Today, I am nearing the end of this coloured pencil piece, it’s one of my larger coloured pencil works 61X 46cm (not framed) and for coloured pencils this is quite large!
Those who are familiar with working in pencils will appreciate the layering, time and patience it takes to create a piece like this so I thought i would share a few thoughts as I am finalising this work.
As I am nearing the end of this work i am thinking alot about what it takes to complete a large work like this, I am also thinking about my process and what the story of this artwork means and also how i am going to answers the inevitable questions of –
How long did it take for you to do that? followed shortly by What pencils do you use? 🙂
Before I get into the HOW i am going to talk briefly about my WHY or my story of this artwork. I believe in all artworks the WHY has to always come into play and it was highlighted to me quite especially with a big artwork like this right throughout its whole creation… the commitment level definitely has to be there for large works like this. I always enjoy working large but I can quite honestly say that i almost gave up on this one a few times, in fact I did start this one and then scrapped as i had problems with one of the boy’s mouths and started again – more on that in another post… but definitely had to ask and I needed to remind myself multiple times about WHY am i doing this again? — It’s taking soo long, there are so many other things i could be doing right now, is this even worth it?
So lets get down to it.. THE STORY OF THIS ARTWORK
Stating the obvious the subject of this artwork is the portrait of my two boys Max and Will. You may recognise them from some of my other colouerd pencil portrait works. It would be quite understandable for you to think….oh she has done a portrait of her kids .. nice.. but the story goes a bit deeper than that.
A few years ago I had the absolutely privilege of flying to Perth and staying with fellow coloured pencil artist – Julie Podstolski to attend Ann Kullberg’s first Australian Coloured Pencil Workshop. I have been a fan of Ann every since i started working in pencils over 15 years ago so taking the flight over to Perth there on Mothers day weekend was so massive and such an amazing experience for me. I was so lucky that I actually was invited to stay in Julie’s beautiful home and spend sometime with her and her family. At that time I was also battling with parenting issues with my two boys as they move from the phase of being young children to pre-teens it was (and still is) as a primary care giver a daily dance of challenges that I was finding difficult to manage.
It was delightful to get away and I was so excited to see Julie’s work upclose as I was also a bit fan of her work and we had connected online many times. In Julie’s home i saw so many lovely works she had hanging and framed of her beautiful children. Whilst they were ofcourse technically so beautiful but they were to me a celebration of her children at that moment in time, I thought about the fact that even though i have some portraits of my boys they were of when they were quite a bit younger. One of my “healing pieces” which is called > Gathering Strength is also another portrait I have done, but this one has mixed emotions for me and whilst overall these are great pieces they don’t actually hang in my home and I didn’t have anything that “celebrated them” in their older selves and their brotherly love. What I was also aware of was despite the personal challenges I was having at this moment was ALL changing now as well and all too soon I could see the turn of “teenager hood” just around the corner and pretty soon this pre-teen stage would be gone too.
Also… from a technical view, the whole reason I was there was to take Ann Kullberg’s class and as a portrait artist I had picked up some great techniques and was been itching to create a larger coloured pencil portrait to test myself and see what I could do. So with all of that my WHY was beginning to form. I wanted to take a leaf out of Julie’s book and have a beautifully framed and hung in my house for those days when they are no longer with me … in celebration of my boys.
Writing this … all these things that come pouring out:
This portrait is:
About my boys. I hope it’s also for mothers & fathers with growing children are challenged by each phase of these human beings go through… there are times that you start to question, have I done a good enough job? Sometimes that answer is yes, sometimes it’s no, then you realise you are only at the beginning of this work it is going to get alot harder from here the more they grow…(ekk). If you have already raised your children i am sure you already know what I am talking about. Maybe you are raising grandchildren and can remember the times…
It’s for siblings to cherish one another .. as your bond is special, it’s for individuals who are noticing their differences and celebrating them!!
(These two are quite different in colouring and in their personalities and raising these two individuals has been tough, parenting them in a way that works for them despite outside influences has been a constant challenge) – it’s hopefully a reminder for mothers to trust their intuitions and be strong, to stick to their guns and more than likely always know their children best.
I hope it’s for everyone to think about chapters in their life, how seasons change and sometimes despite the challenges sometimes we need reminding that it is good to celebrate and remember the good times as they are so precious – not only for the similarities but also for their differences …
…. and for unashamedly selfish recognition of me… I CAN be proud of just getting this far.. I don’t always do it right and its such a challenge there are days I didn’t know if I could go on but these guys are my work…they are my inspiration and they are my legacy 🙂 Despite all of the hardwork I think i can stand tall and say that I doing alright by them 🙂
To my friend Julie, if your reading this a big Thankyou you may not know i took this way from my stay with you but you are also an inspiration in many ways but especially for revelations that I may not have arrived at had you not opened up your family to me.
These are my WHY’s for creating this artwork, so for me this is quite a personal one, but i am hoping that by sharing it it can also provide connection or inspiration in celebrating those around you and your precious moments of your loved ones.
The HOW – for coloured pencil friends
Now onto the HOW of this artwork… The artwork as taken me over 2 years to complete.
Obviously, I have not worked on this the whole time. There was a time I put it completely aside, gave up and never wanted to see it again. Then I pulled it out worked on it and put it aside again. Sometimes it was out of frustration of it taking so long, but i think now looking back on it there were also times that the pull of what the piece meant was too strong so i had to put it away just let it sit for a while. Sometimes art is like that. As i shared at the beginning of this post, due to the nature of the work the commitment needed to be strong on this one.
I didn’t know my WHY when i started this work. Earlier this year in my open studio, after it sitting away in the cupboard for probably at least 6months, I decided to bring it out to have a talking piece in my studio as I didn’t have any other coloured pencil pieces in production. Here I was talking about the process with some of my visitors then it all of a sudden hit me i had a whole lot of stuff attached to this work that i didn’t know was there. In that moment the drive took over for me to complete this work kicked in. I often read about artists who have things come out in their artworks way before they could articulate it. This is definitely what happened here for me.
This work is in Stonehenge acid free paper, I have used a variety of pencils throughout tits process these include Prismacolor, Faber Castell Polychoromos, Caran D’Ache Luminance. As I am nearing the end i have found that its difficult to get any more layers on in certain areas and I am switching to different brands of pencils as well as spraying with workable fixative as helped this process. At this end phase i have found that adding on a few layers of Derwent coloursoft pencils i am getting layers of additional colour that I wasn’t able to achieve before due to the nature of these pencils.
I have used Zest-it for blending the pencil layers in certain areas but like with most of my works this is in the mid-process that is not used so much towards the end and is not used all over the work.
I have applied a few layers of workable fixative here at the end which has helps seal things up and then some more layers on top of that. I will likely finish the whole piece at the end with a couple of layers of UV fixative before getting it framed.
Stay tuned for the final piece. At the moment I am concentrating working on skin tones, highlights and shadows and making sure they are doing what they need to do. On the final stretch.
I would love to hear if you enjoyed hearing about this story and process, and if you have any questions please pop them down below.