as my first and only self-portrait.  If I close my eyes I can still see that drawing in my mind, and I know it must still be somewhere in one of my boxes of childhood memories.  It was good I think.  My mom loved it – but then, she always was my most ardent supporter.  It looked like the photo, and I pinned it to my board – often thinking I should try something else but also mostly thinking that it might have been a fluke and wondering whether I would in fact be able to.  So I didn’t.

Years passed.

My son was small, a year or so old when I tried again.  I bought acrylic paint, two canvases and painted our cat.  He looked slightly skew, but it was a cat.  Then I painted a zebra, and again I felt happy with it.  Happy that it looked like a zebra, but frustrated that it lacked the detail I so love in wildlife art.  So yet again the paint and brushes were filed and I let it go.

More time passed.

About 3 or 4 years ago I tried charcoal, but found it too black – I discovered I like colour.  One day I walked into a shop and impulsively bought a set of coloured pencils.  I drew a bird or two and suddenly something clicked into place.  Over the next 2 years I drew a handful of images and started reading up on coloured pencil techniques.

And then, in January 2017 I decided to make a resolution – I was going to take my art more seriously.  Shutting my eyes as I swiped, I invested in artist quality pencils and paper.  This site is the result of that resolution.

So what if?  What if this time, like every other time, I allowed myself to be dissuaded by the doubts and fears.  What if my drive to do better had once again dimmed my spirit instead of fueling the need to learn.  What if in that one moment when the art dream was knocking on my door once again, I had decided that it was just that – a dream?  What if I missed out on the fun I am having now?

I am by no means where I want to be – I learn with each piece.  But it has awakened a part of my being that is floating deliriously happy at the prospect of each new drawing.  I have also by no means ‘arrived’ – a serious amount of water is needed to fill that dam.  But I am, quite literally, living the dream of building and filling that dam.

People often say that ‘what ifs’ shouldn’t be pondered,  but usually this is because of opportunities missed.  So don’t miss that bus.

Go out and chase your dream.  Open the door to that idea that keeps knocking on your door.  Pursue it with fervor and wild abandon, breathe it like you would air.

Shouldn’t we all have one excitingly idyllic dream to give life to?

What if you just did it?

Commissions

Good news – I am now accepting pet and wildlife commissions!

Basic commission pricing will be as follows for the Pastel original – this is for a single subject on a clean background (custom quotes will be done for additional subjects and/or more detailed backgrounds):

70cm x 50cm : Starting at R8500 – subject to quote

A3  (40cm x 30cm): Starting at R4800

A4: (24cm x 30cm): Starting at R2500

Commissions will be done using the highest quality mediums to ensure longevity.

I will need a well-lit high resolution image and at this point I am only accepting commissions of animals.  To reserve your spot, should there be a waiting list, a 50% booking fee will be required, as well as the completed commission contract.   The balance of the fee will be due on completion and acceptance of the portrait.

Send me a message via the handy contact form or email me at henriette@thecountrycreative.co.za

The story behind Tlou

Tlou is a very special drawing to me.

In October 2016 I had the privilege of visiting the Chobe region with my now-fiancé and our two boys.  During what felt like the peak of the drought we spent a few days at Senyati Lodge near Kasane.  What made Senyati special was the man-made waterhole and underground hide.  Climbing down into a narrow tunnel that runs underground to the hide, you could view the wildlife at the waterhole from only a few paces away – so close that the kids would come running to tell about an elephant bathing at the fountain – splattered with mud from said bath!  The unique vantage point also gave new perspective on these majestic creatures as they towered over us.  More than once my heart beat in my throat as one stepped closer and I could just imagine an elephant standing on the hide!

It was during one of these afternoons that I photographed Tlou.  Every afternoon literally dozens upon dozens of elephants would visit the oasis.  Around us the vegetation was scarce – with no rain the grass had dwindled to mere stubs here and there and the trees were mostly barren.  Around the waterhole it was green and lush.  This little guy came rushing into the patch of mud from the overflow and promptly started playing in the mud.  His tiny little trunk was going everywhere, swinging around and spraying mud just about everywhere aside from over his body!  We watched him for quite a while and ever since Christo and I would often just refer to ‘our little elephant’.

In the end I drew him for Christo and I am excited to share our little elephant Tlou with you!

Watch out for prints of Tlou available soon!

Much love

Hello!

I just received my package of prints and I am over the moon – the idea to sign then and send them off into the world fills me with the same kind of excitement and trepidation as sending a child off to a new school.

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