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Jolinda
01-31-2008, 09:41 PM
I was just reading through Scott's thread re: Question about background. Has a thread ever been devoted to just the discussion of backgrounds and how they were done? If it's possible, I for one would love to see people post CP works with backgrounds they are particulary happy with and to explain how they created that background the colors used, stroke used, blending techniques used, brand of pencils used, and anything else of importance.

If something along this line has already been done and I missed it in the Library, then please direct me to it. If not, maybe this thread, if it's a good one, will end up as a good reference thread for the CP Library.

There are a lot of us out here who struggle with backgrounds and it would be fun, interesting and educational to see all types of backgrounds from the very detailed to the abstract, soft backgrounds.

Linda

taffy
02-01-2008, 06:46 AM
I'll also be interested in any input here, I have a problem with BG s also, mostly so I dont include one having spoilt so many pieces doing it wrong ,
there are some who start with the BG, I cant get my head around that.
Well done Jolinda a good start to a thread.:clap:
Brian

ocmd123
02-01-2008, 06:57 AM
Great thread. Thanks, Linda. I will be checking in here with much interest, as well. Backgrounds terrify me!

Andi Rebirth
02-01-2008, 07:13 AM
Linda, what an excellent idea. I am in the scared to death catagory. I tried yesterday to look up bg too, and found little useful imformation. Maybe I missed something, but didn't find much helpful info. Hope some of the expert will respond.
I am with you Taffy, can't seem to do the bg first, "big shutter" that seems so foreign. Andi

Tazz
02-01-2008, 07:41 AM
Here's a link to a BG demo you might want to take a look at...It's one of Wendy's, one of WC's very own Godesses of the CP.

http://wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=420170

Also layers and burnishing have been successful for me. I've also used oil pastels fairly successfully in one piece and BG color on the back of film for my last piece. But one thing is for sure...for me anyway, be prepared to eat up some pencils :lol:

TessDB
02-01-2008, 08:52 AM
Yeah... I'm awful at the slow fade over large areas. Getting better, but it is *not* an area I'm hugely comfortable with!

Couple of tricks (and these were talked about in several threads that I can't remember who started... sorry!) I've found that help (on paper. Drafting film is a completely different beast):

--Those round cotton make-up removal pads drag pigment *really* well. They have a "smooth" and "rough" side. You want to use the rough side.

--Really stiff brushes (like the kind used for stenciling on walls!) can help smooth out ridges & move the pigment around really well, too.

--On softer papers like stonehenge, take your time, keep your pressure light, and your points sharp (this is where I usually trip up). rougher surfaces are a wee bit more forgiving for me, although light pressure and taking your time are *still* the key.

Tricks for drafting film:

--remember the layers don't smoosh together like they do on paper. You're relying an awful lot on the viewer's eye doing the blending. The key (for me, anyway) is to keep your pressure light and your points *slightly* dull.

--Keep your strokes close together and avoid creating "ridges" from the fast scribble thing (yep, you guessed it. This is where I goof it).

--Don't forget you can use the back! the texture/color of the film itself will kinda smooth out anything worked on the back. You gotta think in reverse, though. putting down the color you want the most visible *first*. Be prepared for serious brain tickles! And dull/mute it, so do some test swatches-- you may end up using a color *much* more intense than you would have originally thought.

--For me, cross-hatching works really well. It'll never create a perfectly smooth look on the film, but it'll at least be uniformly ragged, and most times, that's good enough!

Hope this helps! Although what it comes down to is practice. and more practice. and being willing to *seriously* goof it while you're figuring out what works and what doesn't for your style. I know Robin (RobinZ) uses dull points and heavy pressure and her work is wonderful, so just remember that these are all *suggestions*, not rules!

