Monday, August 18, 2008

The Ugly Stage

ACEO Copyright Jennifer Rose Phillip

I think most coloured pencil artists (not all) have a stage in their artwork that is called "the ugly stage" by a lot of them. Its the steps were colour has just been laid down, where the blending effect hasn't happened, where a piece lacks any kind of tonal value, looks really flat. In short it looks like crap :p

I find this is usually the stage where newcomers to CP get really discouraged. Most people that have never used CPs don't realize how long it can sometimes take to get the same effect that can take minutes when using paint. Its hard when you look at such a piece to keep going; more so when people tell you just "keep at it", Rome wasn't built in a day yada yada. I never wanted to build Rome, just wanted to be able to make Lassie look more like a dog than a rat with dreadlocks :p (and that still happens)

When people ask me for advice on using CPs, I ask them if they have a lot of patience? Do they mind making lots of mistakes until they find out the best way for them to use coloured pencils? Do you like having pretty much nothing to clean up? (big selling point for me and really who loves cleaning? ;) I am sure leaving oil paints and turpentine in my bedroom closet did wonders for my head :p though that might explain a few things lol).

Honestly I wish I had a magic wand to help newcomers to CP to not get discouraged (and to wish for Gerard Butler). I can suggest so many things to help a person, but that person has to want to take the time to learn. Don't think your first piece will be a masterpiece and all past CP work worldwide will cower in comparison. Some people are naturally good at CPs (hmm wheres my wand when I need it? ;) My first CP piece will never be seen. Possibly tossed out, or burned :p ). For others it takes time.

Posting art when it is at this stage can be hard sometimes. Sometimes reading what others think can be a little hard to deal with; or you mess up the piece and never finish and don't want people to see the failure. Posting art though can be so helpful in so many ways. Always good to get another set of eyes to see the piece (and family doesn't count ;) ) Colours can be suggested and different supports can be talked about (paper, board, canvas to name a few).

I guess is what this post is trying to say is that to get past the crap stage takes time and effort and sometimes outside help. Ask a lot of questions as there are a lot of people that are more than willing to help. Actually try to listen to the answers you get, instead of asking again until you get the answer you want. (hmm this sounds like the end of an after school special)

So my questions for readers are:
1) Best advice you have ever been given about CPs (or your favorite medium)
2) Any advice you can giver other CP artists? (not just in getting past the crap stage)

9 comments:

Chrissy said...

Well for me, I am glad that I use so many layers of paint...so it is normal that I have to put lots of hours in.
I am real glad you posted this up, almost everyone I have seen works ina small sections and completes, Ii simply cannot work that way, I have to have a mucky stage...some would say they still stayed mucky, LOL....I am still learning.
The surface is SOOO important and I am still messing up.
At the minute I am still continually amazed at what can be achieved if you keep at it, it gets a depth that is not like any other medium...and that one was down to you :D Thanks
Althoug I have a way to go....still experimenting

Chrissy said...

One thing I would ask of anyone that uses CP's is?
If you could just choose one book to help with techniques and advice, what would it be?
I think it would be good to get a load of resources together, I have now found one or two useful resources, do you want them?

Jennifer Rose said...

I can't work in small sections either. I try to get at least one layer down over the whole piece and then jump around with the pencils. I don't always do that, but it does help me set the tone of a piece if I do.

Art is all about experimenting :D Your not messing up, your finding what works best for you!

I know what books most people would recommend but I don't actually think they are very helpful :/ (not going to say who here) Over rated actually.

This one is good, this one and this one :) too many to just pick one (I don't have the first 2, read them at a library)

leslie said...

Best advice on both counts...
Run Away!!! Run Away!!!

*kidding*

Two of the prominent positive aspects of CP for me are the lack of expense, and the total ease of cleanup.
And I can leave the drawing for a few hours and come back to it. Can't do that with a wet on wet watercolor.

Best advice?
(other that *run away*)
#Make sure you are crazy in love with your preliminary sketch before you commit to coloring in.
#Make sure your surface is strong enough to withstand layers, and won't 'fuzz up' before you get the color intensity you want.
#Don't expect highly saturated color intensity. CP's are just not paint.

Love your ugly phase photo! You are correct that this is where most new CP artists throw their hands up and walk away. That's why being crazy in love with the prelim sketch is important. Keeps you wanting to keep after it.

leslie said...

Best advice on both counts...
Run Away!!! Run Away!!!

*kidding*

Two of the prominent positive aspects of CP for me are the lack of expense, and the total ease of cleanup.
And I can leave the drawing for a few hours and come back to it. Can't do that with a wet on wet watercolor.

Best advice?
(other that *run away*)
#Make sure you are crazy in love with your preliminary sketch before you commit to coloring in.
#Make sure your surface is strong enough to withstand layers, and won't 'fuzz up' before you get the color intensity you want.
#Don't expect highly saturated color intensity. CP's are just not paint.

Love your ugly phase photo! You are correct that this is where most new CP artists throw their hands up and walk away. That's why being crazy in love with the prelim sketch is important. Keeps you wanting to keep after it.

Rita said...

Great post Jennifer! Indeed, the "ugly stage" can be the biggest turn off for those new to cp and it's time consuming nature.

The best advice I was ever given was (and this is pretty generic as it can be applied to any medium) is: Don't be afraid of making mistakes. Sometimes the best works come from so-called mistakes.

The advice I always give folks new to cp is this: Let all of your expectations go. Coloured pencil is a finicky but fun medium and if you can just experiment with it for the first little while you'll find it's a medium that you can absolutely fall in love with.

I love using cp's and wouldn't trade them for any other medium in the world (although I do still enjoy playing with oils! :D)

Jennifer Rose said...

All great advice for newcomers! :D Thanks! :D

tlc illustration said...

I want one of those magic Gerard Butler wands...

Ugly stages sure happen in other media too. I routinely despair of whatever painting I'm working on and have to keep reminding myself that this happens *every* time - you have to keep going and work past it. Good life analogy re: working until you solve problems rather than running away when it gets hard or doesn't look like you think it ought. :-)

kaslkaos said...

I think you "ugly stage" photo is probably the best advice given for a cp. It shows people how it begins and where it starts for an artistic effect. I love cp best, and am dabbling with gouache now just hoping to find a 'speedier' medium for when speed counts. But I really miss doing my cp's and all the blending and lines and nice clean dry pencils. Love Live the Coloured Pencil!