I’m focused on learning so many creative skills that sometimes I miss the plain fact that I’m already capable of doing lots of the things I tell myself I can’t do. In the pursuit of learning, I’ve purchased stacks of art supplies (pens, graphite pencils, coloured pencils, sketchbooks, specialty paper, paints, brushes, and markers), so much that I often don’t remember what I bought years ago and sometimes surprise myself when I find things in nearly new condition. On the other hand, at other times I sit with the intention of teaching myself something “new” only to realize that, although not perfect, I might already have the skill and I may just need practice or not be aware of the technical name of what I’m attempting. I’m not sure if it’s the passage of time or my illness – or more likely all the pain medications I take – that make me unaware or doubt myself, but it’s an odd space to occupy at times.
In March, during a visit to one of my local Dollar Stores, I found some inexpensive sketchbooks that have pages made from kraft paper, instead of the usual stark white or off-white pages found in standard sketchbooks one might buy in an art supplies store. There were four unique cover designs to choose from so I bought one of each. The sketchbook I decided to start using first has a sketch of a fountain pen, bottles of inks, a pencil, and a micron pen on its front cover, but it’s the blank golden paper behind the covers that piqued my interest. I started drawing on the bright kraft paper pages as soon as I brought them home.
I started out doodling in it with a graphite pencil and a fine point black ink pen. Then, maybe because these sketchbooks are so inexpensive or simply because I was curious to see how other media would work with the kraft paper, I started trying out other things. So far, the pages have held up nicely to acrylic paint pens, gel pens, the application of white gesso – which I’d never used before –, markers, and oil pastels. Then a few weeks ago, I discovered that coloured pencils pop on kraft paper. How did I discover this? While looking through the profiles of some artists on Instagram, I saw some of the most beautiful bright illustrations created using coloured pencil on kraft paper by Australian artist Deb Hudson, and I decided I had to try it out for myself.
However, before opening my package of 60 brand spanking new Prismacolor coloured pencils that I bought last year to experiment with, I went in search of what’s left of the 24 coloured pencils from the same brand I bought years ago when I used to do creative things on a regular basis. Back then, I used to colour with coloured pencils by pressing hard on the lead to get bold colour on the page from the first stroke of the pencil, which meant that depending on the colours I used most, I had to replace individual pencils often; and I built up a collection of tiny pencils.
Since that time, from watching videos, reading books and articles on creative websites in recent years, I’ve learned that you need to build up layers until you get the bold colour you desire. I’ve also, learned that layering allows more flexibility – it’s easier to correct mistakes or change a colour palette – and most of all it is calming. While you work to achieve the rich colour and paper coverage with the slow repetitive motion of the pencil, you become more relaxed.
That leads me to this week’s IFDrawAWeek challenge. The prompt for this week was balloons. When I think of balloons, I always think of the brightest colours, happy sunny days, and floating, whether it’s the balloon alone or me with it. This challenge was an opportunity to apply the drawing and colouring skills I’ve learned over the years. I not only wanted to make the drawing colourful and cheerful, I also wanted to create the perception of depth and to make my sketchbook page pop.
I know I may have taken some creative licence with this drawing, but I doubt that there aren’t many people out there who might have imagined floating away with the help of a bunch of balloons once or twice…