Tess

Andi Rebirth
02-01-2008, 09:06 AM
Thanks Tess for sharing some of your experience. I felt totally intimidated by that film. I guess I'll tackle it with different strokes on a piece and label what I did on that particular section with marker, so I can remember how I achieved that result or didn't achieve it.
I think that will help me see how different stokes, pressure, layers work. Much thanks, that was so helpful. Andi

Ittybit
02-01-2008, 10:22 AM
I find backgrounds very hard, all that sky, landscape, grass, etc. (since I mainly do animals). Having been involved in a small art gallery in the past, I found that people on the whole really like a background included in a painting. I use to just grade a color around the subject and leave it at that. Lately I have begun to try and include a completed background in my work. I really try and observe what other artist are doing with their backgrounds and would definitely enjoy a thread devoted to just that subject, especially if examples were included on how to obtain different looks, for example clouds, trees, grasses, etc. Great idea Jolinda for a thread.:thumbsup:

TessDB
02-01-2008, 11:27 AM
Lately I have begun to try and include a completed background in my work. I really try and observe what other artist are doing with their backgrounds and would definitely enjoy a thread devoted to just that subject, especially if examples were included on how to obtain different looks, for example clouds, trees, grasses, etc.

oh! ok. This is kinda two separate issues... I'm thinking background = gradient color shifts/fades/etc. What you're talking about is what I think of as a backdrop (hey, look! That's my theatre background showing! :lol: ), as in what's used to set the scene for your focal point/main objects. And the two *are* related, and then there's the tangle of good composition to be wrestled with and ... yah.

There's an *absolutely* excellent tutorial on foliage over in Pen & Ink (you can find it here (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=304494). Even though it's a different medium, if you think in terms of texture & value, it can really help.

What I've done for the (ahem, :o seriously out of my comfort zone!) few pieces that I've done that involve the backdrop sort of thing is play with the ref picture in photoshop. The blur & smudge tools are *very* helpful. As well as the burn tool. These are the only examples I've got handy, but hopefully it'll help you see what I'm talking about!

Pic from the camera:

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/01-Feb-2008/46497-8x10coneflower.jpg

Using the burn tool & smudging:

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/01-Feb-2008/46497-8x10coneflower2.jpg

And what I ended up with when all was said & done & the pencil dust had settled:

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/01-Feb-2008/46497-09.25.07done.jpg

Hope this helps!
Tess

scottsart
02-01-2008, 12:04 PM
Linda, GREAT Idea!!!! thank you for starting this thread. I think it will be super helpful.

Mrs. Leadhead
02-01-2008, 12:24 PM
Tess- Yes!! That's an excellent idea for focusing more on the subject in the foreground (especially with nature subjects) and it's perfectly appropriate, perspective-wise, to make that background more muted.
Another possibility is to
1.) Complete the basic line drawing.
2.) Protect the foreground flower. (Either use masking fluid or frisket film like the airbrush artists use.)
3.) Scumble/scribble in the background values (complementary-color deep shadows and highlights, too) with watercolor pencil.
4.) Wet that background with a very light touch or a spray mister, so as not to swirl and muddy it.
5.) Let it dry completely.
6.) Then you can return and complete the flower(s) in the foreground. It's relatively speedy (once the foreground flower has been masked) and fun.
Kristy Kutch
www.artshow.com/kutch/workshops.html

CRYork
02-01-2008, 12:27 PM
I'm another "I hate backgrounds" person. My bgs are boring, boring, boring, and I never know what color will work. This thread has been helpful...but I need a lot more details! Anyone else out there with great help to offer?

Char

scottsart
02-01-2008, 12:42 PM
The one thing that I thought.. was that if you are just using a straight color and not putting in detail, then that color should be complimentary to the main color of the painting.

For example. If I were doing red rose, then maybe the use of a green background might make sense.

See where I am lost, is in the process of putting down that background color and ensuring that you don't just see line strokes throughout. I am really looking forward to seeing where this thread goes :)

Elain
02-01-2008, 02:04 PM
Thank you Linda
Some really useful info here- what an opportune thread!

I am one week into a drawing that is mostly background. Thinking about how I was goin gto tackle it I thought I might try a watercolour wash down first but when I got to starting, I picked up pencils. Now I am part way through I don't want to change but want to also get the forground in too before I finish the background so I can enhance the compostion with som elighter patches.

So photos of so far - 9 x 13". on Watercolour paper -off white.

