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Ripple Effect – Revisiting Square Method

Hi Everyone!

Just a couple of days ago, I finally finished my current piece, Ripple Effect.  This has been a long and arduous journey, spending almost 3 months (12 weeks) from start to finish. I am relieved to be done just before the deadline for the CPSA (Colored Pencil Society of America) competition. This is my first year entering for their annual international exhibition, so I am keeping my fingers crossed!

All and all, I am very happy with the results. Working with this piece took me back to good old days in The Woodlands, TX when we used to bicycle along the Waterways and the bike paths along the Lake Woodlands. If anyone can recognize this photo, it was taken by the pond near to the Cynthia Wood Mitchell Pavilion.

Ripple Effect 18″x24″, Colored Pencil

posted this on Facebook, and the response has been quite overwhelming. I am simply humbled by everyone’s kind words and support. One of the most often asked questions is “How did you do this?” So I thought I would write a blog article on how I did this project, and how I kept my sanity along the way without compromising the details and the quality of work.

One quote that keeps me going in every challenging project is this Van Gogh’s quote:

“If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.” – Vincent Van Gogh

Sometimes you just have to let go of that fear and just do it.  I know, it’s easier said than done.  So how do you just “do it”?  Break it down.  Make it into simpler, smaller pieces you can manage and go from there.  Working on 18″x24″ piece with this level of detail is a daunting task, so I divided this piece into four 9″x12″ sections.  I printed out each sections in legal size paper so that I can get the print to be as close to 9″x12″ as possible.

These 9″x12″ sections can get far from something that makes sense or is easier for you to draw.  As you can see above, the duck which is the focal point of this piece is cut into half.  To gain a better understanding of the overall picture, I printed out another legal size paper of the original reference photo.  Throughout the project both the 9″x12″ section photo and the overall reference photo were used.

Now I have four 9″x12″ sections…but they still look quite complicated.  So I further divide each 9″x12″ into twelve 3″ squares.  If you can set a goal of working on one 3″ square area in a day or two, not 18″x24″ in almost 3 months, it is doable, manageable and much less daunting.  This way in a matter of 2 to 3 weeks, you are done with one section.  This method has worked in all the major landscape pieces since I was able to measure my progress every day and use that as a motivational tool.

As I mentioned previously in the blog, I don’t draw grids on the substrate.  A mat board with 3″ square grids marked using strings creates the grids instantly, saving time drawing/erasing grids and minimize eraser damage on the substrate.

When drawing using this method, I only focus on the 3″square I am working on. This way I don’t let myself get distracted or overwhelmed.  The string can be easily pushed in any direction to get it out of the way when working on the area where the string is.  As you can see on the photo below, I sometimes divide the 3″ square further into 1.5″ sections to get a better sense of proportions.  I drew the line very lightly using a neutral colored pencil (in this case Ginger Root).  This way the line can be easily layered over as you work on the area without having to erase the lines.  To avoid smudging/smearing with hand,  I place scrap papers on the areas I am not working on. Covering the areas also helps to focus solely on one area at a time.

To section out the reference photos into 3″ squares, I drew a 3″ grid on a 9″x12″ acetate sheet and place it over the reference photo.  I secure the sheet on one side using paper clips so that I can easily lift the acetate sheet to remove the grid lines as needed while working on the sections.  The dotted lines subdivide the square into 1.5″ and help define the center of the square.

This method can also be used on initial sketching process, especially on portrait project that requires precision to achieve likeness of the subject.  I will be teaching this technique at the Colored Pencil Portrait Workshop in June.  If you are in Dallas area, hope you will join us!

(This blog was originally posted on 3/31/2016)

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