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Colour pencils on wood

Hi Everyone,

I receive a large amount of request about how I have recently done my art on wooden panels, so I thought I would put together a detailed tutorial, from start to finish, on my technique.

The first step of course would be to obtain the wood. I go to a local timber yard where I live as the wood comes in all different sized panels. The type of wood I use is plywood, and it is 1⁄4” thick. I take my time going through each board in the stack looking for defects as well as looking for the best grain pattern. One of the great things about plywood is its varied grain pattern making for all kinds of composition possibilities. The other reason for my choosing plywood is the ability it has to take and hold the CP pigment. Also, if erasing is needed you can easily take it back down to the wood grain with little ghosting, and even if you do get ghosting, it is easily covered with new CP layers.

Once I have settled on a board with no defects and a varied grain pattern, I have the timber yard cut it up for me to my required size.

Now that you have your wood panel the next step would be to prep the surface. The only thing you have to do to prep the wood is sand the side you are going to work on with #80 grit sand paper. Sand it real good to get down to the raw wood and remove any surface film it may have picked up in transit. Also, this gives it a good tooth for CP pigment to grab onto. Once you have finished sanding the surface take a damp paper towel or rag and wipe down the board to remove all residue from sanding.

One final note on the wood used. You probably will not find this wood at your local B&Q, you will probably have to go to a timber yard to get it. Next, study your grain pattern and picture in your minds eye what you can do with it. The possibilities are endless. One of my favourite things is to turn the grain into tree limbs or logs and place tigers, leopards or birds in the composition, using the grain pattern as much as possible. You can also do still life’s on the panels and the grain accents it beautifully.

The next step is to layout your main subject as you would do for any other CP work you would normally do paying attention to the placement of your subject on the grain pattern. With your outline in place, or your drawing, depending on how you work, you are ready to start laying colour. Everyone has their own way of starting each piece, so what I describe here is just the way I do it, whatever you use is just as good, maybe better. With my animal art I always start with the eyes. For me that’s where it all begins. When I do it that way, the painting takes on a life of its own, silly I know, but it works for me. From this point, I will generally work all over the piece, laying down a base colour so I don’t forget about shading or highlights and keeping in mind which direction my light is coming from. As I work all over the piece, I will keep a paper towel under my wrist so as not to smudge the colour already on the board. As for the brand of pencils I use it is strictly Prismacolor. I have found that they will lay down color on wood better than any of the others.

Once I think I am done with the drawing, I will cover it with paper towels or a cloth and not look at it for a few days after which I will go back and review it with a fresh eye, trying to pick up those little details you miss when working on it. I make whatever corrections are necessary, there always are, and then I may go ahead and finish it or let it sit for a few more days just to be sure it’s the way I want it.

My final step entails spraying fixative on the work, spraying on 2 coats with about a half hour between coats. I let this dry real good, usually a couple of hours, and then the final coats of varnish. I will either use semi-gloss or gloss, strictly depending on my mood really. I like the way gloss makes the big cats eyes glow.

When spraying on the varnish I like using 3 thin coats allowing at least an hour drying time between each one. With the fixative and varnish you want to spray each coat lightly, with the can about 12 to 14 inches from your painting, and KEEP THE CAN MOVING as you are spraying. This will prevent it from piling up on you on the surface of your work and running down the piece, ruining all the work you did.

In closing I would just like to say that I hope this will be of some help to those that want to give wood a try as a support for Colored Pencil Paintings (yes they are paintings). If you have a question about something I did not cover, contact me

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