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/01-Feb-2008/74891-greenleaves_001.JPG

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/01-Feb-2008/74891-greenleaves_002.JPG

You can see the cross hatching clearly hopefully. Using balck grape, indigo, dark indigo, hookers green, in polychromo and indigo blue and dark purple in prisma.

in the first photo you can just see the circular filling in between the bottom two leave on the right. I found this fills in the grain better and then I cross hatched over. Just anything goes.

In the second picture I have used a lighte colour and burnished a little near the top left and will be doing more of this when I have the foreground leaves finishe to tie things together.

Basically composing a little as I go.

I wanted the leaves to show againt the background but with the purply shade be opposite and sit back. Hence also infigo blue and cool greens. The foreground leave will be warmer greens than those top left.

Lots of burnishing to come to help fill in the grain unless I get daring and do a wash over the top. I think I should have done a wash first and will try that with the next one I do.


Like Tess has done, I simplify the background so it doesn't compete with the foreground but use it to emphasis. It can be opposite colours, or incorporate opposite, or be cool against warmer, or dark against light. I've got a mixture.

It can also use the same colours as is Wendy's example with the link earlier in the thread but she also said a cooler wash then sets it back.

Background is part of the compostition.

With CP we have an advantage by being able to layer and superimpose colours rather than have a flat colour. This is similar to pastels I have found.

Hope this is useful or interesting. I'm still learning.

Mrs. Leadhead
02-01-2008, 02:32 PM
Scott, maybe it would help if you would put 2 or 3 thick newspaper sections underneath your drawing surface. I do this even if I'm working on 4-ply museum board, which is pretty hefty. I learned this from a website a long time ago- perhaps Barbara Newton's site? It has helped greatly with smooth, even background color- or skies.
Also, using oily-type pencils (Caran d'Ache Pablos, Faber-Castell Polychromos, and Lyra Polycolors- or the "extinct" Bruynzeel Fullcolors) helps, since their smudginess translates into blendability.
Try using loose oval or circular loopy strokes and you won't see your "tracks" as easily. Both Bet Borgeson and Janie Gildow- among others- use these strokes, and they're wonderful for creating smooth, even color.
Another helpful tool, besides the materials already mentioned, is a clean eyeshadow sponge-tip applicator, available at cosmetic counters in drug and variety stores. The spongey make-up wedges work, too, for larger areas, but get the plain kind, not the type with aloe.
Maybe these will help smooth out those layers for you!
Kristy
www.artshow.com/kutch

Jolinda
02-02-2008, 12:06 AM
Thanks for all the contributions to this thread. A lot of useful information here and I hope we see more ideas and more samples.

Linda

NancyPH
02-02-2008, 01:09 AM
Glad to see a thread like this. I love to see what others do for their backgrounds. It's always been a weakness for me too. Thought I might share some breakthroughs I've had recently. I still get a little uptight when I'm working on them, but I've done enough now that I just say to myself that it will all turn out okay in the end.

Here's an example of a background I did for a recent commission. The background in the ref photo is pretty detailed, but I wanted the focus to be on the baby, so I blurred out the background (part of the baby's car seat), made it darker, and changed the colors just a bit. I layered several colors (probably at least 5 layers) then blended with a stencil brush. Added more layers, blended again, until I was happy with it. The painting is done with Prismas on soft umber Colourfix board. This example is a bit on the dark side, so I've lightened it up so you can see it better. I also included a little piece of detail.

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/02-Feb-2008/50762-Johns_Landon_WIP_Final_-_smaller__lightened.jpg
http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/02-Feb-2008/50762-Johns_Landon_WIP_Final_-_small_detail.jpg

Here's a pet portrait I did recently. I ruined this background three times before I finally took one more whack at it and was finally happy with it. Again, I used many layers of color and blended with a stencil brush in a circular motion. I wanted a more classical look too the background for this piece. I have also included a small detail of it too. This one was also done on soft umber Colourfix board with Prismas.

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/02-Feb-2008/50762-Bentley_-_Final_-_smaller_2_-_edited.jpg
http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/02-Feb-2008/50762-Bentley_-_Final_-_smaller_2_-_edited_-_detail.jpg

One more if you guys can stand it. This is basically the exact same thing. Layers of color blended with a stencil brush in a circular motion. This one was done on leaf green dark Colourfix board with Prismas.

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/02-Feb-2008/50762-Blitz_Gazing_Toward_Heaven_-_medium_sized.jpg

I like using the gradient method that's been mentioned, but it takes some practice. I'm trying to start doing some more detailed backgrounds now. Hope this helps someone a little. I still have a long way to go, but I think I'm starting to get there. :rolleyes:

Andi Rebirth
02-02-2008, 07:03 AM
This week I found a book in my collection of many that I forgot I had, Painting light with colored pencil by Cecile Baird by North llight books. She goes through step by step on her demos, which is very helpful. She uses cross hatching and circular, depending on her bg with many layers. What I found helpful was she uses turpenoid inbetween two layers, then lets it dry completely, adds more color, turpenoid, etc. until she gets the desired result.
I used this on my latest bg and it really worked well. I highly reccomend her book, and it really helped me as I had never done a bg with colored pencil very well. Hope this helps, I found it very useful. She also covers which colors she used to achieve bg and this helps one see how the colors work together. Andi

CRYork
02-02-2008, 08:33 AM
Thanks to everyone who has contributed to this thread and shared their knowledge and ways they have learned to do backgounds. This has been extremely helpful to me. I missed Wendy's bg demo, so thanks for providing the link to it, Mitch. I will be looking for the book by Cecile Baird.

Nancy, your backgrounds look great (so do your paintings) and thanks for sharing your techniques. Tess, I am glad you included how to work bgs on drafting film. I haven't tried it yet, but I bought some yesterday. Now, to get the courage to try it! Kristy, your step by step instructions were very helpful, too. Elain, I really like the bg in your post...I never would have thought to use that many colors, and it came out great!

Sorry if I missed mentioning anyone....you all gave good advice and shared good techniques. Maybe my bgs won't be as boring, if I can apply what I have learned here. Thank you all!

I have heard people talk about rating a thread...can someone tell me how to do that?

Char

TessDB
02-02-2008, 08:34 AM
Another possibility is to
1.) Complete the basic line drawing.
2.) Protect the foreground flower. (Either use masking fluid or frisket film like the airbrush artists use.)
3.) Scumble/scribble in the background values (complementary-color deep shadows and highlights, too) with watercolor pencil.
4.) Wet that background with a very light touch or a spray mister, so as not to swirl and muddy it.
5.) Let it dry completely.
6.) Then you can return and complete the flower(s) in the foreground. It's relatively speedy (once the foreground flower has been masked) and fun.
Kristy Kutch
www.artshow.com/kutch/workshops.html

Kristy--

what brand/type of frisket do you suggest? I've stared and stared at the options and haven't been able to figure out what a good choice would be. :o And (I know, I am impatience incarnate! :lol: ) how long do you have to wait for it to be dried *completely*?

Fabulous examples, Elaine & Nancy! I'll see if I've got any swatches laying around that'll show how I deal with the film... May have to create 'em (cleaned up the amoeba pile of paper & film scraps the other day :rolleyes: ) so stay tuned...

Tess

ps-- if this thread is helping y'all, don't forget to rate it!

TessDB
02-02-2008, 08:38 AM
I have heard people talk about rating a thread...can someone tell me how to do that?

we cross-posted! :lol:

When you're looking at a thread, up at the top of the page is a box (it's directly under where it says what page # you're looking at) that says "rate thread". Click on it and options will pop up to assign it a rating (click in the little circle) then click on "vote now." That's it!

post or pm if you want help with the film!

Tess

CRYork
02-02-2008, 08:41 AM
Thanks, Tess! Now that was easy! Maybe I should open my eyes more!

Thanks for the offer, Tess! I'm sure you'll be hearing from me!

Char

Mrs. Leadhead
02-02-2008, 09:28 AM
Tess- I used Art Tool low-tack frisket film by Iwata-Medea. Here is a link to their site and the type of film I used http://www.iwata-medea.com/products/artool/film.jsp . It peels off easily and is low-tack, but I recommend applying more pressure along the edges of your line drawing so that the watercolor pigment doesn't seep under it.
Save the scraps of film and use them for lifting your colored pencil pigment. If you want to tweak something and need to remove a "slice" of color or an error, just place the clear frisket film over the part to be removed. Rub the area to be lifted with a hard object. (A crochet hook, ball burnisher, or round-tipped stylus will work nicely.) Gently lift the scrap of frisket film and the color peels back onto the film without damaging the underlying art paper. It's wonderful! (Bet Borgeson features this in her revised edition of The Colored Pencil . ) This is great stuff for "forgiveness" in colored pencil!
Kristy
www.artshow.com/kutch

scottsart
02-02-2008, 12:41 PM
Kristy, great info! Thank you... and btw, when are you going to come to the CT area and give a lesson/demo? ;)

Mrs. Leadhead
02-02-2008, 09:55 PM
Scott- Thanks for asking about when I'll be coming to CT. This summer I'll be teaching a 5-day workhop on the coast of Maine. I know it's not exactly your back yard, but for now, that's the closest location to CT that's on the schedule.
Tess, I forgot to answer you about how long to let the watercolor pencil background dry. I'd say to give it about 45 minutes- more if it's a humid summer day and less if you live in the desert! It's worth the wait (and practicing on scrap paper!) because it gives a sort of Impressionaistic, muted, soft-focus background.
I have a pressurized pump bottle for spraying which I got from the Jerry's Artarama catalog. Fill it with water, pump its base, and it pressurizes the spray so that it comes out (usually!) as an atomizer-like spray mist, nice and fine. Here's the link: http://www.jerrysartarama.com/art-supply/catalogs/0065211000000 . It works well for this technique.
Sure hope this helps!
Kristy
www.artshow.com/kutch/workshops.html

RobinZ
02-04-2008, 08:35 PM
I must be a nut, but I enjoy doing my backgrounds! I don't like to do "plain" ones, I like there to be some setting that tells the story of where the animal is.

IMO, it's important to think about the background before I begin, sometimes I think about them a LOT before I begin my piece. My "biker dog" that I posted recently was an example of me pondering on the background and playing with it a lot.

This is one of my favorites, I've done a lot of pieces with a similar backgrounds. It combines a little "up front" detail to set the stage for this cutie and then fades to dark. I love drawing hardwood floors! This one didn't "come with the background" I had to think it up.

This was my first Chadds Ford commission...I almost didn't take my flyers to the vets in Chadds Ford, because the Wyeths live there and I was afraid one of the Wyeths or their friends would see my work and laugh at me! But this one has led to lots of others, although I haven't had any Wyeths order one! (Maybe I can do a trade someday??? :evil :D )

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/04-Feb-2008/9963-bull_dog_pit_bull_portrait.jpg

Here's another one I particularly like:

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/04-Feb-2008/9963-goldenweb1.jpg

I had to be cautioned to STOP WORKING ON THE BLUE BONNETS! Sometimes it's tricky for me to decide just how detailed to make a background so it "tells the story" but doesn't detract from the subject. In this case, Nolan, a "posterboy" rescue from Dallas, who is my model. This was one of my "samples" for my website, before I started to get commissions.

Here's another one I really enjoyed doing. This one "came with" the background, this pooch was peeking out from under the bed, but I changed it up a bit, making the dustruffle longer and simplifying the pattern on it, and smoothing out the folds.

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/04-Feb-2008/9963-labrador_retriever_dog_portrait.jpg

Sometimes I blend my backgrounds with solvents so I don't need as many layers, it depends on how detailed they are.

fawnridge-art
02-04-2008, 09:25 PM
Robin, I love your bgs and the stories with them. I just recently started liking bgs. I did an oak table top, some checkered fabric and a damask pattern for the last three and now I'm doing a brick wall. Who would have thought that bgs could be fun?

louisef
02-04-2008, 10:27 PM
This was my first Chadds Ford commission...I almost didn't take my flyers to the vets in Chadds Ford, because the Wyeths live there and I was afraid one of the Wyeths or their friends would see my work and laugh at me!

Your work is great. Love the dog on the rug!

What is a Wyeth and why would they laugh at you?